You’re expected to make some pretty big career decisions at school. While these decisions require your attention, they don’t need to be set in stone.
Everything is adaptable, and your ideas around careers and work will naturally change as you grow and learn more. It’s rare the academic decisions you make today will determine the entire trajectory of your future career.
This can be reassuring, but it also poses a larger question: How do you plan for the future decisions you’ll have to make if your current ones don’t work out long term?
This is where career planning comes in. As you grow and develop your ideas around work, you can apply some career planning theories to help you keep getting the most value out of the work you do – both professionally and personally.
‘Career Planning Theories’ might sound a bit technical and scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are four you can explore today:
1. Meaningful Specialisation
Meaningful Specialisation involves a critical analysis of your core skills and how they apply to specific job roles. In the early stages of our career journeys, it’s possible to flip across career industries and trial various roles – something we highly recommend as you’ll get heaps of exposure and a solid idea of what you do and don’t enjoy! As you start to build a better picture of the types of jobs you do like, you need to start honing down your skills (specialising!) and tailoring them to the right jobs for you.
Here are some of the questions you can use to explore what this might look like for you:
- What are your core skills, the ones you’re regularly complimented on at work or school?
- What do you feel especially good at and equally drawn to doing at work?
- How are the skills/activities you discovered in answer to the above two questions marketable? What types of jobs are they applicable to?
- Where are the gaps in your skillset to apply to the jobs or roles identified in the above question?
2. Positive Differentiation
Positive differentiation is about identifying what it is about you and your core skillset that sets you apart from most people in the same position as you. What is it about you specifically that makes you attractive to the employers and organisations with the jobs you want to apply to?
Here are a few questions to help you figure that out:
- What are the things you can do better than 90% of other people in a similar position to you?
- What are the key achievements in your work or academic history so far that have been of value to those around you?
- How can you demonstrate these things on your resume and at an interview?
- What are the actions you can put into place now to make you better at these things than 100% of people in a similar position to you?
3. Market Segmentation
Knowing what differentiates you in the market is a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle, but when you’re ready to take it up a notch, the next step is to apply that differentiation across the market.
Some employers and roles will value some skills more than others. Where one sees something of high value, another may not. So, if you really want to start growing your career in new and positive ways, you need to explore and understand the industry market you’re interested in.
A few things to reflect on:
- What skills are most in-demand in your chosen industry/s?
- How does your core skill set align with the market demand?
- Where are the gaps in your own skillset, and how can you improve this?
- What areas are growing within your chosen industry/s? What are the potential upcoming roles and opportunities, and how can you align your skills with them?
- How is the future of your chosen industry likely to be disrupted, and what skills do you need to stay on top to maintain a positive place in the market segmentation?
4. Proactive Implementation
Applying the above three methods across each step in your career journey will see you pulling together some solid ideas and implementable ideas for each successive phase of your career.
What comes next is the process of proactive implementation. This is about applying all of the above with the right actions and behaviours and strategically positioning yourself with a clear focus on the roles you know you’ll enjoy and be good at.
Here’s what this looks like:
- A resume, cover letter, references and referrals, social media presence and professional website all sing from the same hymn sheet about precisely who you are, what you do, and how good you are at it.
- Utilising social media and professional networks to build a positive professional profile through appropriate engagement.
- A developed reputation with your peers, colleagues and managers (past and current) for who you are, what you do and what you bring to the table as a professional.
- A tangible track record of work, qualifications, experience, and achievements that prove your value in the roles you’ve chosen for yourself.
Introducing these concepts and ideas at the different stages of your career can encourage you to think about career planning that is less focused on study options (although these are still very important) and more on a mindset prepared for challenges and being challenged when it comes to your careers.
It’s a mindset that will see you approaching your long term career goals like a true pro’.