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5 Tips to Help You Improve the Career Planning Process

By Dr. Larry D. Parker, Jr.
Department Chair, Transportation and Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management, Reverse Logistics Management, and Government Contracting and Acquisition

Why are some people happy with their jobs, while other people float from one job to another without obtaining any sense of purpose or satisfaction? Simply put, some people have jobs while others choose a career. But what exactly is the difference?

The Difference Between a Job and a Career

Understanding the difference between a job and a career is the first step to successful career planning. A job is something that you take to pay the bills, while a career is something that fuels your passions, utilizes your skills and produces satisfaction with your life.

On one of her shows, Oprah Winfrey once explained the difference between a job and a career. She said, “A job is something you do until you find your career. A career is something that you would enjoy, even if you don’t get paid for it.”

People attend college, go to vocational school, or complete long apprentice programs to gain the knowledge to pursue their desired careers. Through happenstance, some people are lucky enough to fall into a situation that leads to an enjoyable career.

However, most people deliberately take steps to assess the abilities or talents they have and develop the skills they’ll need to achieve the career they want. Anyone can take the steps to plan a fulfilling career; here are five tips to get your career planning started.

Tip #1: Brainstorm

With many workers unhappy in their chosen jobs and joining the Great Resignation, isn’t it logical to brainstorm more positive solutions instead of blindly jumping into a new career?

The majority of our daily lives are spent at our jobs. If we want our work to be fulfilling, planning a career should start with writing down ideas for “What could I do?” on paper.

Start by making a list of careers that you know. Depending on your personality and how you process information, you can create your list on a computer, draw a mind map or just use Post-it notes.

Free yourself from judgement or asking if you could do the job or not. Making this list of careers will open your mind to adding other related and non-related careers to your list.

Then, take that list of careers you know and create a list of opposite careers. What would be the opposite of each career that you initially listed? The idea behind this type of brainstorming is to pull ideas out of your head so that you can review both lists as you determine what you could do as a career.

Tip #2: Research Career Possibilities

There are several excellent career-focused books that you can buy or check out from a library. They include:

Books can spark career ideas you may not have previously considered or point you in a research direction that you didn’t know existed. The bottom line is that you can use books, the internet, blogs or people to determine what would be good possible careers to explore.

Some people may not have an idea of what career to pursue. However, they may have a few organizations where they would like to work.

For example, a college student might have a parent who has been a Kraft Foods (Kraft Heinz) employee for all of his or her working life. This parent has mentioned several times how enjoyable the job is, how well the company has provided opportunities for the learning and advancement of its employees, and how the company has great benefits and generous vacation time.

Based on this information, that college student may not know whether to seek a marketing, accounting or quality management role at Kraft Foods. However, that student might feel that working at Kraft seems like a wonderful career and decide to apply for the Student & Graduate Programs with Kraft Heinz.

That student could either do a training program or internship with Kraft Heinz. Another option would be for that student to seek out the company’s MBA programs to determine a preferred field and to kick-start their career with Kraft Heinz.

Related link: Cultural Fit: Assessing if a New Company Is Right for You

Tip #3: Conduct Self-Assessments

To have a career that meets your needs and inspires the development of your full potential, analyzing yourself through personality assessments is key.

There are various assessments available. One of the most well-known assessments is the as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), developed by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers.

Their work is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The MBTI assessment helps you understand your personality and indicates if you have a preference toward:

  • Introversion or extroversion
  • Sensing or intuition
  • Thinking or feeling
    Judging or perceiving

Other assessments include the Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness (DiSC) assessment, the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, the Color Code Personality Test, and many others. You can take these assessments or use a certified practitioner to administer the assessment and provide more insight about the assessment’s results.

As you discover the best personality traits for certain jobs, you can also apply an understanding of your personal values, natural abilities, and goals to find one or more careers that aligns with not only who you are now but also who you want to become.

Tip #4: Seek Assistance

Most people seek career planning assistance in high school – from a teacher, coach or career counselor – prior to entering college. There are also local community organizations staffed by volunteers who help people make career and employment decisions. In addition, there are resources at public and school libraries, as well as nationwide mentoring and education services such as Job Corps, Mapping Your Future, and SCORE.

Colleges and universities are a great resource for seeking help with your career planning. Not only do schools have books and information on businesses and careers, but they also have career centers geared towards helping students explore different careers.

For example, our University’s Career Services department offers:

  • Career exploration
  • Career coaching
  • Federal career coaching
  • Mock interviews
  • Resume reviews
  • Virtual Career Fairs
  • Job boards
  • Career guides

Another option is to seek out a mentor or a life coach to aid you in career planning. A life coach offers encouragement and exploration into what you want to achieve. Seeking the help of a trained professional who can act as a sounding board for your ideas and ask questions you may not have thought to ask is a good start.  A life coach may also have potential people within his or her network who could mentor or guide you toward understanding your purpose, talents, and possibilities.

Tip #5: Look for Mentors

Having a mentor should be a must for anyone. Student athletes, college students, entrepreneurs or people who want to achieve fulfilling careers can all benefit from mentors. Most people should seek out multiple mentors; each mentor will have a different perspective and skill set to help you make the decisions you need to grow professionally.

Often, mentors have experienced the same search for a fulfilling career and can provide a objective view of your progress or the roadblocks in your way. They can analyze your situation from the 10,000-foot view and compare it to what you want to achieve. Mentors also have personal wisdom developed through decades of trial and error, plus they hear the things that you may not be saying.

Your career planning will be more successful if you take the time to research, assess yourself, and utilize the assistance of a career center, life coach, or mentor. If you want to find satisfaction in the work you do and live a truly fulfilling life, then good career planning is a must.

Related link: Podcast: The Role of Mentorship in Career Advancement

Dr. Parker currently serves as the Department Chair, Transportation and Logistics Management, Supply Chain Management, Reverse Logistics Management, and Government Contracting and Acquisition. Dr. Parker is a native of Temple, Texas, a certified Inspector General by the Association of Inspector Generals, and a proud member of professional organizations advancing knowledge and professionalism, such as the Association of Supply Chain Management and the National Naval Officers Association. Dr. Parker is a published author, inspirational speaker, consummate entrepreneur, and consultant who speaks worldwide on diversity, inclusion, and leadership. He holds a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University, an MBA from Liberty University, and a B.A. in history from Wittenberg University. Learn more about Dr. Parker by visiting Dr. Larry D. Parker Jr. Inspires.

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