26 February 2011

Career Plan: What's Yours?

Since I like to begin at the beginning, the first career-related post on our new blog focuses on career plans. Some of you might have heard me talk about a workshop on this topic and one will be coming, probably in the Spring Quarter.

Before then, let's start to think about your career plan. First, you need to ask yourself what I want to do in my career. At this point, it might be a single direction. You might also have a variety of ideas or options. The key for you is to get them down on paper/computer screen. Thus, your first assignment is to write a career statement. You can begin anyway you wish, but here is a start: "In my career, I want to ......." That statement should turn into a paragraph (or more) when you begin to balance accomplishments with jobs. In other words, what do you want to do in your career from a positional standpoint (e.g., Director of Marketing) and what do you want to do in your career from an accomplishment standpoint (e.g., travel the world, fund community outreach programs). This first exercise is a conversation with yourself about yourself and the plans you have for your future.

After developing your statement (and do not worry about the length, you need to get your ideas out on paper/computer screen), then you are able to work on the road map. Start at the end and work backwards, flow chart-like. If I want to be the Director of Marketing,what career steps can I take to get there. As you do this, you will see a road map emerge that leads from today until then. While the actual road might not follow this path, it is a start.. Also, as this map unfolds, you will be able to see where your accomplishments and desires match/do not match with the path. This is important because you should now be thinking about what you do not want to do as much as what you want to do. Further, you can even begin to see how certain classes can be taken to advance this goal, helping you with the always difficult course scheduling process.

Armed with this information, you are now prepared to have substantive conversations with any number of people who can help you with your career plan. I suggest beginning with the parents/family. They are your immediate source of support and can offer much advice as your plan takes shape. I also recommend having a conversation with a significant other, especially if you are together and close to graduation. In this case, you both need to be on the same page in order to prepare for the future together (or not as the case may be). Another group you can now have meaningful conversations with are your faculty members and advisors. A later post will examine your Personal Advisory Board, but for now, consider faculty members to be a knowledgeable and foundational group much like your family. Finally, you are more than likely better able to speak with industry members about what you want. While this plan might not immediately land you an offer with everyone your meet, you will be more prepared when you meet new people and can speak confidently about your future.

Simply because you have your career plan written down does not mean the work is done. It also does not mean this career plan is FINAL. Rather, this plan is a living document and one that you should revisit often and modify as needed. Times change, people change. Do not be afraid of this. Also, do not be afraid if your plan appears to vary from a perceived norm. This is your life and you need to begin to treat it as such. While we cannot know the future, we can at least prepare ourselves for it as much as possible.

Now, get started thinking and writing. MEP

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