/ Asked by Arnie
Are careers generally planned out or just an accumulation of random job jumps without a unifying goal? I'm 26 and have a pretty good job, but I still really don't know what career I want to pursue long-term. My parents say that in the next couple years I really need to figure that out, and start working towards that goal. What do you think?
Answered by Steve, Hiring Expert at Caterpillar Inc., on Friday, September 20, 2013
I would say that it depends on the individual.  Some prefer to follow a rigid plan, where others prefer to let the chips fall where they may.  The key is figure out what it is that you enjoy doing.  Think about your hobbies and things you enjoy doing when you are not at work and research what types of jobs may give you the opportunity to do these things.  Reach out to people at companies that you think might interest you and ask them to have an informational interview with you.  These interviews will give you insight into what a particular job is like and whether or not you would enjoy it.  Bottom line, I would recommend coming up with a plan, but make sure the end goal is a career that will make you happy.
Answered by Jennifer, Hiring Expert at Verizon, on Friday, September 20, 2013
There's a difference between having a career and a job. While there are many individuals who plan their career paths early in life, there are many others who find their career path by chance while going through.  A career should be one that matches your skills and interests. I'd suggest researching career paths on onetonline.org so that you can familiarize yourself with the options that are available to you.  Your career should be something you are truly skilled I'm and something you have a true passion for.  You may even want to consider finding a career coach so that he/she can provide you with some guidance. There are numerous tools available on the Internet that can help you as well such as the MBTI and strong interest survey. Best of luck!!
Answered by Susan, Hiring Expert at Praxair, Inc., on Monday, September 23, 2013
If you can envision a ladder, that will give you a good idea of what most career plans are not.  They are not "straight up", they often take sideways or lateral moves.  Although you do not need to identify now what job you want to retire in, you should break it down into manageable milestones, such as in 6 year clusters. 

Start with an accurate assessment of what you do well (not by your standards, but by those who have supervised you).  People tend to be most successful when they are placed in roles which play to their natural skillsets. 

Second, map out what kinds of jobs you think today you would be good at about 6 years from now.  Call that your next milestone.  Then talk to people in those jobs and your manager and find out what technical skills and leadership competencies/behaviors are critical for those jobs.  Then sit down with your manager or HR Manager and discuss the gap between your overall performance today vs that job 6 years out.  Is there an intermediate role you should aim for in between which will teach you the technical and leadership skills required from now until then? 

Be prepared to take multiple lateral moves between ages 25 adn 35 as these are your "learning" years in regards to gaining breadth of experience. 

If after 6 years or so you do not like the direction you are heading, then do a course correction...but I recommend looking out two jobs into the future (or about 6 years).  When you reach your early to mid 40's you should have a very clear idea about what job you want to "retire" in.....
Answered by Kelly, Hiring Expert at Merck & Co., Inc., on Friday, October 11, 2013
Good for you for thinking ahead to your career! A career ladder is the progression from an entry level position to higher levels of pay, skill and responsibilities. Once you set a career goal, a career ladder is a great way to map out the path to best achieve your goal. Roles with more responsibility require a larger skill set. Some companies may have a “Career Ladder” built for employees but you can plan out your own future. Inquire from a Superior or a Mentor about their path. Research what skills are important for your career of choice. You are responsible for your career decisions. Good luck!
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