The career planning process is a lifelong journey. As with any journey, you first need to know your starting point…you! From there, you can determine where you might want to go. This plan involves identifying strategies to get there.

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Where Am I Now? Self-Assessment

We have all heard the question at one point in our lives: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” If we’re serious about finding fulfilling, rewarding employment, this is a question we should never stop asking ourselves. In addition, you should ask yourself:

  • Who am I? Your skills, values and interests
  • How Am I Seen By Others? Performance feedback

Your answers to these questions are going to determine what course your plot for your professional life.

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Where Do I Want To Be? Research

Finding a great job isn’t as easy as throwing darts at a map… you have to do a little bit of research to identify the type of work you would like to perform, and the type of employer for whom you’d like to work.

Finding career options includes: looking at possible jobs in the marketplace – both in print and on the Internet – and then using your skills, values and interests to identify a fit between the two.

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How Do I Get There? Planning

You’ve found your dream job, and you think you’re the best candidate in the world for the job. But how do you get from dream job to reality? You have to strategize for achieving your goals and maximizing your success by incorporating techniques such as: networking; writing resumes and cover letters to market your skills, talents and accomplishments; developing good interviewing skills; and dressing for success.

Check out the Self-Knowledge Interview to see how well you know your own skills, and what you can bring to the table.

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Understanding Career Options

In today’s job market, candidates for employment have to be flexible, and they have to know their options.  Below are some examples of career options and direction:

1. Enrichment (Growing in Place)

  • Expand or change responsibilities at your current job in order to provide growth experiences
  • Can be achieved by seeking exposure, recognition, autonomy, skill variety, and challenge of the job
  • Viable option to enhance your abilities and build your skills

2. Lateral (Moving Across)

  • Involves a change in job position, but not necessarily a change in status or pay
  • Broadens knowledge or skill base across varying functions. Breadth of experience can be critical to future career success
  • An option used to seek new experiences and challenges without additional responsibilities and pressures
  • An option that can provide a change in location, the stimulation of new colleagues, and a transfer into a faster growth area

3. Vertical (Moving Up)

  • The most traditional option that provides an increase in money, status, and responsibility
  • Goals usually focused at one or two levels above your current position. (Anything higher is usually too distant for effective action plan development.)
  • Usually achieved as a reward for excellence in the current position and demonstrated ability to meet performance requirements in the higher level position
  • The most straightforward option if you have a strong desire to achieve, or if you have set your sights on a particular position higher in the organization

4. Exploratory (Looking Around)

  • The option that answers the questions, "What else can I do?" and "Where else can I go?"
  • Identify other jobs that require your skills, interests, and values
  • Awareness of your options can give you a sense of control over your career so that you are less likely to feel stuck in your current situation

5. Realignment (Moving Down)

  • Involves a downward move in the organization's hierarchy
  • An option if you wish to move back to a position where you performed competently or were more satisfied (i.e., less stressful)
  • A viable option when you want to make a career change to a totally new area or function. Can provide you with the appropriate training and experience required for later, forward movement

6. Relocation (Moving Out)

  • Involves moving out of a particular division or organization
  • Can be considered when your job doesn't match your interests or no longer fits the opportunities available within your organization
  • May be your best option if you want to develop your entrepreneurial interests

Please review and fill out the Career Mobility Options Worksheet and begin to think about the options that are available to you.

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Career Skills List

"Ability to use one’s knowledge effectively in doing something; developed or acquired ability" is the dictionary definition of a skill. There are three general categories of skills. Technical skills are those learned on the job, from a book, or a course. Management skills can be learned in a course but are usually learned on the job or by trial and error. Personal traits describe the way you do your job. Technical and managerial skills are written as verb + noun (e.g., analyze financial statements, conduct audit meetings); personal traits are written as adjectives.

Download the Career Skills List; it will help jog your thinking!

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Job Seeking Activity Goals 

Filling out the Job Seeking Activity Goals sheet will help you plan and achieve your job goals.

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Career Management Bibliography

Surviving a Layoff: Coping with the Emotional, Financial, and Job Hunting Stresses of Losing a Job, by Harry S. Dahlstrom (2000)

Knock ‘Em Dead 2006: The Ultimate Job-Seeker’s Guide, by Martin Yate (2005)

What Color is Your Parachute? 2006: A Practical Manual for Job Hunters and Career-Changers, by Richard Nelson Bolles, Mark Bolles (2005)

Monster Careers: Interviewing, by Jeff Taylor and Doug Hardy

The 250 Job Interview Questions: You’ll Most Likely Be Asked … and the Answers that Will Get You Hired! by Peter Veruki

201 Best Questions to Ask on Your Interview, by John Kador

Careers in Health Care, by Barbara Swanson (2005)

Career Opportunities in Health Care, by Shelly Field (2002)

Health Care Job Explosion! High Growth Health Care Careers and Job Locator, by Dennis V. Damp and Erin Taylor (2006)

Discover What You’re Best At: A Complete Career System That Lets You Test Yourself to Discover Your Own True Career Abilities, by Linda Gale and Barry Gale (1998)

Career Tests: 25 Revealing Self-Tests to Help You find and Succeed at the Perfect Career, by Louis H. Janda (2004)

What to Do with the Rest of Your Life: America’s Top Career Coach Shows You How to Find or Create the Job You’ll Love, by Robin Ryan (2002)

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Top Job Sites

  • America's Job Bank - opportunities in many companies from a site managed by the U.S. Department of Labor and state agencies
  • Career Builder - search geographically, and by selecting other Web sites that this mega-site hunts for you
  • Employment911 - pulls postings from other sites, based on your criteria and keywords
  • - searchable database of internships
  • Monster - many career-related resources; one of the most popular sites on the Web
  • Net-Temps - multi-faceted national job search resource, with 10 search categories
  • Six Figure Jobs - targets positions with salaries of at least $100,000

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Goverment Sites

  • Federal Job Search - post a profile and set up a virtual search agent
  • Jobs4Jersey - the official job site for New Jersey employment information, from the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development
  • USAJobs - the official job site for federal employment information, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management

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