Monday, December 28, 2009

A Career Planning Approach

An approach to career planning

An Approach to Career Planning

(Last updated October 2020)
Developing a career plan can be a good way to get comfortable with the personal strategic planning process. For one thing, many people already have a clear picture of their "dream" job (the job they would like to have 5-10, even 15 years from now) - so, the first step in the planning process has already been completed. For another, many people will find that some very useful work has already been done for them!

The approach presented here builds upon the process summarized in this overview of personal strategic planning.  The primary steps in that process are covered in more detail in:
If you are not familiar with this process, I suggest you review the above posts before developing your career plan.

What are the Requirements? A Useful Intermediate Step

Here's a useful step not included in the basic personal strategic planning process presented above.  After you have decided on your dream job, but before you start brainstorming your SWOTs, take the time to
do a little research. Using sources such as available job descriptions, ads in newspapers, publications in your field, and web sites like LinkedIn, accumulate a representative sample of descriptions of the requirements for your dream job. Carefully analyze these materials, paying special attention to requirements that they have in common and to requirements that seem to be emphasized most.

Sites such as LinkedIn can also yield valuable information on the qualifications and accomplishments of people who already have jobs like your ideal job, have had jobs like it in the past, or are possible candidates for it now. By analyzing the available job descriptions and the backgrounds of candidates, especially previously successful candidates, you should be able to develop a reasonably reliable description of the education, experience, knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, etc. required or desired for your ideal job.

This process works even if your ideal job does not yet exist (e.g., it is a job you want to create for yourself in a brand new company you want to start), or is otherwise "non-traditional." Even then, much of the knowledge, skill and experience, etc. that you will need is likely to be some combination of what is needed for positions that already exist! It will just require a bit more creativity on your part to identify which parts of which existing positions are most relevant for your purposes.

Identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOTs)

Knowing the requirement up front will put you in a better position to objectively assess your SWOTs. If you think about it, whether an area is one of your strengths or one of your weaknesses depends on what the requirements are. For example, the ability to run 40 yards in 4.7 seconds might be a strength for a National Football League (NFL) lineman, but a weakness for a wide receiver. So, these job descriptions are an important source of information for determining whether your current level in a given area is a source of strength, or weakness.

A second important source of information for many people is the results of previous quarterly and annual appraisals (performance reviews). These can provide additional invaluable objective assessments of your strengths and weaknesses.  (For more information on this step in the planning process, see Identifying SWOTs.)

Establishing Goal and Strategies

The existence of formal job descriptions and requirements can also help you create goals. Remember, you are trying to establish goals such that when you reach them you will be in a great position to realize your dream -- to land your ideal job. You are trying to determine what it will take to be successful in your ideal job; that's exactly what the people that write job descriptions are trying to tell you!

The groupings of requirements within the job descriptions will be useful in setting your goals. For example, the stated education requirements may cause you to create a goal of completing the next level of education in your field. Similarly, you may find it helpful to establish a goal of acquiring additional experience, knowledge or skills in specific areas based upon the requirements set forth in the job descriptions and newspaper ads.  (For more information on creating goals and strategies, see Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan.)

Finally, some companies provide additional information on "career paths" within the organization, describing typical sequences of positions that lead to specific, more senior positions, and the competency requirements at each level.  These career paths are especially helpful in developing your strategies if reaching your dream job is likely to take more than 5 years and involve multiple intermediate jobs. This kind of career path documentation was more common in the days of "lifetime employment." However, when available it is still valuable - even if it is unlikely that all of the steps will occur within the same company.

Adding the "Define Requirements" Step in Other Areas of Your Life

Once you finish your career plan, see how easy it is and see how useful the results are, I hope you will consider doing a complete personal strategic plan. When you decide to tackle other areas, you are likely to discover that attempting to define "requirements" is useful in those areas as well.

Unfortunately, in some areas of life the “standards” or requirements are not at all clear. What, for example, are the requirements for being a good husband or father? Still, you will often find it helpful to seek out the opinion of experts in key areas regarding what it takes to realize your dream. These "experts" can include people who have achieved success in that area, people whose job it is to judge success in that area (e.g., those writing job descriptions for your ideal job), and others who have special knowledge. The objective is to get a clear understanding of what it takes to be successful so that you can set appropriate goals.

The exercise of defining requirements for achieving your dream will prove useful both in helping you to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and in helping you to create goals. How successful you will be in realizing your dream depends first upon your ability to identify what it takes to be successful.  After all, reaching your goals won't help much if they're the wrong goals....

Good luck.

The Core Personal Strategic Planning Process

A Sample Personal Strategic Plan: an introduction to Personal Strategic Planning
Discovering Your Vision: identifying the dreams you want to make come true!
Identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOTs)
Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan: Developing your goals & strategies.

Some other planning posts
Finalizing & Implementing Your Personal Strategic Plan some optional exercises and implementation hints.
Planning to Buy a Home
My SIMPLE Retirement Saving Calculator

Related Books

What Color Is Your Parachute? is a classic. If you don't yet have a clear career goal in mind, take a look at this one.  Once you're closer to starting you job search, I recommend something like How To Get A Better Job Quicker a favorite that is, unfortunately, out of print. If anyone can recommend a similar book written by a marketing professional please leave a comment. "Parachute" is useful here as well.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license.

Last modified: 10/25/2020

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  1. Hi

    I like this post very much. It help me to solve some my work under my director’s requirements.

    Apart from that, below article also is the same meaning

    Job descriptions samples

    Tks again and nice keep posting

  2. Peter,

    Thanks. I'm glad to hear it was useful to you. I'll keep posting if you keep reading....

    Note: The link Peter provides is an example of on-line sources of job descriptions; it has sample job descriptions for lots of job titles in a wide variety of fields.


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