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6 Phases of Career Planning

Updated on July 22, 2013

Career planning is essential as a compass to give direction so that we can arrive at our dream career. It is never too early to plan for our career even if we just started our college. Instead of going with the flow or following our peers, we should find our own career path. In fact, if we follow the crowd, we might get lost in it. Some of the bad reasons that people have for choosing their degree in the college are:

  • This seems to be the easiest course
  • I have no other choice
  • All of my friends are majoring in engineering
  • I will get a high salary with this degree
  • I have no idea

People have different personalities and talents, and therefore different careers that they would like to pursue. No single career can satisfy everybody. As a result, following the path of other people without knowing ourselves can be quite misleading. A tool that may prove to be useful is the career-planning wheel, which involves continuous cycles of six phases.

The continuous cycle of six phases in career planning.
The continuous cycle of six phases in career planning. | Source

Phase 1: Knowing Ourselves

Knowing ourselves involves identifying what are our interest, passion, skills or talents, values, and personality. What do you like to do on the weekends or when you have some spare time? That may be your interests and passions. Translating what we like to do into a career will be great since we will be joyful in doing the work. Skills and talents are essential in making a realistic career decision. You will not want to find yourself struggling hard to survive in a work that you are not talented in.

Values are the things that are important for someone in life, which can be family, recognition by others, creative thinking, independence, sense of control, etc. We will feel joyful and content if we can manifest our values in our daily life and work. Lastly, we need to identify our personalities to enable us to identify career choices that may fit with our personalities; hence we will be more comfortable and effective in work. One of the most well-known personality assessment is MBTI, where different personality types have different preferences in career choice. Check the link below for careers based on personality types:

Common Careers for Personality Types

"Until you know who you are, you cannot know what you can become." - Neils Lindhard

Phase 2: Identify Opportunities

Get an idea of what is happening out there in the job market. Familiarize ourselves with different types of industries and prevailing trends in the market. Depending on the industries that you are interested in, look out for what the employers want from the job seekers. Some of the most common ones are communication skills, leadership skills, willing to learn, commitment, and interpersonal skills.

After identifying the opportunities available in the job market, or even opportunities for us to create our own business, we need to see how we can fit in to the opportunities based on our interests, passions, skills or talents, values, and personality, as outlined in previous phase. Of course, we may not be able to find the career that exactly matches our criteria. But, it's much easier to conform ourselves to the careers that we are comfortable in through the process of knowing ourselves.

"Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises." - Demosthenes

Phase 3: Develop Vision

Make a map before you make the journey to your dream career. A common and useful method is to list what we want to achieve in the next 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years. Imagine what we want to be like in those timeline, and write down the details as well. Without getting a map for direction, we will get lost. Likewise, career planning involves laying out the plan, lest we get lost in our busy work.

"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision." - Helen Keller

Phase 4: Create Career Plan

After getting the career map, it's time to create the plan to achieve our vision. Identify our current state and the state of where we want to be in 5 years time, for example. Doing a simple calculation of Future - Present = What is Needed, we can identify what particular skills, experiences, knowledge that we are lacking before we can achieve the career that we want. For example, if we are engineering students aspiring to become business consultants, what is needed can be some business courses, work experiences, MBA, certification or special license, etc.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail." - Alan Lakein

Phase 5: Implement the Plan

After identifying the skills and knowledge that we need to achieve, it's time to work it out. For example, we can try to get the relevant qualifications to build our portfolio, involves ourselves in leadership positions in some organizations, networking, etc. Learning how to communicate and market ourselves better are equally important for improving our career. One of the goal that we should set is to make sure that we minimize or eliminate the What is Needed factor in phase 4. Move one step at a time and we will be closer to our dream career.

"Action is the foundational key to all success." - Pablo Picasso

Phase 6: Review the Plan

Planning career is not a one-time decision for the entire lifetime. In fact, it cannot be rushed and it's a lifelong process. With more experience and knowledge, we need to review our career plan periodically to ensure our plan is still relevant and we don't digress too much from the plan. Reflect on what we have learnt and make the amendments to the plan. With those changes, the career options may need to be reviewed as well.

"Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful." - Margaret J. Wheatley

The purpose of career planning is for us to get to our dream career. We will know that we have found our dream career when our vocation becomes our vacation. "Find a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life." - Confucius


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    • antigravity profile image


      4 years ago

      great information for all who want to grow your career

    • aexbush profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      6 years ago from Ohio

      Very well stated. I was pleased to see that you illustrated how methodical career planning needs to be in order to be successful.


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