Choosing the Right Path

By Hayes, Cassandra | Black Enterprise, April 2001 | Go to article overview

Choosing the Right Path


Hayes, Cassandra, Black Enterprise


When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Here's how to develop a career blueprint that will help you achieve your professional goals.

FOR SOME WEARY CAREER WARRIORS, NANCY FRIEDBERG IS A MIRACLE WORKER.

When the career coach met one of her clients--a librarian--he was stuck in a career rut. However, a year and eight counseling sessions later, Friedberg helped him make the switch from library science to technology consulting.

How did an English literature major end up as an SAP software consultant at one of the big four accounting firms? By working with a career coach and coming face-to-face with his personality, interests, and long-term goals. Friedberg helped him determine that consulting was his ideal career, and in today's computer-driven society, technology would be his conduit. But how?

Realizing that he was a quick study with excellent communication skills, a problem solver, and a strong relationship builder, she helped him develop a career plan that included first marketing those talents at a small firm. She also did a lot of work repositioning him--through his verbal presentation and resume--to make him come across as a technology consultant rather than a librarian. Impressed, companies were willing to train him in the technology.

Today, poised to enter the next stage of his career-life plan, Friedberg's client recently joined a New Jersey pharmaceutical company. The move allows him to keep regular hours so that he can be home with his wife and new baby, as well as pursue an M.B.A. Over the past five years, Friedberg's client has not only paved a rewarding and successful career path, but his salary also quadrupled into the six digits.

"It is so important to plan your career and not drift wherever the wind blows," says Friedberg, who is a New York-based career coach with the Five O'Clock Club, a national career-counseling organization, and has a private practice in the city. "You must do some careful long-term strategic assessment, think about what you might need at each stage of your life, commit to a plan, and accept the fact that there will be some trade-off along the way. Too often, people try to fit themselves into a job and end up patterning their lives around it. What they should do instead is find a job that fits them and fits into their lives."

It's no secret that many individuals resign themselves to lackluster careers, having never fully explored all their options. For example, peer or family influences force some into college when entrepreneurship or a technical or trade school education may have been better. Others choose college majors or fall into jobs based on the income potential and then later find themselves miserable.

In fact, a 1998 survey revealed that almost half of the 400 college-educated workers between the ages of 30 and 55 polled said they would choose a different major if they could do it over. The George Mason University and Potomac Knowledge Way survey further contends that the majority of college graduates have switched careers at least once, and about one in five expect to switch in the future. Chalk it up to indecision, societal changes, or kismet, but more than likely it's because many didn't have a plan.

Let's face it. It's cheaper to do your homework up front than stay in the wrong job too long or change college majors halfway through school. Having a documented and well thought out plan early on helps you discover your career-related interests and abilities. It also helps you:

* Identify occupations that match your interests, competencies, and personality.

* Pinpoint corresponding fields of study for further education.

* Understand how you adjust to circumstances, people, and demands in your work environment, and whether these adjustments result in stress or satisfaction.

* Identify your communication and leadership style.

* Determine transferable skills and accomplishments. …

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