Career Planning – Are You Following a Planned Career Path or Simply a Series of Jobs?

Successfully managing your own career is critical for your financial and personal well being. Yet it is rarely pursued on a strategic or informed basis. Career planning, particularly in the technology field, is more and more the responsibility of the individual. Particularly, since most people today end up working for many employers.

The overall basis for more successful career management includes developing plans that are applicable at different stages in your working life. And even more important if you plan on a career change after 50.

Although living in the information age, there is few comprehensive job information and planning resources available online. Exploring a career versus job information is more readily available once you have focused on a career path, such as technology or even further, within a specific industry.

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When employed the employer generally provides training, successive jobs, and a defined career ladder to the degree that it unites with the organization’s needs and objectives. Outplacement counselors generally help people focus on job searches rather than career plans. Recruiters are looking to fill job positions with top candidates for employers who are their clients and normally do not provide career planning services for individuals.

We can generally fit career planning as having three major phases: early stage from ages 16 to 33; middle, from 34 to 52; and later, beyond 53. Many times, early career choices are highly influenced by parents, relatives, teachers or close friends. The choices of technical schools, colleges or graduate schools, as well as majors, begin to focus interests for career paths.

It is important, in the early stages of a career planning, to carefully make choices, as initial decisions can have a major impact on longer term career success and ultimately, happiness.

Mid-stage career planning and effort usually reflects the initial experiences and jobs one has had with his or her early career. It generally is an extension of that experience. At this stage, there may be a thread of a career track, but job moves and knowledge growth during this phase that are not well planned or executed can result in important limits to career-growth.

Late-stage career planning frequently results from the need to find the right position in one’s career after an early retirement or a reduction in force. After 50 career planning at this stage generally reflects more entrepreneurial, part time, or flexible working arrangements. This is when traditional employment limitations as well as long developed interests come more into focus.

Career planning at each stage of a person’s working career can best be analyzed by considering the following: (1) Take stock of your career. Define your career and objectives at regular intervals preferably at least once a year. Do it in writing. (2) Research and identify possible career options that could meet those career objectives. (3) Evaluate your skills, personality, training and experience. Develop a plan so you can pursue your career objectives. (4) Make a decision as to which career options are the best. Build a plan in the near, medium and long term to reach your career objectives. (5) Be flexible as you monitor your progress. Refine the plan, challenge yourself.

It’s critical for you to invest in career planning during each stage of a successful career for short-, medium-and long-term achievement. Ask yourself, are you following a well defined career roadmap or simply working a succession of jobs? If you said yes to the latter, it’s never to late to get started.