Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra was famous for making unusual statements that often left his listeners scratching their heads. One of those peculiar quotes, however, that could have extenuating relevance for job seekers and changers is the following: ‘If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
If the legendary New York Yankee catcher had worked in the search and staffing industry, he might have been suggesting to candidates the need to have a comprehensive, functioning and flexible career plan, one that outlines the strategies that will get them from where they are to where they would like to be. Otherwise, the rudderless candidate is leaving too much to happenstance, luck or conditions they do not control. And where they end up may be anybody’s guess.
Further, from a placement perspective, the candidate without a career plan faces formidable challenges, making it more than difficult for those seeking to provide assistance in the job transition process.
Components of a Career Plan
When you consider that occupational and job changes, achieved within the context of one’s overall career development, are going to weigh heavily on whether comprehensive success and satisfaction are achieved, the search and staffing professional should encourage every candidate to have such a plan in place before and throughout the job search and transition process.
An effective career plan will aid in the achievement of a set of objectives that will keep candidates from the perils suggested in the word of Yogi above. Minimally, the plan will:
• Identify long-term and short term goals (ends)
• Offer an operational apparatus to achieve those goals (means to the end)
• Pinpoint the decisions that must be made to facilitate the plan (choice points on plan path)
• Define the indicators or outcomes signaling when goals have been achieved (benchmarks indicating progress)
• Establish a timetable for when those decisions must be made and indicators and outcomes will be realized (calendar)
• Include monitoring mechanisms that will allow for the evaluation of the plan and making of adjustments or updates as deemed necessary (progress assessment)
Benefits Derived from a Career Plan
The development and maintenance of a career plan is likely to produce multiple benefits to the individual. Following are four such benefits”
• Ongoing personal assessment - Career plans afford the maker the opportunity to examine her/his aptitudes, achievements, interests, traits, values and lifestyle preferences over time and plot a course that meets their unique characteristics, needs and ambitions.
• Empowerment and control - Each plan empowers the maker to control the career development process over the long term, as well as the various experiences and events at every step along the way. Further, the plan developer is fully at the controls of the career development process and can guide all activity in whatever direction he/she chooses.
• Investment opportunity – A quality plan affords the individual the unique opportunity to “buy in” to both the process and the selected target. Buy in leads to ownership, a sense of commitment to doing whatever it takes to bring the plan to fruition.
• Aura of confidence – A well-thought out and meticulously executed career plan sends a signal to prospective employers that they are dealing with a poised and confident individual who has a sense of career direction and their own GPS system or map for getting there. Whether the first job, third job or umpteenth job, such confidence can be the asset that leads to a desirable job offer.
Relevance to Job Search and Change Process
Career plans can range in formality from written plans to informal schemes that add adventuresome thought to those “in a perfect world” moments of imagination that often pop up in the young- and mid-adult years. Irrespective of the formality of the plan, it can be a very germane conversation topic between the candidate and recruiter.
Achieving career satisfaction and success doesn’t just happen. It requires work---hard work. Each step along the way, whether, choice, preparation, entry or movement, can be piloted more effectively and efficiently if a well-thought out plan is in place. From a recruiting and placement perspective, it diminishes the prospects that one’s candidacy won’t be “dead on arrival.”
Direct future topics suggestions for The Career Mechanic and other inquiries to Dr. Burtnett at firstname.lastname@example.org