Career Strategy Outline

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Smeal MBA Career Management
Corporate Relations Team

9th Edition
May, 2010

Developing a Personal Career Strategy (PCS)

Companies no longer hire people out of high school or college and provide them with career security for the rest of their life. In some ways, career management has become an independent enterprise, something of a sole proprietorship, or as a recent book reflected in its title, “You Incorporated”. This trend is a clear indication that you must take full responsibility for your life-long career success and satisfaction. Thus, as with any successful business, individual career management should follow the same process that successful organizations use in creating their business plans.

Through various processes, successful organizations create strategic plans that provide a long-term vision of who they want to become. Subsequently, they specify goals and related objectives that, over time, will incrementally take them toward the realization of their vision. In this process, organizations analyze the realism of their vision, goals and objectives through a SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis is a very deliberate assessment of the organization (internal) and the market (external) to identify internal and external Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This process enables the organization to fine-tune their vision, goals, and objectives, as well as develop their strategic plans for achieving its vision, by capitalizing on the internal and external strengths and opportunities, while also attempting to mitigate internal and external weaknesses and threats. This same process has become the paradigm for successful career management.

While entire books have been written on the topics of career development and career management, the Smeal MBA Career Services Team (SMCS) has developed this abbreviated version to assist you in developing a personally-defined career management strategy and plan. This process has been informed by the most up-to-date theory and research on career development. We will begin with an overview of the widely accepted model of the career development process, then present brief descriptions of each stage, and finally present relevant exercises and examples to assist you in developing your personal career strategy and plan.

The 4 Stages of Career Development

The model below depicts the four stages that make up the career development cycle. By thoughtfully progressing through the stages of this process, you are able to develop goals and strategies for pursuing a satisfying career. Over time, you will recycle through this process as you, and the employment market, inevitably change. This implies that career decisions and strategies are not one-time events but are steps in an ongoing and life-long career development process. This point is made in research indicating that, on average, people will change jobs seven times, and careers (not jobs) three times. Thus, this information and process is presented as an educational experience rather than a simple map to help you get a job. As an old adage states: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Our goal is to provide you with the knowledge and tools to manage your career over your lifetime.

Stage 1 Stage 2 Stage 3Stage 4

Before proceeding to the details, a brief overview of the model will provide a useful context for understanding the individual stages in the process. As with any good decision, career decisions require accurate and realistic data. Career decisions are based on detailed data about you and about your occupational options. Thus, both an internal self-analysis and an external market analysis are necessary. This is the basis and process for the career exploration stage, or Stage 1 of the career development process. In Stage 2, or the option analysis and...
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