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By Madeline Simmons | Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Approaching career development for long-term gain

In today’s hectic and connected world it’s easy to get consumed by day-to-day responsibilities and forget about the importance of bigger-picture thinking and planning. November is National Career Development Month, and the ideal opportunity to reserve time to focus on your own career goals. Think of this as an opportunity to focus on a life-long pursuit and create a bit of Zen for your long-term career health.

Career development is a continued quest, much like the practice of yoga, the refinement of painting techniques, or the goal to complete an annual half-marathon. Like any other skill, it requires intention, focused effort, time, and both short- and long-term perspectives.

Making time to peruse your goal is a great place to start. To ensure you have time to devote to life-long career planning it often helps to block time off in your schedule and declare your intention to a supportive mentor, co-worker, friend, or relative.

Once you set aside time in your schedule, you need to determine the best way to allocate that precious time and effort. The most obvious tasks include writing an effective resume, preparing a compelling cover letter, and networking. However, before investing time in these activities, it is worthwhile to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. While working on resumes and cover letters will surely help get you to the next step, updating your paperwork cannot constitute a long-term career plan on its own.

Rather than look at career planning as a time to get writing a better resume checked off your list, consider thinking about career planning as an opportunity to ask yourself some critical, self-reflective questions. These questions could be “What activities or type of culture make me happy at work or school?” or “Where do I want to be in my career in five or 10 years?” An honest exploration and self-assessment can improve your likelihood of success and happiness, and since preferences will likely change over time, it is helpful to revisit this type of career self-assessment on a regular basis.

Creating a support network of like-minded friends and co-workers may also be beneficial. During my time at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, I volunteered as a career coach and led a success team that helped students to stay focused and on track by facilitating peer-to-peer discussions about networking, informational interviews, cover letters, and resumes. Even if you do not have a formalized program like this available to you, you can start your own career-planning group with the goal of progressing your career, as well as that of others.

In today’s rapidly changing job market, career development has grown into a life-long pursuit that requires continual self-assessment, networking, and goal setting. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can approach your own career development, check out Insights from a Career Coach, Achieving Your Goals, and Job Search Strategies in the lynda.com training library.

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