In previous centuries, most workers traded manual labor for pay. With the evolution of the industrial age, livelihoods were increasingly made in manufacturing and other machine-enabled jobs. A typical career began in an entry level position, and employees advanced to more complex jobs that came with more responsibilities and income. Workers tended to remain with a company throughout their working lives.
Enter the present era and knowledge economy. Success is achieved in many fields using such abilities as collaboration, creativity, planning and problem solving. Jobs have moved from the shop floor to the cloud, and people work virtually in a self-governing environment. Even labor intensive companies in the manufacturing, production and service industries have evolved.
In this new workplace, there might not be any traditional management jobs to which an employee aspires — or logical career path to follow.
The adage “do what you love and the money will follow” assumes passion for a job will lead to personal happiness and financial stability. This concept fails to acknowledge people have multiple facets to their lives that include vocations, but also encompass physical and mental health and financial fitness.
Moreover, people have important social and familial relationships and roles — community volunteer, parent and sibling. A satisfying job alone can’t offset challenges in these other dimensions.
In this step of career development, a person looks at the big picture and considers a number of questions. How do I want to balance work with home, recreation and other aspects of my life? What will give me financial security and satisfaction at this point? What do I want to achieve or contribute? The answers might not come quickly or easily.
Multiple credible and free online tools and models are available to facilitate this step. Start by using such Internet search terms as “whole person (or whole life) assessment” and “career assessment.”
Having completed the data-gathering step, the individual moves into an analytical phase. Answer these questions. How satisfied am I now with the various facets and roles of my life? How do I get from where I am to where I want to be? This will reveal gaps to address in a career action plan.
An example would be an individual who aspires to a different career and identifies new skills or knowledge that will be needed for that next job. Elements of a career action plan could include coaching, feedback, learning, research and taking on other paid or unpaid work. A plan also could require changing a job, location or relationship. A career plan will outline specific actions, additional resources required and a timeline.
For a career plan to work, intentional and regular followup is critical. Weekly or monthly reviews ensure timely adjustments can be made along the way as people, their work and the world around them change.
It’s a given a career or life plan might not transpire as expected. But consider what Dwight Eisenhower once said: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”