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Your Career

Why Career Planning Can Work for You

Getting what you want in life takes planning—whether it’s a trade certification, an overseas trip, that perfect job, or early retirement. Career planning can turn your dreams into reality.


Not so long ago, most people stayed in the same line of work for a lifetime. Back then, “career” was another word for “job.”

The world has changed. Today, your career is the sum of all your jobs, education, and life roles. Planning your career—and your life—is a work in progress. Knowing how to plan is an important skill.

Lifelong career planning means you’ll need to do certain things again and again as events unfold or you choose new directions. Each time you want to take a major step—applying to a post-secondary school, switching careers, starting a family—you should think about how this step will fit into your life plan.

The benefits of career planning

Planning your future works because:

  • You’re in better control of getting what you want out of life.
  • You can make your vision of life become real.
  • Picturing your goals can motivate you and keep you focused and organized.
  • Sometimes you need to do things in a certain order, so it’s important to set goals and know where to start.

Career planning is based on your priorities and realities

Planning how to reach your goals helps you set priorities. Your work and personal priorities will probably change over time. Sometimes the impact can be dramatic. Just think about the effect of having children on your career and life. Career planning helps ensure that your plans reflect your priorities at every stage of your life.

Your work and personal realities will also change. Rapid changes in technology, society, and the economy will end some types of work and create new types. Career planning helps you manage these changes in positive and rewarding ways.

Career planning builds on what you have

When you engage in lifelong career planning, you can use the assets you have right now:

  • Your core skills. Core skills are the basic personal and teamwork skills you need to succeed in every workplace. They’re sometimes called transferable or soft skills. They include things like reading, writing, working well with others, and being positive.

    No matter what type of work you choose to do, your core skills travel with you. You can develop specific skills through education and other experiences, such as your hobbies, volunteer work, or recreational activities.

  • Your specific abilities and interests. You’re born with certain abilities that make learning particular skills easier for you. For example, if you have strong numerical ability, it means you’re good with numbers. You’ll still need to learn how to take measurements or calculate equations, but your ability will make this less difficult.

    Your interests reflect your hobbies and passions. Understanding your abilities and interests will help you identify the jobs and other career activities where you can use them for greater success.

  • Your passions and significant experiences. These can help you identify new opportunities, adapt to change, and succeed in your chosen career.

How career planning works

Each time you face a major decision, you’ll need to:

  • Think about your values, needs, and preferences.
  • Explore your learning, work, and life options.
  • Ensure your decision reflects your personal priorities.
  • Adjust your plans to manage the realities of the world.
  • Break your plan down into manageable, ordered steps.

There are various strategies you can apply to making your decision, including listening to both your head and your heart.  

In the following examples, you’ll learn how high school students Demi and Joshua have planned for their current occupational choices. You’ll also see how Dwayne has switched careers and is retraining for a new field of work.

Exploring Career Paths: Pediatrics (3:00)

Demi is interested in pursuing a career as a pediatrician, a type of specialist physician. Through volunteering and job shadowing, she discovers how important it is to have an interest in science and enjoy working with children.

Exploring Career Paths: Engineering (3:32)

Joshua would like to become a civil engineer. Watch as he explores his interests by attending a pre-engineering camp. He learns to build small-scale models and discovers the importance of communicating his ideas.

Changing Career Paths as a Mature Student (2:45)

Dwayne attends a technical institute as a mature student. Learn how he's approaching his shift to a second career and exploring the possibility of gaining work experience through a co-op program.

It’s a good idea to read more about planning for your future if:

  • You’re wondering what to do and need to focus your thoughts.
  • You know and like the direction you’re headed in, but you need some help taking steps to get there.
  • You’re not sure where to start.

Take a look at this fast, 5-minute exercise for some fun, easy ways to figure out what you want and how to get it. 

Lifelong career planning can put you in charge of the changes in your life and work. Give it a try.

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