There is no stretching the truth when saying that good career opportunities follow good career planning. It is not uncommon to be in a situation where you are in the midst of a job search or career change – seemingly going nowhere – and you learn about Cousin Stacy landing a plum job with a famous Interior Designer. While you are still digesting the news and getting ready to call her to congratulate her, along comes your friend Tom beaming with joy. He informs you that finally he has been accepted as the Travel Writer at a magazine he had been trying to join.
Around the same time, you learn that yourÂ neighbor has been promoted to a higher level – all this happens while you are still deciding where to apply for a job. At such times, it seems that everyone around you is getting great career opportunities except yourself. So what’s happening?
Rest assured – as this thought is just a limited vision mindset of yours because of your own seemingly uncertain circumstances at that point in time. None of the people that you heard about getting ahead in their careers were served those â€˜greatâ€™ career opportunities on a platter. If you were able and willing to dig deep into their stories, you were bound to discover the careful career planning, hard work and patience put in by them over a period of time.
The lesson learnt here is that as a job seeker you can come upon good career opportunities too â€“ with a well thought out career plan. To make such a plan and execute it, consider the following three actions that form a good career plan in its bare essential form.
1. Identify Yourself
Have you ever identified yourself and found out who is the real person that you are? By that it is not meant here that you are a â€˜nice, friendly person who wishes everyone wellâ€™. In the present context, identifying yourself means recognizing your true job worthiness. This is determined among other factors by:
- All or any interests like, for example, reading, traveling, curiosity in science, computing, building boats, fascination with honeybees, environment, dress designing etc and strengths relating to those interests
- Your natural and acquired talents like singing or being able to sell anything to anyone
- Skills developed by you or gained through experience like organizational skills and communication skills
- School/College courses attended if any
- Any vocational training undertaken like fork lift driving or first-aid training
- Job experience, if previously employed
- What you really like doing and sometimes have received compliments for
- Accomplishments that gave you a sense of satisfaction and pride
- Your values and principles that you would never like to compromise
- Activities that you consider fun and enjoyable – ranging from social activities to sports
If you push yourself to answer all the above in an honest way, you will find that a composite picture of who you actually are would emerge in front of you. This perception would instil in you an inner confidence and make you aware of your potential worth as a whole in society. You have to create this â€˜10 megapixel pictureâ€™ of yourself if you successfully want to move to the next steps and to your ultimate destination, that is, creating great career opportunities for yourself.
2. Decide and Select Your Target Career
The second step is identifying a job or job field, preferably in a career that you would follow for a long time if not forever. Here again, you have to look inside of yourself and listen to what your gut feeling says about the kind of work you want to perform for a living. Do not be hesitant to consider any option just because you think no one has ever suggested that to you, or if your uncle Bob told you not to do that kind of work. It is YOU who is going to work and YOU who is going to get paid. Nothing else matters.
In order to make this selection, you will need to sort out the jumbled feelings that are inevitable to crop up before you. You can use some or all of the following to reach a decision:
- While some people have a strong inner voice telling them what is their calling in life, most of the rest of us have to do some soul searching
- If you are just starting out at a young age, consult your career counselor at your educational institution, if one is available, or a parent
- Talking to family and friends at this stage helps, but decide according to your informed understanding instead of someone else dictating you to do something for a career
- If you have completed your studies but do not have a clear direction to follow, try volunteering for an organization related to your education
- Decide whether you want to go in for fame or fortune, or both – or whether both fame and money would matter to you only after you first find self fulfillment
- Do a thorough research on careers or jobs that you think would take you to cloud nine and find out if it is really so; use online resources and your local library and research about people who already tread that path and see how do they feel now
- Self doubt and apprehension are bound to creep in, if you are a normal human being, but never forget that Abraham Lincoln or Bill Gates did not just jump through a magic door to success (maybe Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg did, but he is an exceptional one of a handful of people out of nearly 7 billion in the world including you and I right now!)
- A very healthy resource to use is the Occupational Outlook Handbook by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor; youâ€™ll find in it, among other things, earnings, expected job prospects and working conditions related to virtually every career available
- Finally, make a shortened list of any occupation you want to follow and start conducting informational interviews with people already working in that field
- All the above actions, if taken in earnest, would create a clear cut goal/s for you to start aiming at, and help create an enthusiasm instead of doubts and uncertainty resulting in meaningful career opportunities for you
3. Design and Execute Your Action Plan by Taking the Plunge
Now that you have a â€˜10 megapixel pictureâ€™ from step #1 and also a targeted career/job from step #2, its time to design and execute your career action plan. Remember, if your self assessment and clearly identified areas of career interest are well documented and are now on your desk or on a computer file, they are still not going to bring career opportunities to your door on their own. It is time to drop any hesitancy and doubts and getting up and taking concrete action. Some of the actions to begin your quest can be:
- Based on what you found out about yourself and your desired job, decide if they match or do you have enough education or training for the same
- If you need additional training, what should that be, where is it available and when are the earliest starting dates
- Join that course or training if it is suitable for you to undertake the above in view of your current financial needs and/or time constraints, like for example, have you already maxed your credit or if you have to take care of an infant – otherwise you might have to do with what youâ€™ve got at present by way of qualification
- If the above are sorted already, it is time to write a strong Resume and Cover Letter that you can either do yourself with inputs and advice from a knowledgeable source like a school career adviser, an elder in the family, a friend with an established career in your chosen field or, if you can afford, a professional resume writer
- Now launch your job search in full earnest using every source at your disposal, that include among many others, online job boards, newspaper ads, employment offices, government funded employment centers, recruitment agencies, college employment resources and career/job fairs
- For best results to get solid job leads, in addition to the before mentioned avenues – and above all of them – is Networking that involves looking for jobs through real people like friends, friends of friends, family, old school mates, past co-workers, social media like LinkedIn and Twitter, setting up appointments for informational interviews, career counselors, approaching employers directly and practically talking to anybody who you socialize with including your hair dresser and grocer
- Concurrently with starting your job search, you should also start preparing for potential interviews as well in advance by researching possible questions to be asked and preparing your answers
- Practice your interview skills regularly in front of a mirror or practice a mock interview session with a friend or family member and youâ€™ll be pleasantly surprised later about how much that helped you at the actual interview
- Instead of just waiting for responses from employers, as it may take a few weeks to get your job search yielding tangible results, find out opportunities to volunteer in a related field that would get you into a â€˜job grooveâ€™ and that will also be seen positively by most employers
- Finally, if your dream job is taking a while to happen, you may opt to take up an available â€˜survival jobâ€™ if financial constraints are pressing you – the only precaution to be taken being that it doesnâ€™t completely throw you off from your original target and career goals
All the above steps, taken with a burning desire and motivation, will definitely take you to your destination. Always keep in mind that no career can be called a â€˜perfectâ€™ career universally. Only informed individuals finding success in their chosen field and by working hard and persistently can claim self fulfillment through great career opportunities while making their living.