The Career Choice and Change Process

"Your work is to discover your work and then, with all your heart, to give yourself to it."
~Buddha (563 - 483 BC)

Ok, you've decided you want to change careers, or perhaps you're ready to make your first career choice - what do you have to do? I hope to make the process a bit more understandable by spelling out eight explicit steps you'll need to take.

Step 1. Self-Knowledge. "Know Thyself." That advice comes from the Ancient Greek Philosopher Plato. And indeed, in the career choice and change process your first order of business is to understand yourself - your interests, values, skills you like to use, personality characteristics, and unique talents. As well, you want to consider some very practical things such as the salary you'd like or need to make, the level of responsibility you'd like to have and, geographically, where you'd like to work.

Labor-Market Knowledge
Step 2. Labor market knowledge. At almost the same time as you're thinking about yourself, you want to learn about the current-day labor market - the occupational options within this market, and how it is organized.

Make An Initial Match 
Step 3. Make an initial match. Once you have the above two pieces of knowledge, you can begin to make a match between yourself and the labor market, and to come up with some viable career options for yourself. Where you can best satisfy your interests, fulfill your values, utilize your favorite skills, etc. As stressed elsewhere on this site, if either of those two critical pieces of information is missing [info about yourself or info about the labor market] you are ill prepared to make an informed decision about your future. Making the match is where a lot of people get stuck, and making the match is what I specialize in helping people to do.

Step 4. Research. The matching process above will usually yield some good possibilities and so the next step would be to do in-depth research into the best options. See my articles on career research.

Choose A Career Goal or Goals
Step 5. From the research, you'll come up with a career goal or goals. (I say "goals" because some folks choose to aim for more than one goal - we call this a composite or portfolio career, which I address elsewhere on this site.)

Make A Plan To Reach Your Goal Or Goals
Step 6. Once you've come up with a career goal or goals, it's time to make a plan to reach the goal or goals. This could consist of putting a resume together, conducting a job search, doing an internship or apprenticeship, pursuing additional training, etc.

Work The Plan
Step 7. After you've developed a plan to reach your goal or goals, the next step is to work the plan. Whatever you've decided to do at this point is all moot unless you take action. Sounds pretty simple… make the plan and then take action on the plan. And yet, this is where many people fail. They've done the research, they've made their career choice, they have a great plan, and they don't do anything with it. And there are many reasons for this. I'll address them in a future article.

Rinse And Repeat?
Step 8. So, you work the plan, and hopefully you reach your goal or goals and you live happily ever after! Right? Well, maybe… and maybe not.
You see, over time, things may change for you. Given 10 or 15 years the career that was once the dream career for you may not hold your interest the way it used to, or you may not find it as fulfilling as it once was, or perhaps you're ready to develop some new skills. In any case, it may be time to reconsider your career and decide, if indeed, you need a (or another) career change. And, if so, what do you do?... Go back to Step 1, and start the career choice/change process all over again. In reality, the average person changes careers (not jobs, careers) three to five times in a lifetime (depending on which set of research you're looking at). So, you can expect to do this a few times.

In the CAPS ACE Program we work mostly on the first three steps. From there most people have enough to go on to begin their research and go on to make successful career choices and changes. In reality, following the 8 steps doesn't always go smoothly. There may be many bumps along the way, and at times people need to backtrack and repeat certain steps. This is one reason I've always invited my clients to call or email with questions or problems at no charge after our sessions are done. They find this to be very helpful when they get stuck or run into roadblocks somewhere along the way. My ultimate goal is that you succeed in this all-important, life-enhancing career choice/change process.

"He helps others most, who shows them how to help themselves." ~A. P. Gouthey

Career & Academic Planning Services

Located in Exeter, NH.
Providing Career Counseling for Nashua, Concord, Portsmouth, Manchester, NH, Massachusetts & Maine