The Career Planning Process - What Are My Options?
First we looked at your Current Situation and Your Dreams. Next we examined the question
of Who Am I?. If you are new to the world of work, if you need to change jobs, or if you
are at mid-life and thinking of making a significant change in your life, the next step is
What Are My Options?
Start by brainstorming all sorts of possibilities. Get others to brainstorm with you.
At this stage you want to avoid saying, "Yes, but..." Jot down ideas that seem wild and
crazy. There is usually a seed of truth in them - some aspect of yourself that you want to
express. Don't worry about being practical. If you narrow the brainstorming too early,
you cut down on possible new opportunities. Write your list on a piece of paper. Aim for
at least 20 options.
Natasha, a Guardian Inspector, who is at mid-life explained, "I'm a successful project
manager. In my career I've moved upward to continually earn more money and have higher
responsibilities. My last child will graduate from college next year and I'm wondering
if I'll have to do the same thing for another 10-15 years. My husband is older than I
and we have plenty of money for retirement. I experienced freedom when I made this wild
and crazy list of options. I don't have to choose any of the options, but I no longer feel
Next select the three to five options that seem most appealing. Many people put money as their first
criteria, but they may only be thinking in terms of salary. People doing start-up business need a good
business plan to grow the business and to fund it. Be sure to put one option on the list that seems a
little bit like a stretch.
Bobby, an Artisan Composer, who was responsible for his wife, mother, and young children,
hated his job as a computer operator. But he made decent money. He was a history buff and
loved reenactment. One of his options that he dreamed about was working at a historical
site or moving to a more rural area. He definitely wanted out of the city. The element
that kept Bobby from taking any action was he never spent any time getting any real
information about his options - they were just dreams. "As soon as I started talking to
people that worked at the historical sites I was interested in, I found that many were
retirees who could get along with a smaller paycheck. That wouldn't work for me. Then
we took trips to some rural areas and my wife and I started keeping records about housing
costs, jobs available, school situations, etc. We settled on an area that we liked and
saved up for two years. When we sold our house in the city and added some money to it we
found a wonderful place with some land. We're raising lambs and I do carpentry which
has always been a hobby. We're much happier."
Most people try to skip the reality check. They might do research in books or the Internet,
but actually talking to people and checking out the possibilities saves a lot of grief.
Says, Arletha, an Idealist Healer, "My husband Joe just assumed that when he moved to a
new city that I could easily be employed at a new hospital. Sure things are similar at hospitals,
but the people aren't. And the pay varies to some degree. His salary has gone up, but mine has
gone down and prices are higher here. We were better off before and I liked the people better.
I made a big mistake not going with him to investigate the possibilities."
If change is being forced upon you through no fault of your own, generating options
can help you deal with the change.
Jesus, a Rational Mastermind, says, "I am fascinated with computers and data manipulation.
Our company was bought out and I knew many of us would be on the chopping block, so I didn't
wait like some others. I'm not a great networking guy, but luckily I had kept up my
membership in my professional organization so I had people I could talk to. I told
them I was looking for a place where they needed someone who could really dig into
data and get effective information out. I love solving puzzles and need to be
intellectually challenged. Eventually I identified three companies that could use my
help so I investigated them. I am now happily employed at one of them and I never had
to go through the lay-off process like some of my colleagues. Thank goodness my wife
was a good coach and didn't just let me stick my head in the sand!"
The keys to What Are My Options? are 1) generate a list of 20 options - not all of which
need to be practical; 2) select 3-5 options on which to gather in-depth information;
3) use more than books and the Internet - get info from real people and expand your network
to others. The networking will bring opportunities that you might not have considered.
Next article: Evaluation and Choices. How do you decide what bests matches your style and
needs? What are you missing in order to achieve the option? What are you willing and able
to do to actualize the option?