By Larry Robbin, Executive Director of Robbin and Associates

Think about your career plan.

Think about your career plan.

There are several decisions you need to make as a workforce development professional thinking about your future pathway in the world of work. One factor to consider is what degree of change do you need to make in order to be happier about your career. If you are thinking of a job, population or employer change, you may be able to do it on your own. However, if you are considering a major career change, you may want to do what your job seekers did when they came to you for help. They went to an expert and you should do the same. Get yourself a good career counselor! Just because you work in the workforce development field, does not mean that you have the objectivity and insight to be able to see where you should be going in terms of your future career. You need a knowledgeable skilled guide to help you make the best move. Remember what they say about doctors – physician do not try to heal thyself! Do not try to be your own career counselor. Get on the Internet, ask around and start shopping for a good career counselor.

You may not find a career counselor in a school or agency that provides these services for free or it may be someone who has a business doing career counseling. Keep in mind that many people pay for career counseling that is done over the phone or through Skype or other computer video systems. Your career counselor does not have to live in your community or even your country! Most career counselors that charge for their services will give you a free phone interview. Learn what they offer and how they work to consider the best match for you. Remember you will spend more time at work than in any other activity in your life. It is worth the investment to do it right!

As you start planning your career future, remember the workforce development field itself has many branches. It also connects in a wide variety of ways to a whole world of other fields. Here are some questions you may want to work out with your career counselor that will help you explore the branches and connections of the workforce development field.

  • Should I look at similar jobs in human resources, recruiting, outplacement, temporary agencies or other places in the private sector where my transferable skills will be an asset?

  • Is it time to go into management or if you are in management should you be looking at going higher up the ladder? If you are stressed out by the management level you work in, should you should look at going to a different level, department or management specialty?

  • Is the right move for me to go into policy and legislative work related to workforce development? Should I consider labor market and workforce development research, working for a workforce association or workforce development related advocacy work?

  • Should I think about related occupations like working for an apprenticeship program or in economic development, career and technical education, occupational training or similar fields?

  • Would I be successful and happy as a self-employed trainer and/or workforce development consultant? Is it time for me to start my own business as a career counselor or work for an existing career counseling business? Should I consider working as a career guidance counselor in an educational institution?

  • Do I have the right skills and interest to create successful computer based and other types of resources that can be sold to the workforce development field? Should I work for a company that offers these types of products?

  • Is starting my own for profit or nonprofit workforce development program the right strategy for me?

  • Is relocation something I should consider because the new labor market will open up fresh and different opportunities?

  • Should I consider a career that has nothing in common with the workforce development field?

As you work with your career counselor to get the answers to these questions, follow the information you give to your job seekers. Do research on the Internet about the next move you are considering in your career. Is it growing or shrinking? What is the salary range? What are the education and experience requirements? Use your personal, professional, Facebook and LinkedIn connections to get informational interviews with people working in the career or occupation you are investigating.

Learn what people regard as the rewards for that type of work. Just as important, find out the main reasons people quit that profession. This is very important to know to make sure that the quitting triggers are not things that would make you quit. Should the decision making process involve significant others, friends, family and other people you respect? What will be the impact of the choices you make on your relationships with other people, your stress levels and work/life balance?

Go on the websites of the associations that people in the field belong to and find out what the current issues and trends are in that kind of work. Consider joining the association for information and networking possibilities. Get newsletter or magazine (yes an old fashioned magazine!) subscriptions to the publications people working in the field read. Is it possible to do volunteer work or an internship that will get you closer to that next career move? Saturate your world with information about the new career before you make the change and you will reduce the risk of making a bad career move.

Career changers are notorious for procrastination because the change can be so over whelming. Set a realistic timetable for each stage of the process and stick to it. Remember unless you are near retirement, it is unlikely that this will be your last career change so learning how to do it right instead of improvising will be very helpful to you in the future. You can become that rare person in our field – a workforce development professional with a career plan! Make planning your future career a perpetual professional development activity and you will be much happier in the world of work! You can become the car mechanic with a working car!