Career Planning: Essential Life Skill for the 21st Century
- Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Most people spend more time planning their vacations than their careers and lives. How about you? How much time and energy have you invested in figuring out what type of work best uses your skills and interests? Which careers that fit you have growth potential in this economy? Which career path would give you a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose? And, most importantly, what God has put you on earth to accomplish?
The world of work has changed dramatically in the last decade, and the changes have accelerated since 2008. Career planning used to be a matter of getting an education, finding a job in a good company, showing up for work each day, and eventually retiring to a nice pension. For most people, those days are gone forever.
Why Periodic Career Planning is Necessary
The job market of the 21st century offers more options and flexibility than that of the 20th century, but its volatility also requires that you become more resourceful, adaptable and pro-active. Today's status quo can quickly become obsolete. Learning how to do good career planning, therefore, is now an essential life skill for those who want to be engaged in their work, earn a good salary, and finish their lives with a sense of satisfaction, and not regret.
Career planning is something you should do on a regular basis. The work world continues to change at a fast pace, and God is at work making changes within you. Take time at least once a year to do an "annual review." During that time, take a look at where you have been heading and what you have accomplished, re-assess your skills, interests, values, passions, etc. to see how they might be better utilized in your work and life, invest time in reflecting on and praying about what God would have you do with the next "chapter" of your life, and evaluate if you need to make any changes in the direction you have been heading.
Issues Career Planning Can Help You Resolve
There are times in life when doing career planning on your own is sufficient. There are other times, however, when working with a professional career counselor/coach will be the best investment you ever make. Good career planning can help you if you:
- Are successful in your work, but feel like your work lacks purpose and meaning;
- Sense God is calling you in a different direction, but don't know how to clarify His leading;
- Feel like the "real you" doesn't get to come out at work, and long for work that fits you well;
- Think there are probably many more career options than those of which you are aware, but don't know how to find the one that fits you best.
All of these issues can be addressed and resolved through quality career testing and systematic, comprehensive career planning. You don't have to feel lost, distressed, bored, underemployed, frustrated, or hopeless. The starting place is determining that you are ready and willing to take steps to change your life!
Tips for Successful Career Planning
1. Chart your career path up to the present. List the jobs you have held, and take some time to reflect on each of them. Ask yourself questions such as: How did I get into that job? How long did I stay in it? Why? What did I like about it? What did I dislike?
Do you see any patterns in your choices and evaluations? How do you feel about your career path to date? Are there any things that you would have done differently? These observations can help you to appreciate good decisions you have made as well as help you make better choices in the future.
2. Reflect on what motivates you now. As human beings, we grow and develop. As Christians, God is at work in our lives, as well, maturing us into the image of His Son, Jesus. Bottom line, while many things about how God has designed us stay the same, we continue to change in various ways throughout our lives. For example, many people in midlife feel called to do something that "makes a difference," no longer content just to make a living. For some, there may be particular issues or needs they feel drawn to address. For others, they know they want to do something more meaningful, but a central part of their career planning work is figuring out how God wants to use them in the second half of their lives.
Professional career testing can be a great way to expedite the process of identifying the key "puzzle pieces" of your design, the central themes in who God has created you to be (instead of just knowing random pieces of information about your design), and the needs that you are motivated to meet.
3. Identify the transferable skills you enjoy using. Think about your career history in terms of the transferable skills you have developed instead of the job titles you have held. Looking at yourself solely in terms of job titles restricts your thinking about other career options. You are not limited to similar job titles or career fields! When you look, instead, at your individual transferable skills (such as "plan," "teach," "calculate," "persuade") and the skill clusters that you most enjoy, you can more readily research and recognize other career paths that could be a good fit.
4. Look at current career and job trends. In a rapidly changing job market, having up to date information about labor market trends is very important. Seeing where job growth is expected in fields that interest you can help you make better career decisions. Resources such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook and the O*NET database are useful once you have a thorough understanding of your God-given design. (Otherwise, they can be overwhelming to use.)
5. Set goals for your career and develop a "do-able" action plan to achieve them. Without a plan, things seldom change for the better. Without working your plan, things seldom change for the better. It's been said that insanity is doing the same things over and over, while expecting a different result. So what are your career goals? Here are some possible ones to think about:
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