Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Career Planning a Myth?

As a career coach, I regularly see college students and other professionals in transition or turmoil seeking the secret formula to finding the perfect career or job. They ask, how do I find the perfect job? What is the plan I need to follow? There are no easy answers and many people are stuck because they are afraid to make a mistake or try new things. This can lead to spending a lifetime either miserable or job hopping because they think they have missed the secret. Here are some facts about career planning to keep in mind:

1) In a recent survey of professionals on Linkedin.com, only 20 percent of people said they had achieved career success by following a carefully thought out career plan. Those who were most satisfied, conducted career factfinding by asking people about the realities of the career they were interested in, they took risks to find what they liked, and more importantly, what they didn't like in a career. Often, by actually doing the job for a year or more.

2) 80 percent of professionals say a chance event significantly altered their career path.This may have been a positive or negative life event, but it made a lasting impression and became a catalyst for a change or action. Things happen that are beyond your control. Whatever it is can make you better or bitter. Use it to help you focus on what's important to you in life.

3) At a national college career adviser conference, a speaker asked for a show hands of those with a written career plan, less than 5 percent of the audience raised their hands. Hmmm...career coaches are you practicing what you preach? Did you read something about creating a career plan in a book and it sounded like good advice? Please stop that. Try it for yourself to see if it works. Then give advice on the possibilities and pitfalls.

4) In this economy, you may have to relocate and there are still no guarantees. All work is now global and interconnected. Yet most jobs are not for a lifetime. A decision made in Tokyo or Dubai may result in losing a job in Washington, D.C. or Wisconsin no matter your performance or potential. Most people will have between 6-7 jobs in their lifetime. That's not a goal, just a fact.

I'm not advocating job hopping or to avoid planning. Yet as a career coach I want to be realistic with students and clients about what career planning looks like. It's important to focus on communicating the complexities of finding a true calling or career path. There are not four easy steps.You may do many things. You may have a vocation and an avocation. You may need to relocate. You may need to use social media differently in an active job search. You may need to determine what you value most in life. You may need to stop accepting bad,outdated advice even from people who care about you (parents, professors, family, friends). You may need to create the job that you envision as an entrepreneur.You may need to move forward without fear. If you are a person of faith, you definitely need to pray for clarity and direction about your career.

Today's employment environment calls for new advice and new approaches. Networking, resumes and interview skills still matter. But the game changer is in the risk of trying something new and knowing your first job may not be your forever job. Be willing to start somewhere. Be willing to grow. Be willing to surrender your ideas of what the perfect career or workplace might be. Be willing to change (even in a tough economy). You won't know until you try.

So, is career planning a myth? I'd say no, it's not a myth, but let's not be so rigid about it. I love to hear from you! What do you think? Have you followed a career plan or not? How many jobs have you had, so far? Please leave your comments below.