Career Transition and 4 Stage Career Planning: Bitten off More Than You Can Chew?

Bitten off more than you can chew with your career transition?

Do you feel overwhelmed and confused about all of the potential career choices?

Don't know how to plan a successful career change?

Is your lack of career direction creating chaos?

My dog, Chester,  often bit more than he could chew, and created chaos. Chester is a brown, "Bearded Collie,"  and the photo was taken when he was 4 months old and about 25 lbs. Now he is 6.5 years old and 75lbs. Still gets into trouble, but is so cute, no one can blame him.

Learn about the 4 stages of Career Planning Process...
An experienced, Career Counselor can help you with your Career Planning and coach you through this often times, stressful, and confusing process.

Career Transition Makeover: 4 stage Career Planning Process.

1. Discovery

2. Exploration

3. Experience and Experiment (Volunteering, Internship, Temporary work, Contracts).

4. Choice (employment - begin Job Search)

A career transition is not something to take on as a whim, especially in this economic environment. For all of us who have ever transitioned successfully (me included), thorough, career planning is essential. As a Career Counselor, you may be surprised to hear that I have hired career counselors, for my own search! The last time I hired a Career professional, was when I moved from Vancouver, British Columbia to Atlanta, Georgia five years ago. You may be thinking, why would a counselor, need a counselor? I didn’t need a counselor for the “how to” of job search or resume writing or even career testing. What I needed was someone who was familiar with the local, labor market conditions in Atlanta, and who could coach me through the process, hold me accountable to my goals and encourage me along the way.

I equate, hiring a career counselor, to hiring a personal trainer. Yes, you can work out on your own, however a good trainer will conduct fitness tests, teach you proper technique and hold you accountable. This is exactly what an experienced career counselor can do for you. Also, a counselor will eliminate the needless trial and error of job search and immediately, teach you the best techniques. Often, with a fitness coach or career counselor, your results will be greatly accelerated. A counselor can also help you see the “blind-spots” in your career transition and job search. Each of us may need a career counselor for different reasons, however, it is highly recommended.

If you are transitioning, the first Career Planning Phase you will need to address is the Discovery Phase. This is the most overlooked of all phases. In the Discovery phase, your counselor will provide advice about which Career Tests you will need. The purpose of Career Testing is to help you explore your interests, values, and skills and how they may relate to various jobs. How else will you know if your career goals are realistic? How else will you know if you have the skills, knowledge and experience to be competitive in your new, field? Check out my post Career Testing, the good, the bad and the ugly

Counselors don’t have a crystal ball and cannot tell you what to choose, that decision is yours. We can advise, review your education and experience. Additionally, a counselor can help you conduct a SWOT analysis of your competitive advantage. A SWOT analysis will help you determine if you have the minimum skills to be in the field and if not, what additional education or experience you may need, in order to be competitive. Check out my post SWOT Competitive Analysis: “Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats”

Note: when choosing a counselor, ensure that they are a Master’s level professional and that they are certified and licensed to administer Career Tests. See post Virtual Career Counseling. Tips for choosing a Career Counselor
Ideally, the career tests would be online and you can both store and access the results, for ease of use. As most of my clients are business professionals, I have several, easy to use, but comprehensive tests, which I recommend. The results will help you pinpoint careers that suit you. A counselor, who works with many professionals in your field, can also provide you with some perspective about how your skills may compare to others in your field.

My philosophy of Career Counseling, is one of “teaching clients to fish” not “providing the fish.” Since the average job-seeker will change jobs on average every 3 years, it is essential you empower yourself. Yes, you could take public transit or hire a cab for your entire life, but isn’t it better to be in the drivers’ seat? Learn to take charge of your career direction, employers will no longer chart this course for you.

I encourage my clients to join Industry Associations, talk to industry insiders and professionals in the target fields. To “test” a new career, I encourage my clients to volunteer in the field and conduct informational interviews with people in the field. It may also be useful to take on a part time or summer job that relates to your new, career goals. If you haven’t chosen a career focus, you can do it now or in the next phase.

The Exploration phase narrows your career exploration path just a little. After you’ve chosen a path, you will need to ensure your education and experience supports your goals. Some Career counselors are also Web 2.0 and Social Media experts and they can teach you how to connect to people in your new industry. You will want to speak to many people in your new potential field, and conduct informational interviews. How else can you be sure that the reality of the job matches your expectations?

At one point in my career, I wanted to be a Human Resources professional, for a multi-national, hotel. Yes, I had the training and education to do this role. However, luckily I explored this option and conducted five, informational interviews with professionals in this field. I soon realized that this would not be a good, work-fit or personality fit for me. My main interest in the Career Industry was to provide advocacy and support for job seekers and to help educate employers in their recruitment efforts. However, I had no interest in many typical HR Generalist duties: such as payroll, compliance, creating policies and procedure manuals etc. Also, I didn’t want to be the “heavy-hand” writing up staff and disciplining them for infractions (lateness, not following procedures etc). Thus, please do not skip past the exploration stage too fast. Find jobs that interest you and learn more about these jobs, first hand. You should also attend short workshops and seminars that learn about your chosen, career field. Determine what industry, sector, functional role and job titles you are most suited for.

The Experience and Experiment stage gives you a chance to decide if the career you’ve chosen is right for you or if you should look at other careers. If you need a certification or more education, this is the time to consider school and take the required tests for admission. If the work world is your goal, career counselors will direct you to job fairs and to internships in your field. You should also participate in more job-search workshops to hone your resume writing skills and help you compose a cover letter to an employer. It is recommended that you plug into your networks, school’s alumni network LinkedIn Industry groups for first hand information on employers and the work environment.

In the final phase—the Choice Phase. This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak and the phase when you will need to decide on a career direction. This is also a good time to get your resume critiqued and proofread. Prepare for real interviews, with real employers, for real jobs. Research potential employers and apply for jobs and interviews. Go to job fairs. Leverage technology, Web 2.0, Social Media and network with professionals. Often, alumni are excellent resources and are supportive. Finally, pursue your first job, in a new industry.

If you are in Atlanta, March 20th, learn how to impliment an  effective and efficient job search. See workshop details below.

============================================================================== Author: © 2010 - All Rights Reserved - Sharon B. Cohen, MA, Dip.Educ, CPRP. Licensed Counselor. Career Counselor and Career Transition Specialist. Atlanta,

Job Search Workshops for Business Professionals: Atlanta, Georgia, USA. March 20th, 2010. “Accessing the Hidden Job Market workshop.” Register at the REFocus on Careers Website. Georgia events tab, Title: “Hidden Job Market.”

Read all of my Career Blog postings at

On LinkedIn: "Sharon B. Cohen" On Twitter: "Mycareermanager"

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