Career planning refers to the process of making educational and career choices based on knowledge of self and of the environment. The purpose of career planning is to encourage individuals to explore and gather information about various educational and career opportunities thus enabling them to develop realistic career goals. Career planning is an ongoing activity that should be implemented as early as the middle school years and extend into adulthood. The career planning process can be divided into four stages. These stages include (1) self-assessment, (2) knowledge of academic-career options, (3) in-depth evaluation and goal setting, and (4) career plan implementation.
Self-assessment refers to an individual’s ability to gather information about his or her interests, skills and abilities, values, and personality type. Examples of questions to consider at this stage include the following: What types of work and school-related courses and actives do I enjoy? What can I do well? What types of skills have I gained through various curricular and cocurricular experiences? What values do I consider important in my preferred career? Many of these questions can be answered through career assessments such as the Kuder Career Planning System, Strong Interest Inventory, or Self-Directed Search.
Knowledge of academic-career options refers to an individual’s ability to gather information about the world of work. Knowledge of specific jobs, occupations, and organizations; work conditions; required education; job outlook; and chances for advancement are important factors in choosing the right career. Individuals can explore possible careers using a number of different resources such as the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), Occupational Outlook Handbook, or computer-assisted guidance systems. Other activities could also include spending time with adults who are engaged in occupations related to one’s interests, job shadowing, volunteer work, and discussing one’s educational plans with parents, teachers, and guidance counselors.
In-depth evaluation and goal setting refers to an understanding of how to make decisions based on the information one has gathered in the first two stages of career planning; an awareness of the factors that may impact one’s ability to implement one’s decisions; and the setting of short-, medium-, and long-term goals. During this stage, individuals may want to consider questions such as, Do my interest, skills, and values match those of the occupation I’ve selected? What schools offer the training that will be needed to pursue my career of interest? How long will it take me to complete the education required of my career of interest? Are there other occupations that I should consider as alternatives?
Finally, the last stage of the career planning process is career plan implementation, which involves making an initial choice and taking steps toward reaching career goals. The primary focus of this stage is on job and educational preparation. Individuals at this stage should make deliberate efforts to (1) apply to various education and training programs, (2) gather information on specific companies, (3) develop a job search strategy, (4) develop resumes and cover letters, and (5) prepare for job interviews.
- Bardick, A. D., Bernes, K. B., Magnusson, K. C., & Witko, K. D. (2006). Junior high school students’ career plans for the future. Journal of Career Development, 32(3), 250-271.
- Bowlsbey, J., Dikel, M. R., & Sampson, J. P. (2002). The Internet: A tool for career planning (2nd ed.). Tulsa, OK: National Career Development Association.
- Niles, S. G., & Harris-Bowlsbey, J. (2002). Career development interventions in the 21st century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.