Career Planning Model

One endeavor I took on earlier this month and glad I did was being a mentor for the Ascend USC Student Chapter. Each mentor gets grouped up with three undergraduate students along with another junior student mentor. Together all five of us meet as a group three times during the 10-week mentoring period, along with opportunities to have one-on-one between the students and the mentors during the same period.

One question that gets asked frequently by the students and probably being one of the main reasons why students seek out mentorship is the age old “What should I do after I graduate?” Or asked the other way around, “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

As a parent, I have hope and aspiration for my own children, but I also recognize this is a question that only the individually can truly answer. I, like the students when I was young, asked the same question multiple times while growing up, and still ask the same question from time to time. Personally, I have adopted a career planning model to help with this particular decision making process. I had talked about this model before with my children, so I presented the same model to the student mentees as well. It is a simplistic model of triangle with three basic considerations as the end points. (see the page 1 illustration in the PDF file)

The principle goes like this. I believe a viable career choice is a something that balances the “pull” or “reach” by the following three considerations. The basic considerations are:

  1. Talent: What are you good at doing? This is where your education, training, skills, and experience acquired all come into the consideration.
  2. Passion: What do you like to do? Your interests, aspirations, dreams, etc. What stuff motivates you? What r would you rather do when you have the time?
  3. MarketWho might pay you to do what you would like to do? Is there a market for the stuff you would like to or want to do? Is it financially rewarding or even viable enough?

I believe the job or career choices for most people will end up somewhere within the triangle due to those three basic considerations. Having a job or career that covers just one single consideration without addressing the other two is not practical for most of us. Having just two out of three considerations covered is doable but I think it usually results in a less than satisfactory job/career experience. For example,

• Situation One: Having just #1 and #2: Not economically viable unless you are financially independent enough. For most people I know, hobbies usually fall into this category.

• Situation Two: Having just #1 and #3: If your skill level is not there to maintain a certain base level of performance, you may not last very long on a particular job or in a career.

• Situation Three: Having just #2 and #3: If you don’t have some, minimum level of passion for what you do, the work itself is still worth doing but you may not be as aspired. Then again, it does the pay the bills.

When I explained this model to my children, one of them asked… What happens when people change jobs? Is it because of one of these three situations. Probably, but people also change jobs for a number of other reasons such as problems with the work environment, with the co-workers, or with the boss. This model cannot address those external factors just yet.

Another question came up was… Is this the only triangle where I will be confined to work with? How would I do something bigger and better down the road? Well, I think you will always need to work with these three constraints, but you will have more choices to work with as you become more experienced. As we grow older and acquire more experience, our own triangle expands as well (see page 2 of the PDF file). We will have more “room” to work with or have more job/career options as we expand the triangle.

Of course this is not the only or the best model of its kind. It is my own view of the reality. However, it is nice to know someone else also talks about a similar model – pretty cool.