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Career Planning Process

Recent estimates tell us the average person who works 40 hours a week from the age 20 to 65, with two weeks off each year for vacation, will spend over 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. This could be a hard statistic to swallow if you’re unhappy with your job and wish you were doing something else.

Or it could be a clear signal to pursue a career that is rewarding, fulfilling, and a good fit for who you are and what you want in life from the get-go. The career planning process can help you find just that.


Knowing yourself is the first step to finding a career path that will best suite your interests, skills, and strengths. If you’re preparing to leave college, there are often many career options that match your degree; this is a way to narrow the field. If you’ve been in the workforce for any time, you may have developed new skills, strengths, and interests and need to reassess what the next step is for you.

In either case, here’s what you need to learn or better understand about yourself:

Career Exploration

Based on what you learn during self-assessment, research the suggested careers that fit your interests, values, personality, and desired lifestyle. See if you can shadow people at their job, sign up for a short-term internship, or volunteer in the field. When you’re actively exploring a job, keep a handy list of what’s most important to you (type of work space/culture, work hours, paths for advancement, etc.) so you leave with all the answers you’ll need to make a decision. Don’t forget to gather labor market information for each position, including median salaries and job outlooks for the future.

At the end of your exploration, rank the jobs you’re most interested in and eliminate those that don’t make the cut.

Decisions and Goals

With your list of top careers, find out what it takes to enter each career path and the costs of any necessary education or training. Lay out what your future career goals and promotions might be for each job—you’ll want to make sure there’s room for growth and advancement, whatever you choose!


When you have picked the ideal career for you, create an action plan to get yourself into an interview with the best chances for success. This may include pursuing additional education or training programs. Next, develop a job search strategy by identifying potential employers. Write your resume and cover letters, highlighting some of the correlating skills and strengths you’ve discovered in yourself for the job in steps one and two. Begin job interviews!

In reality, the career planning process never ends. You can go back to any part of the process at any time to refine your goals for advancement or change direction entirely. It’s a flexible and personal process. With people changing job fields more frequently these days, it’s a helpful process to know.

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