In a rapidly changing global economic environment with high long-term unemployment likely, regardless of who controls the levers of power in Washington, the value of career planning is in the spotlight. 

There are basically two schools of thought:

 1.  It is a waste of time.  No one can predict the future — new technologies, business realignments and the resulting job losses, or opportunities that will emerge amidst the chaos.

 2. It is invaluable.  Career planning requires a sense of focus and discipline that is essential to navigate the opportunities and multiple pitfalls in the New Normal economy.

I vote for option number two.  I am not engaged in career coaching or outplacement businesses so I have nothing to gain from advocating for the value that is inherent in the career planning process.  In fact, I cannot imagine entering the workforce today without a plan for my professional life.

I freely admit that there are thousands upon thousands of stories of people who have enjoyed a rewarding, interesting, varied and prosperous career following what I call the opportunistic pathway; moving from job to job without knowing what new professional adventure next week, next month or next year will bring. But that was then and this is a competitive, unpredictable now.

As a matter of disclosure, I must that admit that I qualify for membership in the  “I Had No Plan Or Clue” class.  I began my career before I graduated from college, working for a daily newspaper.  From there, my career took me to Lubbock and Houston where I worked as an editor and writer.  I left the news business for public relations at Houston’s Hermann Hospital.  From there I became the first director of Life Flight, to the national marketing manager of the helicopter company, to acquisitions for an investor-owned hospital management company, back to Hermann to lead the start-up of a multi-hospital affiliated program, to a senior executive post responsible for business development for the hospital management company, to forming my own consulting firm, back to the town where I grew up to run home infusion pharmacy, correctional health businesses (not all at once), EMS, and then to be the general manager of an international nurse recruitment agency before leaving to form a recruiting firm and, finally, to forming my current executive search firm, JohnGSelf Associates, Inc.  And I did it all without a plan, an approach that I would not think about recommending in today.

My experiences – and my amazing luck – led me to the realization that career planning is no different than strategic planning for a business in which you are constantly adjusting strategy and tactics to address changing market threats and opportunities.

Career planning provides a framework for discipline and focus that will allow an individual to maximize their professional potential.

Is it a waste of time?  Not a chance. 

There are thousands upon thousands of people who trusted that everything would work out, professionally speaking.  It did not.

Not to sound glib, but luck is not a good career management strategy. 

© 2011 John Gregory Self

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