How to Plan Your Career
Choosing a career is a
difficult matter, in the best of times. Add to this opinions
of friends and parents, and the young person is caught up in
a confusing situation where making a decision is almost
impossible. We give here a model which can help young people
to choose a career, gain competencies required for it, make
decisions, set goals and take action. The decision for each
individual is different, since everyone is a distinct
individual. This model is helpful not only for freshers but
also throughout one's life.
Choosing a career is a multi-step process. It involves
gathering information on a number of things, the first being
yourself. In the first step, therefore, gather information
about yourself. You should develop an understanding of
yourself, including yourvalues, interests, aptitudes,
abilities, personal traits and desired life style. You must
also become aware of the relationship between self and
In the second step, individuals investigate the world of work
in greater depth and narrow a general occupational direction
into a specific one through an informed decision-making
process. In the third step, individuals evaluate occupational
choices and gain practical experience through internships,
co-operative education, relevant summer employment, volunteer
work and campus activities. In addition, more specific
decisions about occupational choices are made.
After this, an initial occupational choice is made in Step
four. Individuals prepare for and begin conducting a job
search, or apply to graduate or professional schools.
This step involves gathering information about yourself to
make a decision about a career. By developing an
understanding of self (values, interests, aptitudes,
abilities, personal traits, and desired life style) you
should become aware of the inter-relationship between self
and occupational choice.
One can start by (a) Learning interests, abilities, skills,
and work values, (b) Listing accomplishments, (c)
Understanding physical and psychological needs, (d) Assessing
aspirations and motivation level, and (e) Deciphering
personal traits and characteristics.
As you begin to develop a better understanding of yourself,
you will gain self-awareness, improve self-confidence,
understand the importance of time management and also develop
personal as well as professional management skills.
Some ways in which self-assessment can be done are described
here. For example, one can take exploratory classes or attend
workshops for study skills, or join activity clubs or
professional clubs. One must be careful that one should allow
regular time for leisure, hobbies and friends and not get
involved in work all the time.
One should identify one's personality style and see what one
is best suited to. Also identify work values and gain a
positive attitude. For instance, one should develop
interpersonal skills in expressing feelings and ideas and
interact with people. Self-defeating behaviour should be got
Academic and Career Options
After you have completed your self-assessment, you must
identify academic and career options available. This step
allows you to investigate the world of work, narrow a general
occupational direction into a specific one through an
informed decision-making process. You will begin to identify
potential careers, gather information about those careers,
and match the career information with the results from your
Once this is done, one should learn about academic and career
entrance requirements. Explore how and where you can get the
education and training required. Identify institutes where
you want to apply. Also assess job market trends and have a
second plan ready, consisting of academic and career
It is important to improve competency all the times. One must
gain research and investigative skills, practice
decision-making, develop problem-solving skills and take up
critical thinking exercises.
One must also increase understanding of how abilities,
interests, and values match career/academic requirements.
To gain competency, one should interact with professionals,
meet academic advisors and career counsellors, discuss with
professors, or attend courses and workshops in areas where
one can learn skills. Skills that can be thus acquired are:
communications, computer knowledge, foreign languages and
international studies. A youngster must make it a point to
attend job and career fairs, participate in the Study Abroad
programme, or take up a part-time job. Students abroad are
known to start small businesses in order to enhance their
The next step helps you to evaluate occupational choices and
gain practical experience through internships, co-operative
education, summer jobs, volunteer work and campus activities.
You will begin to make more specific decisions about
occupational choices. Here too, increase your competency
levels by learning communication and interpersonal skills.
Confidence-building is very important at this stage. Time
management techniques should also be picked up.
At this stage too, one should participate in the Alumni
programmes of your college, work part-time or during summer
to acquire new skills and practice public-speaking in classes
or in organisations, tutor students in various subjects, or
join a professional organisation.
Ideal Life Style Inventory
Mark each item that best describes how important these things
are to you. This inventory is designed to help you identify
values. It is not scored.
Live in a House: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Live in a Rural Area: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Entertain at Home: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Spend Money: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Frequent Travel: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Have Many Possessions: Very Important Moderately Important
Have Lots of Money: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Live Close to Recreation: Very Important Moderately Important
Live Near Cultural Centres: Very Important Moderately
Important Not Important
Access to Movies, Restaurants: Very Important Moderately
Important Not Important
Time Alone: Very Important Moderately Important Not Important
Active Member in Community: Very Important Moderately
Important Not Important
Access to Education: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Live Near Place of Work: Very Important Moderately Important
Work Only for Money: Very Important Moderately Important Not
Once you have answered the questions above, you will be in a
good position to select the job you want. Of course, it is
not always possible to get a job that perfectly matches what
you have in mind.
Allow yourself to dream, fantasies, and have fun. Project
yourself into the future, five to seven years from now.
Imagine in a two-day time span what you would ideally be
doing. Talk about where you would be living and who else
might be there. Use as much detail as possible in your
fantasy; the weather, lifestyle, co-workers, leisure
activities, responsibilities, etc.
Now start finding out about your occupational prospects. Find
out about the major duties and responsibilities involved,
products made or services provided by this occupation,
specialisation within the occupation and the tools used in
the occupation. Findout also about the education, training or
experience needed for the occupation. Match personal
qualifications, skills, and abilities required for the
occupation and fill in the gaps where you do not have such
skills, such as typing or computer knowledge.
Assess whether you like the working conditions: some jobs may
require odd hours of duty or frequent travel. Are you up to
facing these? Find out about future prospects and outlook for
the occupation. The normal methods of entry into the
occupation will be found in newspapers and magazines. Observe
the people in the occupation and see the personality
characteristics of typical people working in it. Sales jobs,
for example, require extroverts and you should be able to
match your personality with what you observe.
Make an informational interview questionnaire and talk to
people in the occupation. The following questions could act
as a guide:
a) How did you get into this occupation/organisation?
b) How did you become interested in this occupation/organisation?
c) What entry-level jobs might qualify a person for this
d) What is the progression of jobs from the beginning to the
e) What responsibilities and duties do you have in your work?
f) Who are your customers? Who are your competitors?
g) What essential abilities are needed to do your job well?
h) What preparation, education, training, or background is
required entrance into this field of work?
i) What is the guiding philosophy of the organisation?
j) What personal traits, values, and interests are necessary
or to succeed and advance in this occupation/organisation?
k) What are the major frustrations, annoyances, or sources of
in the occupation/organisation?
l) How much time do you spend at work?
Meeting professionals helps a lot and clarifies many doubts
in one's mind. However, it is necessary to know someone for
honest answes. If you do not know a person, chances are that
you will not be able to get honest answers.
Matching skills with requirements
The basic idea of the above model is to match one's skills
with what is required for the job. Once an assessment is
made, one will be better able to know one's personality and
choose a career accordingly. Very often, this is not done.
Thus, people find themselves in jobs in which they have no
interest in. A person who has been involved in books all his
life, is suddenly asked to deal with customers or a person
who has been an extrovert may find himself in a banking job
where all he has to do is keep ledgers. It is to avoid this
kind of a thing that building inventory helps.
At the same time, the model helps you assess the skills
needed to work in certain careers. If you want to do
management, for example, it is advisable to take up jobs so
that one acquires confidence and also knowledge about the
industry. This will also help in selecting the kind of
industry that you want to work in.
The model is not perfect, but gives invaluable pointers about
one's personality and indicates how to choose a career.