Career planning is an inherently difficult task because there are so many factors. At some point, we yearn to do something meaningful, live comfortably, and grow as a person. Here are some of the strategies I have come up with:
Some counselors suggest the “passion theory”. The key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what you’re passionate about and then find a job that matches this passion (according to Cal Newport). Sometimes the passion theory works, and sometimes the passion theory does not work.
Some counselors suggest the “self-awareness approach”. Take a personality and/or strengths test to learn more about you and your core competencies, and use the results to plan your career. These tests are becoming more popular because they are accessible through the internet and do not take long to complete.
Some counselors suggest the “product to market approach”. Assess the employment market and find the best opportunity based on your educational and employment experiences. Create product differentiation, advertise your strengths, and promote your personal brand; it is more effective to do each of these marketing techniques with a professional website.
Some counselors suggest the “craftsman mindset”. Focus on what value you are producing in your job and build your career around it. For example, I have always had a knack for developing software and web applications, so this approach suggests building my career around these skills because I have demonstrated success. Cal Newport named his book after this approach: “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love”.
I suggest using the advantages of each approach in planning the development of your skill set, which will help you achieve your career goals. There is no magic formula, where you weigh each factor and come up with an exact, set-in-stone career plan. As you navigate through your career, you are presented with obstacles and inspiring events which challenge you to think of new ways to reinvent yourself. Whatever methods you use to develop your career plan, with a skills based approach, you end up with the same result: a list of skills (your skill set) and an action plan to learn and develop an expertise with each skill.
I conducted a survey (results discussed in A Skills-Based Approach to Developing a Career) and one of the objectives was to learn how to develop a career plan based on skill sets. One thing I learned from the survey was an overwhelming majority of the respondents have this “determinist outlook”, where you can develop a skill “if you are determined and willing to learn it properly” and it is not necessarily in-synch with your core-competencies. To the contrary, my theory is to develop career plans by prioritizing your core-competencies, and then narrow down the list based on your inner-motivations. As you plan a career, decide on your own how to make sense of this “follow your passion” versus “do what you do best” versus “whatever pays the bills” debate.