In my work with clients, I strive to help them answer the following basic questions: What kind of work do you want to do? Where do you want to do it? With whom do you want to work? I call these questions, collectively, a game plan.
However, the game plan I use in my process is not a plan in the classic sense. Rather, it’s a set of criteria for what you need to thrive in your work, along with a list of action steps that encourage you to bring these criteria into reality.
Let’s say my client wants to be a web design consultant (the What) working as an independent from home (the Where) with smaller companies and entrepreneurs (the Who). Possible action steps might be getting certified in web development software or seeking small-business training.
Of course, clients seldom have a clear game plan when they first come to see me. Instead, we get there through assessment—a structured interview, testing via relevant career assessment instruments, and further processing and discussion. The game plan then serves as a handy tool for capturing insights gained during the assessment process.
Career Counselors and Coaches Need Game Plans Too!
As career development professionals, we’re no different from our clients. We need to find a path that’s right for us, including knowing the skills or services what we want to offer, the work environment that feels right to us, and the type of clients we feel most comfortable serving.
In Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment (more on the book after this article), I put together my own game plan as an example—not so much to find a way forward as to affirm that I was still on track after 30+ years in the business.
Here are some highlights from my personal “What, Where, and Who” criteria (for my full game plan and game plans for my client Kevin and coauthor and collaborator Liz Willis, see chapter 8 in the book):
- What. Analyze, implement, debrief assessment data. Counseling/coaching individuals in transition or those experiencing a loss. Presenting, facilitating or instructing groups on life/career topics. Work allows for a variety of functions and clientele.
- Where. Private practice so I can control my schedule, variety, clientele, and type of work. Steady pace most of the time, but able to take on ‘crunch’ projects at times. Culture is open, respectful, with clear communication; nonpolitical in nature.
- Who. People on the front lines, operations folks; individual contributors; some managers but few if any executives. Provide practical and tactical advice to people who are willing to try things out, follow through, and take ownership of issues that impact them.
Here are a few of the action steps I recorded for my plan: “Attend networking/professional organizations at least monthly. Find new speaking opportunities (aim for three a year), particularly related to career or bullying topics. Meet with Mastermind group each month for new/fresh perspectives.”
Because I’m currently comfortable with who I am and how I spend my time, my game plan criteria and action steps make sense for now. As I get closer to retirement, my game plan will undoubtedly change, and I’ll make adjustments accordingly.
The Link Between the Game Plan and Assessment
In putting together your game plan as a career development professional—especially if you’re new to the field—one of the most important decisions you’ll make is where you’re going to work. For me, private practice is ideal, but you may prefer the support and social network of a school, university, consulting firm, or government agency.
The “Where,” of course, also drives the “What” and the “Who” to some extent. What function you want to play? Do you want to be an independent, part of a team, or a leader or manager? Do you want to work with students in a school or university, or individual clients in private practice? Perhaps a consulting firm would be a better fit for you. Most importantly, what kind of clients would you be most effective serving?
Assessment can help you answer these questions.
Here’s an example from my own career. One of my favorite assessment instruments—one that I’ve had myself tested in several times over the years—is the California Psychological Inventory (CPI). The CPI is particularly useful for measuring leadership potential. While my own leadership potential has risen gradually over time, I prefer to advise and support others rather than lead or supervise them. This fits perfectly with my role as a career counselor, coach, and consultant.
To see how this plays out in my game plan, consider the second statement I make under “Who,” above: “Provide practical and tactical advice to people who are willing to try things out, follow through, and take ownership of issues that impact them.”
The bottom line: I enjoy supporting others who are willing to take responsibility for themselves. But I refuse to hold their hand or boss them around! This is in keeping with both my CPI results and results from other instruments that measure leadership in some way.
Once you find congruence between your game plan and what you’ve learned about yourself through assessment, not only will you be on your way to greater career success, you’ll also enjoy peace of mind knowing you’re pursuing something you’re well suited for.
If you’re new to career counseling and coaching and want to learn more about assessment, my new book, Game Plan: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Career Assessment, co-authored with writer and editor Liz Willis, is available to order from Amazon or your favorite book retailer. Part 1 of the book, Assessing Yourself and Your Career, is geared toward those new to the field, or working career counselors and coaches interested in adding more comprehensive assessment services to their offerings. It’s full of tips and strategies on specializing in assessment, assessing your strengths, and building your network—all from the perspective of someone who’s been there and overcome the hurdles.