Successful Career Planning…. It’s Never Too Late

By Karen Atkins

There are data that show that the average person will change careers (not jobs) numerous times over his or her lifetime. As we career professionals know, it is never too late or early to consider a new career field. The tips below include exercises, case studies, and personal experiences that will allow career practitioners to help clients be ready for change at all times.


Here are 7 tips that may help your clients achieve successful career planning.


  1. Look At Interests and Hobbies

After having two very different careers I wanted to look at my interests and hobbies to see what items really interested me as a person. Help your clients determine what they enjoy doing and want to do more of. I enjoy being around all groups of people and helping them in whatever situations they are in. I am a fixer for sure.

Making a hobby into a career is nothing new. Michael Parayno, a lifelong tinkerer, began building off-the-wall birdhouses in order to get rid of the wood from his decommissioned garden fence. Neighbors took notice, and he began selling the handmade birdhouses right off his front yard. That was over a decade ago. Today, the “Berkeley birdhouse guy” owns a lucrative business selling hand-crafted birdhouses.


  1. What One Needs… Verses What One Wants

Is your client the same person they were last year? Probably not. Interests they had two years ago, they might not even consider doing today. Change is a real life factor; everyone changes, and so do your client’s needs and wants.

Have them make a two column list of their needs and wants. Then have them use the list to examine their current needs and wants in their present career path. If wants out weigh needs then they might take a good look at their present career and determine what they want to change.


  1. Past Accomplishments Are Important

Sometimes past accomplishments can reveal long ago personal successes. This could trigger researching a career change so that your client could be in a job that allows them to accomplish the things that make them the happiest and proudest.

I have had many important accomplishments in my working careers. I have been most proud of the things that touched the lives of others. This cannot be measured with plaques or trophies; it is measured with people and the lives and hearts touched. Find out what your clients’ greatest accomplishments are and expand on them for future work goals.



  1. Career and Job Trends – They Are Changing

I did not know what a CDF (Career Development Facilitator) was. I had heard about career coaches and knew what school counselors were. I had never researched CDF’s because this position is a relatively new path of work. Career planning in the 21st century is different – people will be making more career changes and they will need guidance to do so. CDF's can provide that guidance. The other change is in the area of technology. Clients need to be gently yet firmly reminded to stay up to date with current news and events. It is easier to stay up to date than to catch up on five years of technology. Technical knowledge will also give career practitioners leverage to adjust and strengthen their position as a career coach now, and in the future.


  1. Map Out A Course – And Stick To It

Once your clients have looked at their career options and made a decision on a course of action, they will need your help. Use your knowledge to help them map it out, and stick to it. When I was a child, I remember an animated cartoon of a horse with a carrot dangling in front of him. That poor horse was never going to get the carrot, but he kept trying anyway. You, as their CDF, need to be the carrot in front of your client, to help them to continue on, even if they feel like they are never going to get there.

Whatever your client’s needs may be: further education, graduate work, work experience, or licensing, it must not stop the process. Guide them to mapping out a plan and putting it into action. This step is very critical for future success.


  1. Short-term and Long-term Goals

A major step in career planning is setting short-term (the current year) and long-term (beyond this year) career and education goals. As your clients accomplish their short term goals you can review and adjust those goals as their plans proceed and change. Guide them when their long-term goals become their short term goals, and they have to come up with new long-term goals. It is a constant process of adjusting and evaluating where they are at all times in career planning. It is your calling to make sure that this process continues until the finish line.


  1. Research Future Job Placement Opportunities

Career planning can be fun; it gives your clients an opportunity to look at themselves in the future. Where will you be in a year? In three years? In ten years? Researching different career paths is a key to being up to date on trends and new positions available.

If they are in a job that does not make them happy, then this process takes on a whole new meaning. Don’t wait until they are without a job, or happenstance puts them in a bad position. Help them take the first step and look at career choices now and dream about what could be. Then assist them in putting feet on their dreams to make it happen.



Karen AtkinsKaren Atkins, CDF, is a hard working southern girl that has had happenstance happen many times in her life. Through her experiences and working relationships she has taken new avenues of change. Sometimes that change has been good, sometimes not. Karen was a municipal park director for fourteen years and a marketing and sales representative for seventeen years. Karen is presently enjoying being a medical research director, and enjoying the challenges it brings. While juggling these three careers she served her community in numerous civic organizations. Karen and her husband have raised two children, each with wonderful career goals. To Karen the best accomplishment in life has been being a good parent and fun grandparent. She has continued her education as a career development facilitator for a better way of life, now and in the future. You may reach Karen Atkins at karenatkins25@yahoo.com .


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Lana Van Voast   on Tuesday 09/02/2014 at 01:55 PM


Arnold Hansen   on Wednesday 09/03/2014 at 11:59 AM

I am a corrections officer who counsels ex offenders in job search and career development. I draw on 20 years of previous experience dealing in the employee benefits industry. I find a lot of cross over in both fields and Karen's article was filled with good advice and a common sense approach to career development.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.