Career Planning for Fun and Profit

4 steps to a job that suits you personally and professionally

By Greg Scott Neuman
Posted 2011

Career Planning Tips and Advice
Career Planning Tips and Advice

After the economic uncertainty of recent years, many people are seeking shelter in secure, fast-growing careers. And for the most part, this is a good idea; it makes little sense to stay in a field that has you living under the constant threat of layoffs. But what about fulfillment? Is it possible to find a job that is both secure and rewarding?

Absolutely! But to land a secure job that you love it will probably take some careful career planning. Here are four steps you can take to help find an occupation that will suit you personally and professionally:

1. Determine what it is you want to do, and if it is a viable career path. Believe it or not, there are people who get paid to do all sorts of interesting jobs, from playing video games (video game tester) to watching movies (film critic) to visiting exotic travel destinations (travel writer). Are you artistically inclined? Interactive graphic design is a fast-growing field. Like kids? Lots of communities are in desperate need of teachers. Have a desire to help people? Healthcare is among the world’s most secure career fields.

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Among the best career paths for college students are jobs like business strategist, healthcare management, criminal justice and security, and information systems/IT management. These are all lucrative, secure and rewarding professions – you will see them mentioned over and over again in current career guides. But that doesn’t mean that other occupations aren’t viable; you can go into education or social work or video game design and earn a steady paycheck. As long as you are willing to go where the jobs are and work hard once you get there, most fields offer some real career opportunities.

2. Find out what kind of education you need, then get it. Starting a new profession typically requires training of some sort. Depending on the field, this can mean anything from a six-month certificate program to a six-year master’s degree.

Carefully research the profession you want to enter, and learn what both the minimum requirements and the recommended requirements are. Settle for the minimum requirements only if absolutely necessary, or if those are the only requirements that exist. If recommendations for a more rigorous level of education are made, you will probably be much better off in the long run if you pursue them.

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For example, let’s look at nursing – another occupation often listed as one of the best career paths for college students. To become a registered nurse (RN) you have to complete an Associate’s degree in Nursing (ADN) and pass the NCLEX-RN. However, most healthcare employers now prefer nurses who have earned their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). So if becoming a nurse is your dream job, it generally makes more sense to earn your BSN right off the bat rather than having to go back and complete it mid-career.

3. Network! Once you’ve started working on the credentials you need to enter your chosen field, meeting others who are as dedicated to it as you are will inspire you. Teachers, academic advisors, guest speakers and your fellow students are all potential contacts that can help you – and that you can help – later in your career.

At school, get to know your instructors and advisors as well as possible. They can be a great source of advice, recommendations and perhaps even job leads after graduation. Getting to know your classmates, in addition to providing the camaraderie that only comes from interacting with people who share your interests, can also help you learn more and see things from a difference perspective. Your fellow students can also be a good source of employment and advancement opportunities down the road – as perhaps you will be for them.

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Outside of school, join professional organizations and take the time to attend lectures and seminars. At minimum you’ll learn something new, and you might also gain a mentor, friend or business contact.

4. Excel academically and professionally. When you’re pursuing a career that is your passion as well as your job, it probably won’t be hard to achieve top performance. Still, it’s worth noting: There is no replacement for exceptional grades, exceptional test scores, exceptional attitude and exceptional work.

While you’re in school, create and adhere to a strict study plan. This will help you complete all assignments on time and score well on tests. But don’t stop there; instead of merely memorizing information, master it. Be the person in your class who other students come to for help. And if at all possible, work in your chosen field part-time while you’re in school. Internships – preferably paid, but unpaid if necessary – are ideal for this.

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Once you’re on the job full time, continue your pursuit of excellence. Be helpful, flexible and hard-working. Arrive early and/or stay late when necessary (but only when necessary – remember that it’s important to have a life outside of your career, too). And keep up to date on the latest news and trends relevant to your profession; reaching the top generally requires a lifetime commitment to learning.

It’s a lot of work, but remember that this isn’t just any job. You’re pursuing fulfillment as well as a secure paycheck. If you’ve truly entered the field that’s going to provide you with both, the prospect of high achievement shouldn’t be intimidating, it should be exhilarating!

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