By Anne Evenson
Don’t overlook this important step. It’s your opportunity to imagine different career paths and a new future for yourself.
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”
Gloria Steinam, American feminist journalist and social political activist
At the Center for Professional Education, we know how important planning for your future is, and that’s why we’ve developed a Career Planning Workbook to help you map out the steps you need to achieve your professional dreams. A comprehensive career strategy includes introspection, exploration and evaluation, all of which can help you understand yourself and your needs and transform how you reach your goals.
Step Two: Exploration
Pages 6-7 of the workbook are your opportunity for guided career exploration. (See Step One: Introspection for pages 1-5.)
Now that you’ve identified and prioritized your values and preferences, you’ll want to define some general career paths for further exploration. Don’t limit yourself to one role or industry—see yourself in all the various jobs that interest you.
Expand Your Scope of Possibilities
To get started, think about what you would like to do for a living if money wasn’t a priority. Abandon your comfort zone to expand your horizons. It’s easy to feel like you’re in a rut and have no options besides what you’re currently doing. Perhaps you’re struggling to pinpoint what lights your fire because you haven’t experienced it yet.
Page 6 — This exercise includes some prompts to help guide your consideration of new career paths. Use them for brainstorming by yourself and to initiate dialog with others while organizing information about the requirements for entering a new career.
Page 7 — Talk to people who know you and may have unexpected insights about you. They can be your colleagues, friends, relatives or a mentor. If someone works in a profession that you’re interested in, ask them some informational interview questions like, “What drew you to this career?” or “What previous experiences have helped you most in this role?” or “What’s your day-to-day workday like?”
Embrace the Learning Curve
As your list of potential career paths takes shape, you should get comfortable with the idea of failure. It’s perfectly normal to fall short of expectations in your first, second or even third attempt at learning new skills. The key is not giving up and to persist in pursuing the career path that aligns with your values, passions and preferences.
Exploration is an opportunity to learn, experiment, fail and grow without any lasting damage. Nothing will you slow you down more in your quest for the right career than your fear of failure. You’ll never establish what makes you happy if you exclude things because they might be difficult.
Download the Career Planning Workbook.
Mind mapping is a brainstorming exercise that results in a mind map, an excellent tool for exploring your career options. Mind maps are diagrams that visually organize ideas, information and concepts around a central subject. They can be used to manage even the most disorderly and chaotic problems and will help you see the larger picture with more clarity. Many excellent mind mapping software options are free or very inexpensive, including MindMeister, Ayoa and Creately.
Make Your Next Career Move with Confidence (Career Planning Workbook, Step One: Introspection)
Anne Evenson is a marketing specialist and copy editor working in Austin, Texas. She holds a BFA in Fibers and Printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute.
Learning and professional growth go hand in hand. For regular career insights and information on continuing education programs offered by UT’s Center for Professional Education, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, It’s Your Career.