Over the past month, I’ve planned my garden and planted tomatoes and seeds for various vegetables. It’s an annual ritual that has varying success. Some years, for example, the tomatoes are bountiful and luscious. Other years, the tomatoes are fewer and smaller. It’s often hard to know exactly what makes the crop better or worse from year to year. When it’s a bad crop, I ask myself lots of questions. Did I do something wrong, such as planting seeds too shallow or too late? Or was the weak yield beyond my control, such as from too much rain, too much heat, or too many bugs?
|Plant the seeds and |
watch your career grow!
Planning and planting a garden got me thinking how careers are like gardens. Most people don’t tend dutifully to their careers, and their career “garden” can end up growing successfully anyway. Or a career may turn into a weedy hodgepodge that never truly satisfies. You can plan your career like you plan a garden, yet your career may not bear the fruit you’d hoped. It may go in a different direction and give results you didn’t anticipate--sometimes great, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and sometimes mixed.
Several years ago, I attended a National Career Development Association (NCDA) conference, and the speaker asked the attendees how many had decided to become career counselors when they were 18 years old? Just a few people raised their hands. And these people were career counselors and career coaches!
The speaker was Dr. John Krumboltz, Professor of Education and Psychology at Stanford University. His Happenstance Learning Theory states that the goal of career counseling is to help clients take action—and not to make a single career decision. Krumboltz said that by taking action, clients will generate events and not merely talk about their fears or shortcomings. Krumboltz, in fact, does not believe careers should be planned in advance. Interestingly, Dr. Krumboltz was once employed as a gardener.
Yet it seems to me that career “gardening” can be helpful, even if its results are unpredictable. With some direction, you avoid jumping at the first opportunity that comes your way, which is often not a good opportunity. Without any career forethought, you may end up dissatisfied, disappointed, and regretful. I know people in just such situations, and they find it difficult to change or determine their career course after 20 or 30 years of doing the same thing or doing many brain-deadening or unsatisfying things. This predicament is sad to me, because these people seem capable of so much more in their work life. Of course career change is always a possibility, and my tips here can help you at any stage of your work life if you decide to plot a new career garden.
If you find it challenging to take the long view to plan your career, consider figuring out the next step. Ask yourself questions like these to get started:
- What am I good at?
- What do I like to do?
- What jobs interest me and why?
- What don’t I want to do?
- What’s important to me in a job?
- What do I want to avoid in a job?
- What work environments do I like and not like?
- What type of education and training do my jobs of interest require?
- What skills do I possess already for these jobs?
- Which employers hire people for these jobs?
- What is the demand and outlook for these jobs?
- What would I like to accomplish in my career?
- Do I know anyone doing this type of work?
- What professional associations, trade publications, and web sites will help me understand this field and this job?
Now that’s a lot of questions, and you may not be able to answer them all right off. But take your time, write it down, stay positive, and see what you conclude. At the very least you may have a better sense of your career direction and growth than you did previously. Your responses may put you on a path to taking good career action for your future.
Also see these earlier Shy Job Seeker posts for career planning and guidance:
If you need help and guidance, and most people do, I recommend these web sites from the U.S. Department of Labor for free career assessment and research:
- Plan Your Best Career Path with the OOH
- Getting to the Heart of Career Choice
- Start Your Education and Training Research at New CareerOneStop Credentials Center
- Consider Employment Projections in Your Career Planning
- Letter to Shy Young Person in Search of a Calling
So plan and plant your career garden, tend to it well, and you will most likely end up with better results in the future, even if they aren’t what you planned.