Launching your career

Career path framework

Assess your skills, talents, traits and interests

Cataloging what you bring to the needs of the world of business is necessary for mapping out your journey. When you actively and honestly assess your skills, talents, traits and interests, you come closer to a realistic and workable description of the right career fit for you.


Assessing your skills should include listing everything you know how to do: equipment you can operate, hardware, software and interpersonal skills, such as customer service, sales, or training. Skills are sets of knowledge you acquire through experience or training that can be demonstrated in some observable or measurable way. At job search time, you will be expected to substantiate your claim of a skill either by demonstration or by examples of jobs or training you have had. For this part of the process, you are taking an initial look at what you have to offer.


Assessing your talents may require some thinking outside your assumptions of what an industry might need for a particular job. Talents are abilities you are born with and may have enhanced through training, for example: math aptitude, verbal ability, language acquisition, creativity and organisation. Even without testing, you already know some things just come easy to you. Those areas are probably where you have talent. As intelligent beings, we can learn to do anything, but our talent areas give us an edge.


Traits are those aspects of our character or operating style that we need to examine carefully. If they are not in line with expectations of the workplace, immediate action toward correcting discrepancies is in order. Traits can describe our personal and professional self. Punctuality, dependability, self-discipline – all of these are traits that you have to consider in your assessment. Knowing your predispositions, such as extroversion, can help you look at jobs that suit your operating style.

Your chances of finding a satisfying and interesting job improve dramatically when you know what type of person you are and how to uncover the conditions at various workplaces. The closer a match you are with the characteristics of the jobs in your career area, the less stress you will experience and the more “at home” you will feel.


We need to look beyond our skills and talents to see our interests. Knowing what your interests and motivations are may be at least as important in your eventual career success as your skills. You will be willing to invest more time and energy into those high-interest activities, and will experience less stress on the job.

Revive your curiosity

Learning is part of succeeding in any new activity. You must learn new skills and information to be able to progress in your life or job. Real experts on learning are children. They live to learn and savour new ideas and experiences because of their natural curiosity.

Your curiosity will lead you to discover helpful information by asking questions and noticing things that might help you progress on your career path. Become nosy about public meetings and trade shows; attend seminars on things that interest you. You are in the middle of a world of information and opportunity each day. A key to this process is getting out and into new “rooms”.

Reach for a goal

The job focus definition should be simple and attainable. You need to narrow your vision down to focus on a specific industry or set of conditions. Some people down themselves in endpoint statements that are too detailed or limited or are intimidating in their size and complexity. Try to keep your statements simple and direct. For example: I would like to focus my energy in the direction of marketing.

Next, you should find out what is required to reach your goals. Maybe schooling, training or new experiences are needed. This is part two of reaching for a career definition: identifying the competences required to reach your endpoint, then developing the process for acquiring those competences.

Once you learn the competences required to reach your dream career situation, then gaining those competencies and experiences leads to your near-term goals. You may find that the career dream you desire requires that you have experience living in a foreign country. Though there are many ways to accomplish this – military, school abroad, job in an international company – you have a clear goal to reach. Thus, you will begin to invest time in acquiring the necessary competence.

Invest in your journey


If your goal is important to you, you will devote time each day to activities that will lead to achieving it. If this is not the case, you may lack conviction. Analyse your goal to make sure it interests you enough to pursue it. Finding opportunity is helpful, but acting on opportunity is what moves you closer to where you want to be.


Attaining life goals requires commitment and energy. You have to constantly give yourself pep talks to keep your levels of enthusiasm high. Nothing important is accomplished without enthusiasm. Others may or may not understand your goal or your wish for the goal to be fulfilled, so, they may not be as supportive as you would like. This is unimportant. You can be your own supporter. It is your goal, your joy, and you are entitled to feel good about it.

You can do this by activating your goal in your mind. Use present tense statements such as “I devote effort towards my goal”. By talking about your goal in terms of your “here and now” thinking, you make that goal part of your present reality. You invest thought and enthusiasm into the process as well as your time gathering qualifications along the way. Without real emotional investment on your part, you probably will not see your way through all of the barriers it will take to reach your dream.

Many people stop goal activity because they talk themselves into believing that the goal is not attainable. Many goals are attainable over time that are not remotely in your realm right now. New jobs and new industries emerge daily; the conditions, salary, and position you ultimately aspire to just may not exist at the present. That does not prelude your finding it a year or 10 years from now. Your challenge is to keep the self-talk positive whether the day is good or bad, or whether your friends are supportive or not. Your goal has value and merit. Remind yourself of that often.

One thing you should do for yourself is build confidence in your goal activities. You do this by engineering success along the way. On the way to your final goal of a fulfilling career position are many small goals that need to be accomplished. As you define these goal steps, it helps to make each one small enough so that you can complete it successfully in a limited amount of time. Few people achieve great things by huge leaps; more often, they win little victories as they go. These little victories reinforce a clear sense of purpose and give you the opportunity to affirm your progress on a regular basis.


Talking to yourself in a positive way helps to keep you motivated in the face of all sorts of barriers to your goal-directed activity. Once you move your goal ideas to the status of goal actions, you are well on your way to success. Daily action reinforces you quest by directing your energies regularly toward you desired end result. In addition to this daily activity, you will become more alert to situations that might expose you to opportunities. Guidelines:

1. Define a short-term, immediate focus that is relatively easy to accomplish.

2. Acknowledge your success as they occur.

3. Affirm your progress often.

Accumulating small successes will give you the confidence to move forward and face the challenge of the larger steps. Successful action leads to more attempts and more successes. With many successes to your credit, temporary barriers to your goal activity will seem insignificant.

Verify along the way

The endpoint

When you set your direction for your life, an occasional stop along the way, either by choice or by circumstances, allows you to survey the territory, to take stock of where you have arrived. Somewhere along the way an opportunity might open up because of a new skill acquisition or an unexpected contact. It might redirect you from your original endpoint. Verifying at regular intervals that you still want the original endpoint or direction allows for breadth of scope and creativity on your part as well as flux in the working of the universe.

The impact on others

Another area of our lives that we should check every now and then is the effect of your goals on those dear to you. In your confident charge toward your career path of fulfilment, you must be cautious that you maintain balance. The people you care about are affected by your decisions and choices. Personal goals that are harmful to others bring negative long-term results. You must have a clear vision to your goal, but you must also have a heart. Personal relationships sustain us far more profoundly than professional accomplishments ever can.

Achievement does require sacrifice, but sacrificing those you love for the sake of goal may lead to an empty victory. Those who say it’s lonely at the top may well have alienated friends and family along the way. This is just not necessary. Some of the most successful and busiest people in the world fiercely protect their family time and priorities.

Include those closest to you in your goal setting and in the steps you are planning and you will find a solid support base. When they understand what you are trying to obtain and where they fit into the picture, they will be your biggest fans. Including them into the process, you will prevent their feeling threatened or left out of your life.

Adapted from

McKee, S.L. and Walters, B.L., 2002. Transition management: A practical approach to personal and professional development. Prentice Hall.

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