Career Planning

What is Career Planning?

Career planning is a life long process, which includes choosing an occupation, getting a job, growing in our job, possibly changing careers, and eventually retiring. The Career Planning Site offers coverage of all these areas. This article will focus on career choice and the process one goes through in selecting an occupation. This may happen once in our lifetimes, but it is more likely to happen several times as we first define and then redefine ourselves and our goals.

Career Planning: A Four Step Process

The following chart represents the process in which one engages while moving through the process of selecting a career and entering it. One might seek the services of a career development professional to help facilitate his or her journey through this process. Whether or not you choose to work with a professional, or work through the process on your own is less important than the amount of thought and energy you put into choosing a career.

Self Assessment

  • Interests
  • Values
  • Roles
  • Skills/Aptitudes
  • Preferred Environments
  • Developmental Needs
  • Your realities


  • Explore the occupations in which you are interested
  • Research the industries in which you would like to work
  • Research the Labor Market
  • Get more specific information after you narrow down your options by:
    • Job Shadowing
    • Part time work, Internships, or volunteer opportunities
    • Written Materials
    • Informational Interviews
    • Go Back to Chart


During this phase of the process, you will:

  • Identify possible occupations
  • Evaluate these occupations
  • Explore alternatives
  • Choose both a short term and a long term option


You will develop the steps you need to take in order to reach your goal:

  • Investigating sources of additional training and education, if needed
  • Developing a job search strategy
  • Writing your resume
  • Job searching
  • Gathering company information
  • Composing cover letters
  • Preparing for job interviews

Ten Steps to Planning Your Career

  • Develop a career plan. Think about what you want to do and find out more about the kind of training, education, and skills you will need to achieve your career goal.
  • Assess your skills and interests. Think hard about what you enjoy, what you are good at, what kind of personality you are, and the values you hold.
  • Research occupations. Find out more about the nature of the jobs that interest you, such as educational requirements, salary, working conditions, future outlook, and anything else that can help you narrow your focus.
  • Compare your skills and interests with the occupations you've selected. The career that matches your skills, interests, and personality the closest may be the career for you.
  • Choose your career goal. Once you've decided what occupation matches up best with you, then you can begin developing a plan to reach your career goal.
  • Select a school that offers a college degree or training program that best meets your career goal and financial needs.
  • Find out about financial aid to help support you in obtaining your career goal.
  • Learn about job hunting tips as you prepare to graduate or move into the job market.
  • Prepare your resume, and practice job interviewing techniques.
  • Go to your career guidance center (at your middle school, high school, or college) or local library for additional information and help on career planning, or check out our Other Internet Resources.

Do You Need a Career Development Professional?

Throughout our careers, we encounter many situations when we could benefit from unbiased advice. We may be in the process of choosing a career, deciding whether or not we should change careers or jobs, re-entering the workforce, job hunting, or recovering from a job loss. We come to the realization that this is an overwhelming process and we want and need some help.

A time of crisis is not the best time to seek professional help, according to an article on Pioneer Planet. Columnist Amy Lindgren states that "many career problems are preventable with regular attention to the career path." According to Lindgren, visits with a career professional should take place on a regular basis.

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Career counselor, career development facilitator, career coach, job coach, and vocational counselor are just a few of the names you might come across as you look for someone to help you with your career. It can get very confusing if you aren't an informed consumer.

Let's begin by saying there are some unscrupulous individuals out there who are misrepresenting themselves. You may see advertisements from those who guarantee you a higher paying job, a more fulfilling career, and ultimately a better life. In reality, no one can guarantee you any of those things. A good career development professional can help you explore career options, can inform you of labor market trends, and can assess your skills, interests, and work related values. A career development professional can help you sharpen your job search skills, and can help you learn how to move up the corporate ladder.

While credentials are not the only thing you should look at, they are a good starting point when you are choosing someone to advise you about your career. Just as you would never consider seeing a doctor who does not have a medical degree, you should never pay someone for career advice unless they have professional credentials.

Once you have determined that the person from whom you are seeking advice has the proper credentials, you must then find out if he or she is "right" for you. Is this individual knowledgeable about your particular field, and do you feel comfortable talking to him or her? A brief interview with the career development professional is well worth your time, and should be worth theirs.

Career Counselors

For someone to be called a career counselor, he or she must have a Master's Degree in Counseling with a specialty in career counseling. The highest level of certification is National Certified Career Counselor. Other career counselors may have local licenses. You may receive a listing of National Certified Counselors in your region from the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Career Development Facilitators

There are many people providing career advisement services who are not professional career counselors. This fact was recognized by several professional groups who banded together to develop the Career Development Facilitator (or CDF) credential, which provides standards, training specifications, and credentialing for those who provide these services. A registry of CDF Instructors is maintained by the National Career Development Association. You can find out about other approved training providers by going to the Center for Credentialing Education Web Site. CDF's must be trained by these instructors. CDF certification is granted by the Center for Credentialing and Education. To receive this certification, the CDF must have completed 120 contact hours of the National Occupational Information Coordinating Committee (NOICC)/Career Development Training Institute (CDTI) curriculum or other approved curriculum.

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