The Ultimate Career Advice Site

Career Management: Planning A Worthwhile Career


Good career management is so much easier when you can find a career you value.

It’s important that you find value in your career; that you feel your job it is making a positive contribution to your life. We spend so much of our lives working; if we don’t enjoy our job, or feel that it is worthwhile, it can have negative consequences for every other aspect of our life The best career management techniques stress the importance of believing your career is worthwhile.

The steps you need to take to make your career worthwhile depend on your current situation, particularly on

  1. a) whether or not you are working and,
  2. b) if you are working, whether you can make changes to your current job, or whether you need to look elsewhere.

In all cases you need to start in the same place, with an evaluation of your values:

Your Values

Our values lie at the centre of our being, they are the fundamental core of our lives. They are the way we judge the world. Without values we have no way of distinguishing good from bad, or positive from negative.

Our values are an important factor in our working lives. At the most obvious level, if you have strong environmental values you will not want to work in a company which damages the environment. Less obviously, a doctor who has been in the job for thirty years and holds firmly to the traditional one-to-one relationship between a doctor and her patient may find that her job dissatisfaction stems from a conflict of values if she moves to a medical practice in which doctors work in teams.

On the positive side, someone who believes in giving back to society is likely to enjoy a far more successful career in the not-for-profit or public sectors, a person with strong family values may prefer a job which allows them time flexibility, whilst an individual who values structure and clarity is more likely to flourish in the closely defined hierarchy of a large public company than in the multi-tasked, frantic environment typical of many start ups and small businesses.

Our values may also appear to be handicaps. If for example you value seeing things in depth – having an eye for detail – you may end up with so much information that you cannot see the big picture, leading you to delay decisions or failing to choose between alternatives. If this is you, the chances are that you will not flourish in a creative role where ideas and concepts dominate. But you are likely to make a very good lawyer, researcher, analyst or any other job where the devil is in the detail.


What Do You Want From Your Career?

Once you have a clearer view of your values, the next stage is to map out what you want from your career. We call this your career vision. Everyone needs a career vision, it helps give your career structure and a clear path for progression. It’s also important in helping you to decide how to make your career more worthwhile. Try working through the exercise below:

Your Career Vision

Set a time some years ahead when you would like to achieve your long tem goal. This could be anything from 5 to 35 years, depending on your age and circumstances.

Try to imagine what your life will be like then. Think about your family, your home, your place of work, your hobbies and interests. Dream as much as you like. Write it down on paper, as detailed as you can.

Think about your work when you achieve your goal. Close your eyes and try to form a picture of the place you work in, the sort of people around you. Try to imagine the conversations you will be having and tasks you will be doing. Write them down.

When you are ready try to fill in the blanks in the following statement:

In ___ years time I will be a _____ in a _____ company/organisation/business. I will enjoy my job because I will be doing _________ . My job will allow me to do the following things in my life_______.

You may not find that you can complete the vision statement immediately. You may not even be able to conjure up a vision at all. But whether your vision is immediately clear or still a complete blank, keep working through this exercise every few days. As with everything connected with your career, the clearer you can become the more you will succeed.

Now we can start to look at how to apply your career vision to make your current career more worthwhile.

If You Are Working

The first decision to make is,

  1. a) can you adapt your current job to incorporate activities that you will find more worthwhile, or
  2. b) do you need to look outside your work, or
  3. c) should you consider a change in career?


Adapting your job

Does your company already offer the opportunity for its staff to do voluntary work or to get involved in socially worthwhile projects? If not, can you come up with ideas for a project you could work on, based on your values, which the company could adopt? For example, it could be to offer your company’s services to people who cannot afford them or it could be to help your company play a more active role in the local community, schools or hospitals. Can you make out a case for your bosses to allow you time to develop this project?

Looking outside your work

If you can’t adapt your job, you need to decide whether to do something yourself, in your own time, which you find worthwhile, which adds value to you life and makes the job you do the rest of the time more bearable.

Preferably, you might think about changing job or career altogether, to one which you value more. This could be the most exciting of all options though of course in the current job market you should not give up the job you have before you find something new.

Changing career

A career change is a big step and you should take professional advice when considering it.

If You Are Not Working

Important as it is to have a worthwhile career you may be in a situation in which you need to get a job at all costs. If so this should be your first priority; you can always look for a more worthwhile job once you are working again. But if you feel that it is possible to get a worthwhile job now, then the fact that you have a career vision and know what sort of job is right for you, should allow you to clearly show the right employers that you meet the criteria that they are looking for. Having a career vision should improve your chances of getting a job.