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Key To Career Planning





Wise career/vocational decisions are usually reached by careful consideration of a number of factors including:


The Career Planning Process

Top 10 Considerations in Career Planning

Myths and Mistakes in Career Planning




Information Interviews




The Career Planning Process


  1. Self Assessment: What are your abilities, interests, values, and personality type?


You can find answers to these questions by:

    • career counseling and standardized career measures
    • thinking about your past experiences
    • reading career decision-making books


  1. Research the labor market and assess potential opportunities: What kinds of careers are there? What fields are in demand? What educational background is required?


Information regarding the labor market is readily available through:

§         talking to employers/employees

§         newspapers

§         libraries

§         internet sites

§         colleges

§         trade and union offices

§         employment centers


  1. Evaluate Options and Take Action: What career options fit with who I am? Which career area(s) should I make an initial commitment to? What kind of action should I take a course or part time school, volunteer or part time job? Where do I want to be in the short-term and in the long-term?


Start where it seems most natural - but take some action. Remember that if you find out that a career area isn't all you want after all you can go back to step 2 or 3. The action you take will obviously be dependent on the other commitments you have in your life. The good news is that there are many options available and all have varying degrees of risk associated with them. For example, you could volunteer or participate in a job shadow in order to better understand a certain job or career field.




Top Ten Considerations In Career Planning


The following items are a checklist of areas that you will want to gather information from for solid career planning. The answers to these questions can be found by talking to employers, employees, from college counselors and advisors to surfing on the Internet - the possibilities are endless!


1. Education

  • What kind or training or education is required?
  • How much will it cost?
  • What are the entrance requirements for this course or program?
  • Where is the program offered?
  • How long is the course?
  • Am I willing to spend the time and effort in school to get into this career?

2. Work Environment

  • Do I want to work inside or outside?
  • Do I prefer the big city, a small town or in a rural environment?
  • Do I want predictable duties or a wide variety of tasks?
  • Do I want the pressure of meeting deadlines or do I prefer to go at my own pace?

3. Future Outlook

  • What are the labor market realities of this career field?
  • Will there be a demand over the next few years in the career I have chosen?
  • How will technological advances change and affect this career field?

4. Personality

  • What personal qualities are desirable in this occupation?
  • Do my career plans match my personal strengths and qualities (e.g. being organized, working independently, or helping people?

5. Aptitudes/Skills

  • What skills do I possess (things that I can do well)?
  • Do my values and skills match with this occupation?
  • Am I willing to learn the skills that I need to in order to be in a new occupation?

6. Earnings

  • What is the salary range for the career?
  • How much on average do people make in the location I am interested in?
  • Would the money I earn in this career meet my needs and future goals?

7. Interests

  • What do I really enjoy doing?
  • Does this career area really reflect these interests?
  • What do I really like about this career?
  • What do I dislike about this career?

8. Career Paths

  • How do people get started in this career?
  • What is an entry level position in this field?
  • What is a "typical" career path?
  • What are the chances for advancement?
  • What other options would be open to me?
  • What are some related jobs to the one(s) I am considering?

9. Type of Work

  • How does someone spend a typical day in this job?
  • What kind of duties would I have?
  • Will I find it satisfying and challenging?

10. Working Hours

  • Do employees in this career generally work standard office hours, shift work, on call, or flexible hours?
  • Does the job require lots of overtime or travel? If so, how will this affect my lifestyle?



Myths and Mistakes in Career Planning


Career Exploration Myths

Mistakes People Make in Career Planning



Career Exploration Myths


There are many myths that can increase frustration, anxiety, and indecision during the career planning process.


Read through the list and see how many of these statements challenge your beliefs. All of the statements are FALSE.

1. There is one right career that exists for me.

We are dynamic beings and the reality is that a number of careers could prove to be quite satisfying. As you change through life you may try and tackle new avenues but in the end you will find that there is usually more than one career that could be fulfilling.

2. I have to be really sure that this is the perfect career for me before I make any commitments.

This is a paradox because unless you make some commitment you can never gain any more information on the suitability of an occupation for you. Therefore, the very step you need to take in order to be more confident is hindered by your need to be 100% sure. Career planning involves risks and sometimes you need to take them. For example, you could make a commitment to take a course, volunteer or work part time in a career area that interests you.

3. Testing or an expert opinion is a sure way to discover the right career for me.

You are the true expert on yourself and career testing is one way to help increase your self awareness. Inventories and tests are tools that can help and career counselors can provide an objective standpoint. Nonetheless, in the end you are the one that knows you best!

4. Time is running out, I need to make a final career decision now.

Once people make up their mind to change careers or decide to "settle down," they may feel a pressure to make a decision quickly so that they can get on with their life. Certain realities exist such as financial, family, and psychological concerns increase the pressure to decide, nonetheless, career decision-making takes time. Career planning includes gathering information about career possibilities and yourself. It is important to give yourself time and because it is a process it never is final.

5. I will be a failure if I have to change my career.

Change is part of life - the belief that you will have one career with one company for the rest of your life is not realistic. Current estimates of the number of separate careers each person will have throughout their lifetime ranges from 4 to 8.

6. All of my needs should be satisfied through work.

The reality is that we are multi-faceted and have many needs. Work cannot usually satisfy all of our needs. Leisure activities and time with family and friends is a place where many of our other needs can be met.

7. If I try hard enough I can do anything.

This statement always seems to cause the most debate in career exploration classes! We all have limitations. Considering your personal limitations is an essential part of career decision-making. For example, you may have poor eyesight but want to be a pilot or police officer. Sometimes it isn't a question of trying harder but of recognizing our limitations.

8. A sure sign that I am suited for a career is that I will be the best in that field.

Some people believe that they are well matched with a certain occupation if they can excel at it. The truth is that many people are suitable for jobs and yet may not be the best in their field. The reality is that there always seems to be someone who is better at "it" than us. Success is often better measured against internal standards rather than external ones. You can be the judge whether or not a career is well suited for you instead of purely relying on external feedback.

9. I have to feel a strong emotional pull towards a career before I can choose one.

The emotional pull or intuitive side is a helpful ally in career decision-making. The problem is that sometimes the emotional pull is not present at the onset because of a lack of information about a career area - you simply don't know enough about it to get excited! You could be missing out on some exciting areas of work because you simply don't know enough about them.



Mistakes People Make in Career Planning

Take a minute and consider the following areas where people often make mistakes in career planning. Mistakes in the end are learning experiences; however, most people cannot afford the time, energy, or finances to make consistent mistakes in career planning.

1. Fail to gather sufficient information.

People often don't gather enough information from a variety of resources when planning their career. Sources of information can include, talking to many employers (big and small companies), checking out schools that offer a particular program, and by talking to people who are working in that position in the field. Information is the best assurance against making a decision about a career that is not suitable for you.

2. Fail to get help from any resources.

There are career counselors, employment centers, libraries, internet sites, and career exploration courses and workshops that you can attend. They can help you look at different options and help you find resources that will help you make decisions regarding your career. Regardless of who you are, everyone can benefit from an objective opinion. Often time’s friends and family can put you in touch with people in particular occupations which can make the information gathering easier.

3. Only consider the financial reward and prestige of career areas.

Financial reward and prestige are two values that may or may not be important to you. Nonetheless, we usually have many values and it is usually a good idea to consider them all. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make a lot of money; however, it is not wise to sacrifice everything else for this ideal. For example, interest and skills are important considerations as well as other values that you may hold. People can sometimes convince themselves that if they make enough money they can be happy in a job. Many people find that in the end there has to be more than money in order to be satisfied with life and career.

4. Make a career decision based on the needs and wishes of others.

Everyone tells you that you would make a great........ but you just don't see yourself doing it after you've researched the area. Follow your instinct and intuition. Make your career decision based on your expectations, not others.

5. Fail to keep educational plans broad and fairly flexible especially when considering the future.

The reality is that lifelong learning is here to stay. When planning your education it is wise to think of how you could expand on a particular educational program, can you specialize at a further date or what other educational opportunities could you pursue?

6. Fail to take some action.

Career decision-making is a transition which involves some risk taking and trying out new things. It is natural that fear can hold us back from taking action, for example, what if I don't like it or what if I can't do it after all? You can only find out how good a match it is if you actually take some action. If you are waiting until you are no longer afraid then you will be at a stalemate - the fear is natural. Instead of denying the fear, validate it, get support, and use the energy from that fear for action.

7. Fail to consider labor market trends and technological advances.

As we move into the Information Age and technology changes everyday life, it is important to understand how the labor market is shifting. There are many economists, governmental bodies, and business people that try and track labor market trends. In the end no one has a monopoly on the truth so educate yourself and make your own decisions. It isn't shooting in the dark, there are some significant trends to watch.





Values can help steer and guide you in career decision-making.

Gather information to determine how closely the occupation or career field will match your values.


What is important to you?


In order to appreciate the impact values have on your career decision making, rank the following work values from most important to least important.

  • _____ Make Decisions: You have the power to decide courses of action, policies and other matters.
  • _____ Work under Pressure: Work in situations where time pressure is part of the environment.
  • _____ Power and Authority: You control, partially or fully, the work activities or destinies of others.
  • _____ Work Alone: Do projects by yourself, without any significant amount of contact with others.
  • _____ Knowledge: Engage in the pursuit of knowledge, truth, and understanding.
  • _____ Financial Reward: You are paid well for the work that you do.
  • _____ Intellectual Status: Be seen by others as a person with high intellect or as one who is an "expert" in their chosen field.
  • _____ Artistic Creativity: Be involved with work that is creative and in any several art forms.
  • _____ Creativity: Create new ideas, programs, organizational structures or anything else that doesn't follow a format previously developed by others.
  • _____ Supervision: Have a job in which you are responsible for the work that is done by others.
  • _____ Change and Variety: Have work responsibilities that frequently change in their content and setting.
  • _____ Fast Pace: Work in an environment where there is a high pace of activity or work must be done rapidly.
  • _____ Recognition: Be recognized for the quality of your work in some visible or public way.
  • _____ Excitement: Experience a high degree or frequent periods of excitement in the course of your work.
  • _____ Adventure: Have work duties which involved frequent risk-taking.
  • _____ Profit, Gain: Have a strong likelihood of accumulating large amounts of money or other material gain.
  • _____ Independence: Be able to determine the nature of your work without significant direction from others; not having to do what others tell you.
  • _____ Help Society: Do something to contribute to the betterment of the world you live in.
  • _____ Designing Systems: To plan methods or procedures.
  • _____ Security: Be assured of keeping your job and reasonable financial reward.
  • _____ Public Contact: Have a lot of day-to-day contact with people.
  • _____ Work with Others: Have close working relationships with people as a result of your work activities.
  • _____ Affiliation: Be recognized as a member of a particular organization.
  • _____ Friendships: Develop close personal relationships with people as a result of your work activities.
  • _____ Competition: Engage in activities which compare your abilities against others where there are clear win-and-lose outcomes.
  • _____ Moral Fulfillment: Feel that your work is contributing significantly to a set of moral standards which you feel are very important.
  • _____ Location: Find a place to live (town, geographical area) which fits with your life style and affords you the opportunity to do the things that you enjoy most.
  • _____ Community: Live in a town or city where you can get involved in community affairs.
  • _____ Physical Challenge: Have a job that makes physical demands which you would find rewarding.
  • _____ Time and Freedom: Have work responsibilities that you can do on your own time schedule with no specific working hours required.
  • _____ Organizing: To structure data, things or people.
  • _____ Making Things: To construct, manufacture or build something concrete.
  • _____ Training and Development: Have the opportunity to develop new skills.
  • _____ Advancement: Have opportunities for advancement and/or a well-defined career path.
  • _____ Results of Job Seen: Have concrete, tangible goals or yardsticks to work toward.
  • _____ Having Fun: Have opportunities to do things that are amusing, entertaining, and enjoyable.







  • What are your likes and dislikes?
  • What kind of careers are related to the interests you have?
  • What if you like so many things that it is hard to choose one career area?
  • Are you so used to doing the same activities that you are wondering if you might have interests in other areas?
  • Do you want to explore your hobby and leisure interests?





A word of caution - assessments are tools that help you become more aware of yourself, they do not point you in a single direction that is "right" for you. In the end you are the true expert on yourself and assessments are a means of helping you tap into this knowledge.






Knowing your temperaments or personal attributes can be helpful in choosing a career that suits you.




The most widely used instrument to help people assess their personality type in relation to career choice is the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator




A word of caution - assessments are tools that help you become more aware of yourself, they do not point you in a single direction that is "right" for you. In the end you are the true expert on yourself and assessments are a means of helping you tap into this knowledge.






  • How Many Skills Do You Have?
  • What is a Skill?

Skill = Knowledge + Experience


A skill is having the knowledge to do something as well as the experience in doing it. We have many skills that are developed in the paid workforce as well as outside of paid work. Skills are essential for success in today's labor market.



Skill Classification


1. Job Specific or Technical Skills


Job specific or technical skills are those that are required to perform specific tasks. For example:

§         a class four driver's license

§         using a particular computer program

§         operating a fork lift

§         knowledge of airport codes


2. Transferable or Generic Skills


Transferable or generic skills are skills learned in any paid or non paid activities that are useful in a variety of jobs. Career changers will want to consider what skills are transferable from their old job to their new one.

§         ability to communicate both verbally and written

§         organizational skills

§         supervising others

§         planning activities

§         teaching


3. Employability or Personal Skills


Who you are affects your job performance. Employers not only want job specific and transferable skills but personal skills. Often time’s people underestimate the importance of having these!

§         Attitude

§         Personality

§         Work habits, i.e. punctuality and attendance


Sources of Skills


We develop skills in paid and non paid type activities. Consider the following areas when taking count of your skills.


§         Part time or full time work

§         Training and education

§         Volunteer work

§         Hobbies and interests

§         Home repairs and management

§         Team or individual sporting activities

§         Homemaking

§         Traveling

§         Community work





Information Interviews


What are information interviews?


An information interview is a pre-arranged meeting between you and someone who can answers some questions that you have about a certain occupation, career field, education, training or work conditions.


Why would you want to do an information interview?

  • To learn more about different careers.
  • To get first hand information on whether a certain career is suitable for you.
  • To increase your confidence about your career decision.
  • To learn what education and training are needed for certain occupations and the best colleges/universities to receive the training from?
  • You may discover opportunities for a work experience or job shadow.
  • You can get to know people in your field thereby increasing your job opportunities.


How can I set up information interviews?

  1. First of all you want to consider all of the people that you know and ask them if they know something about the career area you are interested in.
  2. If none of the people you know are in the field you are interested in learning about, then ask them if they know of people who are.
  3. You can then use the people's names that they give you as leads for information interviews.
  4. If you having a tough time finding contacts through your friends, family, or neighbors then try using the phone book and other directories to find people who would know about your career area.
  5. From there it is as easy as picking up the phone and asking the person if they could spend 15 minutes with you to answer some questions.
  6. Expect that not everyone is going to say yes. However, if you use your personal contacts to find that person then the chances of a "no" are lessoned.
  7. If you are nervous about getting on the telephone then develop and use a telephone script to practice what you will say.


§         Talk to more than one person so that you can get an overview of the field rather than one person's experience

§         Be prepared and organized - know the questions that you want answers to.

§         Keep good notes in the interview.

§         Fifteen minutes is an appropriate length of time to ask for to do the information interview.

§         Make sure to send them a thank you letter after the information interview for their time and information

§         Don't twist the information interview into a job interview!


Questions to ask someone in an information interview.


Based on your needs, choose the questions that are the most relevant.


1.      What are the ideal qualifications for someone in ... type of work?

2.      How often does the company have openings?

3.      Ask what a person in an occupation you are interested in actually does on a day to day basis. What does their typical day look like?

4.      If there is any prior training needed for the position, ask what experience is recognized, and what are the entry level jobs in a similar field?

5.      What are the trends in the industry?

6.      What are the standard hours of work? Is the work usually seasonal, full or part time?

7.      What are the specific skills required for the position?

8.      Success of the company or its history, legal standing of the company.

9.      Does the company offer benefits?

10.  What is the salary range for the position?

11.  What are the possibilities for the advancement and relocation?

12.  What is the management style? (flat or hierarchy)

13.  Is union membership required?

14.  What is the work environment like?

15.  What are the physical demands of the job?

16.  What is the reputation of the company in the community?

17.  How many employees does the company have?

18.  What type of training is needed for the position?

19.  What school is best recognized by the company? What type of training do you have?

20.  What do you like about your job? What do you dislike?

21.  What skills are required? What areas do you pursue for professional development?

22.  Where did you start in the company?

23.  What is the demand for this job in the labor market? How do you see future employment trends affecting the demand for people with these skills?

24.  What different types of positions could I obtain with my skills?

25.  What different positions are available in the same field?

26.  What is the mission statement, philosophy, and objectives of the company?

27.  What does a typical day look like?

28.  From your perspective, what is the most important part of the job?

29.  What gives you the most satisfaction? The most frustration?

30.  Where so you see yourself in 5 years from now?

31.  Is there a high turnover of employees in this industry?

32.  How did you become interested in this line of work?

33.  What influenced you in your career choice?

34.  For a non-profit agency: - Where do you receive your current funding from? - Do you anticipate any cutbacks, if so where? - Who do you provide services to? - What are the programs that you offer? - What community agencies do you liaise with?

35.  What is the safety record of the company?

36.  How do you evaluate the performance of your employees?

37.  Who else do you think it would be useful for me to speak with to obtain more information?


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