Marlborough, MA, May 22, 2008
Part III: Planning a Profession
In Part II of this series, "Crafting a Career", we emphasized the importance of setting goals, and walked through three steps of decision making to create a sound career goal. By now you may not have reached a final decision on what career you've chosen, but you should have just a few contenders that you're comparing.
The third stage of career exploration is creating a career plan. Though it may seem straightforward - get a job, make money, get a better job, make more money - using specific methods to plan where you're headed and how you're going to get there can yield more specific results.
Planning Your Career is All Business
If you're like many people in the US, employment will be your primary source of income for a major portion of your life. You may also dream of someday owning your own company. But truly you already own your own business. Every day that you look for work or go to work, you are in business for yourself. Whether as an employee, independent contractor or entrepreneur, if you choose to work for a living you are in the business of trading your time, skills and commitment for income. You create, market and sell a product for profit ֠you. So although you may think of career planning as something you do before you start working or change careers, it's actually something that, if you're smart, you'll do before, during and after work.
When a savvy entrepreneur decides to start up a company, he or she follows specific methods for setting it up right: writing a business plan, hiring staff, creating a product, marketing the product, and processing the sales for revenue and profit. In times of uncertainty, the business plan is there for guidance, keeping them focused and supporting their ultimate goal for success.
Effective today, you own a business. For the sake of this discussion, let's call your new company MyCareer, Inc. Follow these next steps to start your career building on a solid foundation.
Step 1: Create Your Own Company - MyCareer, Inc.
The first thing a smart business owner does when they are planning a new company is create a business plan. But in our case we'll call it a Career Plan. It doesn't need to be more than a page or two to be useful, but the more work you do on it the more you'll make sure your career takes advantage of all the opportunities out there.
If you have not yet made a final choice on one specific career, this is the time to do it. Writing your Career Plan will force you to narrow down and focus on specific details of your vision for your future.
- To start writing your plan, begin with the work you've done already as we discussed in Part I and II of this series. Summarize in one or two paragraphs what you've learned about yourself, what you're good at, what you're happiest doing, and what careers stand out as the most promising to you.
State your intention in a mission statement (this will be similar to your objective on your resume). Your mission statement should be one or two sentences, and include three parts: what you do well, why you do what you do, and what you expect to accomplish.
For example, if Jamie G. has been working at the local library for the last three years while she's been going to school, and she wants to eventually own her own bookstore or be head librarian at a large university, her mission statement would read something like this:
"I love books and have experience working in libraries. I am looking for opportunities to learn more about the library business, demonstrate my strong organizational skills and contribute to a positive team-oriented environment. I ultimately plan to occupy a leadership role at a large university library or as owner of my own bookstore."
- In the following sections of your plan, describe in more detail:
- What you have to "sell" (anything you would put on a resume, including skills, experience, accomplishments, awards and memberships/honors)
- How you will market yourself (e.g., creating a resume, dressing for success at work, networking for opportunities such as joining professional associations, applying for open positions or to get into a course or college, etc.)
- Identify strengths and areas of potential risk (e.g., willing to work hard, prefer to work with direct supervision, don't have a lot of savings so need permanent employment opportunities)
- Plan for growth and unexpected changes (analyze trends in the industries of your choice that may affect your employment, factor in savings as you determine how much money you want to make and can make in your chosen career field)
- Decide where you will spend your money and resources, and when (consider tuition for taking courses, getting a degree, and/or obtaining certification, "marketing" costs for printing and distributing resumes, cost of fuel to go to interviews, babysitters or daycare, etc.)
Step 3: Create You, the Product
Time to start working at your new job! Sign up for that class, apply to that school, take that test and/or find a position that gets you in the door for the most money in the best environment. It really doesn't matter where you start, because one way or the other you're going to have to learn from experience before you know for sure what you want.
Consider the first five years of work that you do toward your education or as an employee as a learning experience only. Don't worry too much about the outcome of your studies or job - after all, your first and foremost responsibility is to Yourself and your company, MyCareer, Inc. By cultivating job mobility and resilience, you will find it easier to perceive job transitions as the next step toward accomplishing your long-term goal. Just invest your time, your effort, your money and stick to the plan. The returns will come - maybe not always in the way you expected, but they'll come.
TIP: If getting a college degree is part of your Career Plan, remember that, whenever possible, what you do in college should be supporting your Career Goal. This includes any work study or part time jobs you may take to support yourself, projects you may do for class, etc. A helpful resource for finding government jobs for students is www.studentjobs.gov.
Step 4: Market You, the Product
Once you have a company and a product to sell, your next step will be to make a name for yourself. This can be done through:
- Communicating Information - Posting resumes, applying for jobs, keeping friends and colleagues up to date about what you're up to, participating in online communities, telling everyone you meet what you want to do and how you plan to get there - do what you can each day to make your name a household one.
- Demonstrating Capabilities -Showing initiative, learning and volunteering willingly, showcasing your talents, and doing what you say you'll do when you'll say you'll do it will carry you a long way, whether you're working in an entry-level job, attending a class online, or managing a large team.
- Representing Your Brand - Keep in mind that every day when you're at work or school, you're representing you, your future and worth. You deserve to put your best foot forward. Look your best, be easygoing, and treat people with respect.
Step 5: Reinvest Your Profits
As you start making progress along your career path, and you see your income coming in and going up, be sure to pay Yourself a percentage of your income as an investment in the next step toward your Career Goal.
Finally, be sure to be a good employer and keep Yourself happily employed and motivated. Encourage Yourself to take initiative and increased responsibility, measure your success objectively, and reward Yourself for doing a good job.
- Tax Advantages of Incorporating a Business, National Business Association
- Entrepreneur Magazine
- NCDA/NOICC Gallup Survey
The information in this article is provided for general use only, and should not be considered legal or tax advice.