Working Strategies: To get ahead, you need to plan ahead

November is Career Development Month. With so many job seekers losing unemployment benefits this fall, now is a good time to review the principles of career development and job search, particularly for those in transition from one field to another.

The five columns in this series will cover the fundamentals of developing a career plan, choosing a job target, building skills, revising your résumé and conducting a job search outreach.

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Working Strategies by Amy Lindgren

Did you choose your career and build steps to achieve it, or did you tumble into it backward? Some days I don’t know what the word career means. But there is a point inherent in the concept that I think is important: Planning.

Whether it is at the onset or later in the process, one must engage in planning in order to build a career. Dumb luck and hard work will carry you only so far.

In the old days, a career plan meant something like this: Go to school, get trained, work your way up in a company, retire. This plan is still available to you. Following are additional concepts to consider.

North Star + Career Stepping Stones. In this model, you choose a goal (your North Star) and use it to guide each of your subsequent choices. Want to be a lawyer, but you haven’t finished college yet? Well, your North Star can help you pick an internship, or decide which organization to volunteer for. By making each decision with your career choice in mind, you build the steppingstones to reach that career.

Five-Year Mini-Careers. This is a great model for people with a fear of commitment, as well as for those whose fields are changing rapidly. Simply mark off on a timeline the number of years you expect to work, divided into five-year increments. Now select a field of interest to pursue in each segment of time. Consider leaving one blank, to accommodate a period of child-rearing or pursuit of a personal interest.

Lifestyle-Driven Career. What if you don’t want to spend your productive years chasing a career? Your career path may be best developed around your lifestyle. This path requires planning, too.

Whatever path you follow, pick a date for making the decision.

Stay tuned for next week’s column on getting started with your transition to a new job or career.

Amy Lindgren owns
Prototype Career Service,
a career consulting firm
in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at alindgren
.com or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.

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