Career Planning Reality Check

‘Career Planning’: A Reality Check

Introduction: A personal perspective

A working life spanning well over 45 years was bound to have a bearing on my approach to leading Career Planning (CP) events for university technical staff (See Author’s Career at a Glance, appendices, page ix).  To me it would be unrealistic to confine the issues to the traditional CP linear approach. Generally speaking, this focuses on career objectives, whilst excluding the consequences of external pressures and major organisational change.  Of course, objectives are important for anyone with career ambition.  However, in my experience, external influences can render irrelevant the best laid career plans.  It is highly likely that they will dictate the content of our day to day work, or might even raise the spectre of job insecurity.  For example, institutional and departmental mergers can present occupational risks as well as opportunities.  This was frequently the case at King’s College London where I worked.  I am sure that this has been so for many universities in the recent past, and can be anticipated with reasonable certainty.

The very nature of many technicians’ jobs means that we often see ourselves as specialists, sometimes within very narrow fields.  Should a doubt arise over our job security, we may have misgivings as to whether we are equipped to compete for employment prospects outside our area of expertise.  It follows that we may ask; Are events beyond my control?  What support can I count on, to enable me to be better prepared for emerging opportunities?  How can such contingency planning benefit me, or for that matter, the university?

This guidebook is addressed directly to you to be used in conjunction with a conference or forum involving committed participating technical staff.  As such, it should serve as a useful springboard.  It will provide optional ideas and concepts that will get you actively involved in CP.  As a professional trainer, I commend practical exercises.  These are designed to give you an appetite for exploring your professional future.  It is by no means a complete insight.  You should look at the references and further reading listed in appendix 1. nb if you want to pursue PDP, explore the HEaTED links.

Your career momentum may well depend on what you are prepared to learn and do so as to support your aspirations.  Can you plan your career? How can you plan when everything seems to be so uncertain? How can you be sure what you want to do; surely this will change according to circumstances?  .  Your initiative will determine the outcome to these important questions.  So, you will notice that there is a strong flavour of ‘do-it-yourself’ included in this guidebook.

You should start with the premise that conscious planning will be the first step in a process to take you from ambition to reality. The clearer you are about what you want from your career, the more likely you are to prepare a plan and to achieve objectives. The more you are aware of what is going on around you, locally in your organisation or in the external employment situation, the better equipped you will be to be able to spot and seize opportunities as they come up.

You may not achieve your precise planned objectives..  Your long term aims will almost certainly change.  The key point that I would want to explore during a CP forum, is how a holistic vision of cause and effect will enable you to gain the experience and skills that will help you to pursue your career objectives. The effort is not only worthwhile, it is also enjoyable.  The notes and exercises in this guidebook are designed to help you on your way in your chosen technical field or beyond.More to come.