Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn AddThisShare A A A

How to Plan Your Career

This topic is about planning your career, for example, to select the right career for you. If, however, you are interested instead in advancing in the same career field, then see Career Advancement. If you are interested in changing your career, see Career Change.

Sections of This Topic Include

Who's Responsible for Your Career?
What is Career Planning?
Career Stages: Which One Are You In?
Additional Perspectives on Career Planning

Also consider
Related Library Topics

Learn More in the Library's Blogs Related to Career Planning

In addition to the articles on this current page, also see the following blogs that have posts related to career planning. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog. The blog also links to numerous free related resources.

Library's Career Management Blog
Library's Coaching Blog
Library's Human Resources Blog

Who's Responsible for Your Career?

© Copyright Marcia Zidle

Many think of it as a 50-50 arrangement. I carry 50% of the responsibility for my career development and my employer carries 50%. Yes, in theory, but not in reality. Here’s the rub.

What an employer considers 50%, you may consider only 10% and be dissatisfied. And what you feel is your 50% contribution, may be considered a measly 20% by your employers. This leads to mismatched expectations and employee/employer frustrations.

The Bottom Line:

If you are concerned about your career advancement, as you should be, then take complete ownership of it. These are some of the things you could do to take charge of your career:

1. Build your career capital.

Career capital consists of your qualifications, experience and reputation. It requires investments of time and resources to grow. Find workshops and trainings that would enhance your capabilities. Don’t assume your organization has no money for professional development – you won’t know unless you ask. However, you may need to do it on your own time or even with some of your own money. Realize this is an investment in your future.

2. Be known and be seen.

Take the initiative. Ask your manager for the opportunity to lead a task force or take on a project outside of your job duties. For example, head a committee recommending personnel policy changes, facilitate the next staff meeting or make a presentation to upper management or the board. It’s not only who you know or who knows you but, most importantly, who knows and is impressed by what you can do.

3. Find a mentor.

You need to have someone who can introduce you to people, give you strategic career advice and help you learn from his or her mistakes. Mentors don’t have to be in your organization. Look around your community. Who is doing interesting work? Who inspires you? Develop a relationship first before popping the mentor question.

4. Work with a coach.

While a mentor can help build your network and give advice, a coach can build your skills and help you develop a winning career strategy. That person can also work with you on the leadership or managerial challenges you’re currently facing so that you don’t make career fatal mistakes.

5. Above all, make sure you perform well.

You can do all the other stuff, but if you do not deliver, sooner or later you will trip up. So step number one in your career development is to do what you are currently doing to the very best of your ability and with all your energy – even if it is not yet what you ultimately want from your career.

Your career is your responsibility.

Yes, of course, you manager should have your best interests in mind, but your career development is not at the top of his her daily to-do list. It should be on the top of yours. So, to take charge of you career, set time aside to answer these questions:

  • What can you do right now to enrich your present job or assignment?
  • What career options can you start exploring for challenge, variety, or greater personal satisfaction?
  • What internal training courses or external seminars can you participate in for professional development?
  • Are there off-the-job experiences that could enhance your portfolio of skills and your reputation as a leader?

What is Career Planning?

© Copyright Marcia Zidle

To make it happen in your career, you need to plan your career.

Career planning is a process of understanding oneself, exploring career options, making wise decisions and moving forward. What complicates it is that people, careers and organizations are constantly changing.

Therefore, career planning is not something done one time early in your career. Rather, it’s an ongoing process throughout your life. It doesn’t matter what’s your profession, your industry or your place of employment. The reality is lives change, professions change, industries change, organizations change and so your career will change. You can bet on it!

Who Am I?

The foundation of career planning, today and for the future is based on a very clear understanding of who you are as an individual and as a professional person. As a career coach, I’ve found that the greater the congruency between who you are – your skills, values, interests and personality – and your career choices, the greater personal career satisfaction.

Since everyone has a unique mix of skills, strengths and limitations that change over time, the first step in career planning is to look at who you are and what your career is all about. Also, gaining clarity about yourself will help you make better decisions in the future when challenges and opportunities emerge.

Identity Questions

Here are some simple, but profound, questions to start you on this journey. You may want to choose someone, or several people, to help you reflect and provide additional feedback.

  • What do I see as my personal strengths?
  • What are some of my personal limitations?
  • What are my core values – what’s important to me?
  • What are my abilities – things I’m good at and enjoy doing?
  • What have I done, or I am doing now, that makes me feel proud?
  • What are the significant influences on my life that have affected my career?
  • Do I have talents that I feel are underdeveloped – how can I start utilizing them?
  • What are my current obligations or commitments? How might they affect my career?
  • If I could turn the clock back, what career choices or decisions would I make differently?
  • If I could turn the clock ahead, what are some things I would like to accomplish in my life?

What Do You Know?

What have you learned about yourself from this self assessment? Perhaps you would like to have deeper insights. There are career assessment tools that provide personalized information on skills, interests, personality and values or career anchors. Would you like to know more, then let’s start a dialogue.

Who's Responsible for Your Career?
What Is Career Planning?
What Shapes Careers?

Career Stages: Which One Are You In?
Career Planning -- Looking at Some Options
Career Planning -- Goals and Plans
Career Survival Strategies to Ride the Waves of Change: Part 1
Career Survival Strategies to Ride the Waves of Change: Part 2Career Planning: Goals and Plans

Career Stages: Which One Are You In?

© Copyright Marcia Zidle

Careers are like life, they don’t stand still. They progress from one stage to another.

Here are career stages that you are going through, have been through, or hope to go through. Pay attention to the potential roadblocks – they can make or break your career advancement.

Stage I - Apprenticeship: Learning the Ropes

You are fresh, most likely young or starting over in a new career. You are hungry for knowledge and seek out guidance from others. At first you are most likely part of a team with specific tasks. You may be closely supervised until your boss has confidence in your abilities. Your “job” is not only to do the work assigned but also to learn about the culture, the company, and the colleagues you work with.

Potential career roadblock: Settling into your current role.

As you develop your capabilities, you may become too comfortable. You’re no longer the new kid on the block. You know your way around. This is the most important time to grow in your career. Ask for more assignments that will expand your expertise and experience. Keep moving ahead.

Stage II – Independent Contributor: Establishing a Reputation

Now you are a doer. You are taking on more responsibility and developing technical depth in assignments. You re also given more autonomy - making decisions that you boss made earlier in your career. You may be part of a committee that makes recommendations on the best software or ways to increase customer satisfaction. This is an opportunity to stand out and shine.

Potential career roadblock: Indecision about your next career move.

Most of us in this stage could steer our careers in several directions. If you are not sure where you want to end up, you may never move toward the goal. So assess if you want to expand your expertise with more challenging assignments or start leading projects or teams in order to develop your managerial abilities. See Generalist vs Specialist.

Stage III – Leader: Developing and Managing Others

You have the title of supervisor, manager or director. As you progress in this position, you have staff under you. It could be 5 people or even 50. You now get things done and get results through others. You are assigning tasks, managing their work efforts and coaching them to improve or enhance their performance. It may be difficult for you not to be so hands-on since your hands-on skills are what got you here.

Potential career roadblock: Not focusing on your interpersonal skills.

Management is dealing with all kinds and levels of people –subordinates, peers, boss or bosses, other departments or business units, even other companies and the list goes on. It’s important to have well developed communication, negotiation, team building skills. If you don’t, your career growth will be in jeopardy.
Stage IV – Executive: Exercising Power

You have significant organization responsibility. Your focus is not on day to day operations but on strategy - the future of the organization. Your role is to be proactive – to anticipate change, plan for it, initiative it and lead the organization as it goes through it. That requires dealing more with the external environment and making tough, hard decisions.

Potential career roadblock: Not using the real influence that you have.

By being indecisive and not pushing strategy forward, you may appear wavering or lackluster. People look to their senior leaders for vision, guidance and encouragement especially in these very changing times.

Career Success Tip:

By knowing what career stage you are in, you can focus on the key tasks and avoid the key roadblocks so that you are most effective. Also by knowing the next career stage, you can anticipate and prepare for your next position. In that way you will be proactive, rather than reactive, in your career management.

Additional Perspectives on Career Planning

The Success Series articles
100 Important Life Lessons & Truths - Things I've Learned
What?! Luck Comes from Hard Work?"
Be more successful: Create "ME INC."
Caution: Bad Career Advice Ahead
A Strong Career Brand -- Do You Have One?
Best Career Path -- Generalist vs. Specialist
How to Improve Your Employment Application
Get the Most Value from Your MBA
Are You a Career Entrepreneur?
Build Your Reputation and Your Career
Information is Power: What Do You Know?
Learn, Grow, Lead: Stand Out In the Crowd
How to Brand Yourself
Free Printable Job Application Forms
Do You Know What a Career Activist Is?
Are You A Team Player?
7 Keys to Career and Life Success
Portfolio Careers: That’s the Future
15 Job Search and Career Books You Must Read
Climbing The Career Walls In Our Lives
Career Trends: What You Need to Know So You Wont Be Left Behind
To Be Eliminated or Not, That is The Question
Are You Ambitious? How to Grow Your Career
Working Abroad: What It Takes to Succeed
Four Career Challenges That Can Bring Your Down!
What’s Your Career Success IQ?
Career Success Part 1: Don’t Let Your Guard Down
Career Success Part 2: Get Ahead of the Crowd
Career Success Part 3: Make The Right Things Happen!
Ready to Take the Plunge into Self-Employment?

Using the Internet for Career Development

Self Improvement Online
Internet Sites for Career Planning
Top Sites for Choosing a Career

For the Category of Career Development:

To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books