Planning Your Career Path in Uncertain Times

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Used to be, in the good old days of four percent unemployment, you could carefully plan your career path. You picked a field, like healthcare, did some summer intern work, got your degree and mapped out a career strategy—worker bee, supervisor, manager, VP, and up the ladder to senior board member or CEO. That was then, this is now.  Today, with out-sourcing, 12 to 18 percent real unemployment, and employers cutting back at every level, you need a new approach.

Don’t Follow a 10-Year Plan

Long-term career planning looks nice on paper, but flexibility and short-term planning are the new keys to survival.  To move up in your career, or even remain gainfully employed, you need to keep your ear to the ground for the right opportunities. In ten years, your employer may be non-existent, merge with another organization, or offer an entirely different array of services. In Just Start: Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future, author, Harvard Business School chair and entrepreneur Len Schlesinger suggests career climbers should throw out traditional forecasting tools and follow his Act. Learn. Build and Act again action plan when facing the unknown, one that stresses short-term steps over long-term career plans.

Follow a Smart Visionary for 10 Years

Smart people with vision tend to outlast many companies. They always seem to land on their feet.  So rather than planning your entire career around a company or two, follow a smart leader with the vision to succeed in these tough times. Do exemplary work for him or her and don’t fret about lack of promotions, small bonuses or working late. If you work hard and make your “mentor” look good, he or she will take you along. Follow success and success will follow.

Carpe Diem

Prepare to seize emerging opportunities in your field. Read the trades in your industry, attend seminars and conferences, know what’s happening before the general working population in your industry does. If you discover that your industry will be moving in a certain direction, map out a short-term plan and arm yourself with the skills and expertise to follow it. For example, in Embracing the Future: New Times, New Opportunities for Health Information Managers, a summary of findings from the HIM Workforce Study, reveals that HIM professionals will need to respond quickly to changes in the healthcare industry, changes that meet the need for real-time health information at the point of care.

To Thine Own Self Be True

Uncertain times cause some people to panic and make career moves that don’t reflect who they are, their real interests, and what they’re capable of. As Clint Eastwood famously noted, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” In Career Planning for Uncertain Times, Career Consultant Judi Lansky suggests you ask yourself if top management is where you talents really lie; do you really love the hospital environment or is there another area of healthcare you prefer; and do you feel more at home in a smaller or larger institution?

Uncertain times call for unconventional, short-term career strategies. Map out a plan that keeps you alert and ready for change.


Image courtesy of pakorn/



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