Career planning: take the time to properly plan your future

By Anne Sexton - Last update

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Here is the most important career planning question: What do you want to be when you grow up? It is not an easy question to answer.

Careers are not what they used to be. Neither is studying. In the 21st century it is not unusual for people to change careers in midlife. Studying does not end after you get your degree. Most of us do upskilling or continuous professional development courses throughout our working lives.

However, most of us choose a college course while studying for the Leaving Cert. Deciding on your first and second choices is a big deal. There is no getting away from that.

National needs vs personal passion

Do you choose a course that has great career prospects? The problem with that is that national needs are subject to change. In the early 2000s, the construction industry was buoyant and there were plenty of jobs on offer. By 2008, the industry was in freefall. Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs. Now, in 2017, construction is one of the busiest sectors of the Irish economy again.

Given this, maybe it is wiser to choose a course based on your passions and talents. Surprisingly, very many people across all age groups don’t know their fundamental strengths.

What is your purpose?

Richard Lieder in his book The Power of Purpose proposes that: “each individual is born with a reason for being and that life is a quest to discover that purpose.”

When was the last time you truly thought about your interests, your personality traits, your values, and your abilities? Where and how could you best use these to help you find your sense of purpose?

Here are a few questions for you:

  1. What are your talents? Are you organised, a self-starter, friendly, a good listener, technically minded? Make a list of qualities that apply to you.
  2. Do you know what you need to learn to enhance your skills and interests? Have you narrowed down your interests? How much do you know about all the courses available?
  3. What exactly do you want out of life? Have you given it much thought?
  4. How will you know when you get it?

The importance of clear career goals

The typical person works over 100,000 hours in a lifetime. That’s a lot! It is even more when you realise that up to 60 percent of us are unhappy in our work.

Many people drift through college with no clear idea of where they were going. Furthermore, a large number of first year students drop out of college or change courses.

Many people don’t know how to approach career decisions. Some wait for the CAO deadline without doing any real course research or self-assessment. You wouldn’t prepare for a marathon the night before. Why would you put so little thought into your career planning?  This is where supportive career coaching can make all the difference.

Vital skills

A survey by the Graduate Recruitment Association in the UK found that employers identified the following skills as vital for workers competing in the 21st century labour market:

  • Self-awareness: Be clear about your strengths, your interests what you want in life
  • Self -promotion: Know how to write a CV, perfect your interview skills and practice your public speaking
  • Exploring and creating opportunities: Know where to look for further training, development and educational courses
  • Action planning: How to set and achieve goals, get organised, and perfect study techniques
  • Networking: Know who to talk to for advice and support
  • Matching and decision-making: Know how to weigh up one option against another and make informed decisions
  • Development focus: Stay motivated with your ambitions
  • Self-confidence: This comes with all of the above

Each of us has unique motivations when it comes to study and work.  It is vital that you know what it is you enjoy contributing most.  There is a saying that where the needs of the world and your talents align, there lies your vocation.  So put sometime aside to think about your future. If you are finding it difficult to get started find a supportive career coach or career counsellor for some professional help. Don’t forget to refer to regularly to keep up with what’s on offer…..Good luck!

Rosemarie Ryan is a Career Strategist. She works as a Learning and Development Consultant with Siteminder.

Anne Sexton

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