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Leaving Career Choices To Chance Is Asking For Grief Routine Checkups Can Help Workers Chart Their Own Career Progress

Sun., June 4, 1995

Attention, worker bees. Is this you?

You’ve been in the same job for years and, though it once challenged you, there’s no longer any fire in your belly. You’re just coasting - and cashing the paycheck. Face it: You’re bored.

Or perhaps you’ve been hearing that your industry may be in for some belttightening. Now you’re worried you could wind up in the unemployment line.

In either case, it may be time for a “career checkup” - a chance to ask yourself whether your job is making you happy, if the job is suited to your strengths and what you should do to make yourself more marketable.

Why bother? According to experts, your career may depend on it.

In an era of corporate downsizing, employees need to start taking control of their own careers. Instead of waiting for the boss to recognize your potential, career counselors say you should develop that potential yourself.

“What people need to be doing is asking themselves, ‘What will keep me competitive if I have to look for a job? What will make me more valuable to the company I’m with?”’ said Orlando career counselor Peggy Isaacson. “It’s not just protection against getting laid off. It’s also setting some goals.”

Self-improvement is always admirable, but most of us cannot get motivated to take computer classes or embark on a selfimprovement plan without some incentive.

Today, says Isaacson, the incentive is this: Your job may not last forever. The company may not last forever. And nothing is guaranteed anymore.

That’s why career counselor Barbara Adler suggests conducting a career checkup at least once a year.

But where do you start?

Ask yourself what’s important to you. Having fun? Being creative? Getting recognition from your fellow employees? Living comfortably? Having job security? Being in charge? Being organized? Spending time with your family? Spending time on community affairs? Do you like change? Adventure?

Adler recommends that you rank your priorities from most important to least important. Then take a good look at the top five and the bottom five. The top five will give you some ideas about what you want out of life - and out of a job.

The bottom five may tell you what you don’t want. For instance, if you don’t want to be dominant, don’t care about being well-organized and aren’t that keen on getting recognition, you may not want to apply for that next management position that comes open.

Examine the line of work you’re in. Once you may have dreamed about having this kind of job, but are you still happy with it?

“The career decisions we made when we were 20 may not reflect where we want to be today,” Adler said.

So Adler asks her clients to evaluate their goals, objectives and how well their job is meeting those.

Take advantage of any company programs available to help you evaluate - and improve - your skills.

If the company doesn’t offer any programs that might help, take them yourself.

“My advice is spend your own money. Get a skill,” said Don Parsons, a Valencia Community College counselor who spent the last year arranging job retraining for former Martin Marietta employees. “We’re becoming a skill society. If you’ve got a skill, particularly with computers, you’ve got something that you can sell to anybody.”

Evaluating yourself doesn’t always lead to a job change. Sometimes it can help you in your current job.

The problem is that too many employees want managers to tell them what their next step should be.

Instead, consider the example set by one of Peggy Isaacson’s clients. She was working in the finance department of a Central Florida company but really wanted to move into the human resources department.

So she volunteered to serve on committees that dealt with human resources issues. Outside of work, she began taking graduate school classes in human resources. And now she works for the human resources department.

“She put that all together without anyone from the company sitting down and mapping out a plan or talking to her about it,” said Isaacson. “Now that’s taking charge of your career.”

xxxx Steps you can take for a career checkup List your priorities. What’s important to you at this stage in your life? Getting ahead? Make a lot of money? Spending time with family? Analyze your preferences. What kind of work do you like to do? Where are your new challenges? Figure out how you fit in at your company. Have you reached a dead end at work because you don’t want to move into management? Is your organization providing what you need - whether it’s a chance for advancement or a chance to try new projects? Look at the big picture. What’s going on in your industry? Will you need more computer skills? Is the industry dying or going through transformation? What do you need to do to stay ahead? Study your company’s plans. What’s going on at your company? What new projects is the company exploring? Do you want to be a part of them? Do you see yourself fitting into the picture? Make a plan. If you decide you need more computer skills, find out about classes that might help. If you decide you want to get into another field, research the kinds of jobs available in that field - and what kind of changes that industry is going through. If you’re confused and need help, seek help. Local community colleges offer classes in career exploration. Some employers offer career counseling. And there are oodles of books on midlife career changes. Or hire a career counselor who can give you a battery of tests to find out what kinds of jobs you are well-suited for and help guide you through the process. SOURCE: Orlando career counselor Barbara Adler.

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