August 7, 2012

6 steps for Proactive Career Planning©

Where are you going, and how will you get there?

I originally wrote this post as a welcome to the Class of 2012-2013 at the University of North Carolina’s Department of Family Medicine Faculty Development Fellowship.  The work that I did with that class, and several that followed, included an exploration of what I call Proactive Career Planning©. This post includes an introduction to that concept, a discussion of some key concepts that are relevant to health professionals as they think about their careers, and some resource links that may serve as guideposts for this process.

What is Proactive Career Planning?©

This concept began for me when one of my earliest professional mentors, Dr. David Brewer, met me on the first day of medical school.  He asked me (and many others, it turns out), the classic “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions journalists are trained to ask. Dave tweaked these questions for anxious, overachieving brand-new medical students.  Here is what he asked:

        1. Who are you?
        2. What is important to you?
        3. Why is it important to you?
        4. Where do you want to go?
        5. When do you want to get there?
        6. How do you get there?

I have returned to these questions often during my non-linear career path, and they have always served me well.  They continue to serve me even today.  From these questions arise the path I have described as Proactive Career Planning©.  It consists of six steps:

        1. Know yourself – answer Dave’s five questions.
        2. Decide whether there is anything you want to change about your current career or work life.
        3. Develop a change strategy (knowing that even “no change” requires a strategy).
        4. Implement your strategy.
        5. Anticipate “curve balls.”
        6. Continually reassess your progress.

The idea that one’s career is a living, breathing thing that operates under your own control is a new way of thinking career planning.  Understanding that you always have a choice, and that there are tools and strategies that help you plan proactively and respond to the unexpected in ways that ultimately serve you and those you care about is reassuring to many. The idea that we can explore this together, and learn from each other’s journeys, is a new approach to career planning that holds a great deal of potential for fun, support and great outcomes.  Join me as we launch the process.

Suggested readings

For those who are interested, I recommend a reading from David Brooks of the New York Times, an op-ed he wrote a few years ago titled, “The Summoned Self.”  I also like:

Finally, check out a blog post I wrote from a few weeks ago about the book “Turning Pro,” by Steven Pressfield.  This book’s applicability to career self-reflection and planning is tremendous, and I would highly recommend it as well.

Your career plan

How are you proactive in planning your own career?  Do you have a “Dave Brewer,” or a lifelong mentor, of your own?  How has that person touched you?

Last updated April 6, 2018