What NOT to Do When Career Planning Your Future
Career planning can be stressful for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps you’ve chosen a highly competitive career path or you're preparing for a career change into an entirely new field. Maybe you're an Introvert struggling with the social aspects of career planning or a job search. Or perhaps you're stuck on defining your career goals, and you just don't know where to start.
No matter your situation, there are certain things you should avoid when career planning as they can ruin your chances of landing your dream job. Here are seven things you don’t want to do as you figure out your career path.
#1: Forget to take a career assessment test
Some people overlook the importance of taking a career aptitude test, either because they don't know much about what career tests can reveal or because they are convinced they won’t learn anything new. You may have taken a career quiz in high school, for example, but was it tailored to finding the best career for your personality type or was it a generic one-size-fits-all test? Do the insights still apply now that you are an adult with more experience under your belt? Did the type of jobs that you may be interested in even exist when you were in school?
If not, a career aptitude test is the best way to get some personalized input on your most suitable job and career options. A test like this will provide you with valuable insights into your personal motivations, strengths and workstyle, and is an excellent way to learn about employment possibilities you weren’t aware of or never considered before.
#2: Assume you can market yourself effectively
To get the job that you really want, you’ll have to convince at least one employer that you stand out from the crowd. But you won’t be able to do this if you send them a generic resume or go into your interviews unprepared.
Acing a job interview is a game of two players. On the one hand, you need to be able to sell yourself to make sure that the company knows why you are the best fit for the position, but in a way that feels authentic and gives a good sense of who you really are. At the same time, you have to get on the same wavelength as the interviewer who may approach questions and scenarios differently than you would. To put it more succinctly, first you have to know yourself, and then you have to know them.
It’s easy to think of interviews as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ but they're not. Spend some time learning how to answer the most common interview questions in line with your personality and then practice "reading" the personality signals that are coming from your interviewer, so you can reach them with answers that they will appreciate.
#3: Ignore your existing knowledge and skill set
Whatever your age and background, you will have spent a significant amount of time in your life developing your skills and broadening your knowledge. You’ve likely gained a good amount of expertise in certain areas as a result of your hobbies and voluntary activities. But have you thought about ways you can leverage these talents to build a successful career?
If you’ve been investigating careers based on lists of the happiest jobs in America, focusing on career options that pay well, or listening to friends or family members who think they know what’s best for you, the chances are you’ve been overlooking your most marketable characteristics. Even if you don't want to base your career entirely on your hobbies, you should still be thinking long and hard about how your knowledge base can be used as an asset. Personal interests often require you to develop a suite of soft skills that can be applied to many potential jobs, such as organization, communication and problem-solving.
#4: Wait until the last minute to get started
If you're a college student or are thinking about education options, then your career planning process should merge seamlessly with your choice of college and major. From the moment you arrive on campus, you should be searching for ways to put yourself on the fast track to long-term career achievement.
To get a jump on your future competition, look for internships and work-study opportunities in your preferred field. Try to form a close working relationship with at least one advisor from your school’s Career Services department – professors and their graduate assistants may also have valuable insights to share. And you should most certainly be taking career assessment tests designed for college students to find out more about how your personality would fit in different types of workplaces.
Remember, the people you’ll be competing with for jobs will be other graduates and former interns who were proactive and planned ahead and did do those things. Don't wait until the last minute – start early and make sure that you are ready for the workforce with a workable career plan.
#5: Focus too much on the initial job opportunity
Within most career fields there will be opportunities to specialize, side-step, increase your knowledge base or move up the ranks. In fact, the entry-level job you take today could look very different to the role you're performing in five years time. And yet, many people focus too much on the initial "dream job" job opportunity and don't consider what their long-term career prospects may be. While it might be fun at the beginning to do something you’ve always wanted to do, if the job isn’t leading anywhere the charm will eventually wear off.
Before committing to any career path, it's important to ask yourself, "Where will I be five years from now or 10 years from now?" "Does this job role or industry offer the career development that I'm looking for?" It might be in your best interests to pursue a career that will offer limited rewards in the short run but could really take you someplace special and exciting in a few years’ time.
#6: Heed the advice of others when you aren’t sure where to turn
Your friends, siblings, parents, grandparents and teachers know you well and the advice they give you may be sound. But when it comes to your career plans, they shouldn’t exert much of an influence on your final choice. They mean well, but there is no way they could know which jobs would truly make you happy and which jobs would leave you feeling miserable and desperate to flee from your work post or cubicle.
If you choose a career based on someone else’s recommendation, that is your mistake and a big one. No matter how much you’ve struggled trying to find yourself and figure out the right path, you should give it a bit more time if your only alternative is to let someone else choose a career for you. Asking for some guidance is fine, but you have to make the final decision based entirely on what you think is best.
#7: Base your decision on "Best Careers" lists exclusively
When you study for a job or career that doesn’t truly inspire you, simply because it seems like a safe choice based on current trends, you’re liable to discover that you didn’t make such a safe choice after all. Some who trained to enter the same career category may have been motivated by the possibility of material gain and job security, the same way you were. But the majority will be there because they have a deep and authentic interest in that field.
Unless you’re just naturally brilliant and excel at everything you do, your accomplishments in a career you chose after checking out a "Best Careers" list are likely to be limited and unimpressive. Those with a genuine love for the job will likely soak up all the glory and land all the promotions. To truly succeed, you need to find a career that both fits your personality and allows you to follow your passion. Only then will you be able to make the most of your skills and experience, and build a career that is both rewarding and successful.