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Class of 2018: Can you really plan your career?

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This piece was written for Class of 2018 Month by Lisa Carr, a Careers Consultant at the University of Leeds Careers Centre.

We are taught from an early age that successful careers are the result of planning. Parents and teachers ask us what we want to be when we grow up. Employers ask us about our 10 year career ambitions in interviews.

Yet in this fast-changing age of the gig economy, portfolio careers, and an increasingly AI-driven and globalised world, how realistic is it for anyone to really plan their career?

Should you even try?

The answer is yes – and no.

The traditional approach to career planning is analyse-and-implement. You work out your motivations and interests (using something like prospects planner), find out which jobs match, and then apply to an advertised vacancy. This approach still works well if you like planning ahead, want to commit to a long term career path and are applying for sectors which recruit well in advance, such as banking, teaching or law.

But not everyone wants to commit to a long-term career path. Often, you don’t know what you like doing until you are actually doing it anyway. In real life, most people’s careers unfold rather than being actively planned.

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Filed under Advice, Class of 2018, Develop your employability, Job Market