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Careers Café

Survey results: next steps in career planning


Thanks, survey respondents! It was interesting to find out what you’re looking for from Careers Café. In a few cases, I forwarded ideas to writers whose columns are better fits – specifically, to Melonie Fullick of Speculative Diction and Jennifer Polk of From PhD to Life.

There was more interest than I expected in long-term career planning, rather than in finding the next job (though there was significant interest in that, too).

Here’s the rub: some career development professionals have started to question whether it’s even ethical to talk about career planning, since it implies a predictability that simply doesn’t exist.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the type of planning that folks have been questioning is the type in which someone aims for a specific job title, sees attainment as success and deviation from the plan as failure. That is not the only way to ready oneself for and manage a meaningful, successful career.

While it’s far from the entire picture, part of the picture is still knowing yourself well. Not necessarily the job titles you want, but the other stuff: personal values; professional values; the kinds of environments that bring out the best in you; the kind of problem-solving that does the same; and the skills, attitudes and knowledge that energize you when you apply them.

Of course, this is no mean feat, and it is an iterative process. While mining your university’s career services or student success office will get you started, it likely won’t finish the process for you. Happily, you don’t need to have achieved stunning levels of self-awareness and introspection before acting on your hunches, treating your own career as a research project, albeit one in which you are exceptionally invested.

One of the key challenges with this approach, of course, are the limits on your freedom to experiment. Unless the stars have aligned and the career planning deities are smiling on you, you may have financial concerns, a sense of urgency, a fair bit of investment in one path that makes even investigating others seem foolish, expectations and needs of loved ones, and the vagaries of life to deal with. But there are still ways to experiment and explore, and we’ll look at some ways into that process over the next few Careers Café posts.

Liz Koblyk
Liz Koblyk is the associate director of the Wilson Leadership Scholar Award at McMaster University.
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  1. Robert M. Donnelly / February 4, 2016 at 17:41

    Anyone who needs help in developing their career plan should get: Personal Brand Planning for life, available on Amazon.

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