The Career Planning System

Career Plan

In 2018, I found a simple but powerful system to help fulfill our mission here on The Career Guide Project. It is the Five Processes of Career Planning model developed by Dr. Kris Magnusson. These processes are Initiation, Exploration, Decision Making, Preparation, and Implementation. They may sound complex at first but they are actually relatable, straightforward steps. To explain, let’s go over each of them from the perspective of someone looking for guidance regarding his career. I will use myself as an example. (There’s a link to a tool built on this system at the end of this post.)

1. Initiation

Here I have the opportunity to discover myself, questions to ask include:

  • Who am I?
  • What are my interests, characteristics, strengths?
  • Ah, what do I value in life?
  • And what do I want from work, a job, or a career? (By the way, a job is different from a career – a job is some work you do for money often on a temporary or short-term basis; a career is an occupation you sign up for over the long-term. Read an interesting explanation of these terms here.)

The outcomes from this step will help me understand myself and my motivations better.

2. Exploration

I am beginning to have a fair idea of myself and aspirations (what I want from life). It’s time for me to find out information about the work or career options out there. There are three basic ways I can do this:

  1. Talk to professionals in different fields
  2. See if I can get to experience some types of work
  3. Access information tools about various careers

3. Decision Making

Of course, I may not be ready for this until maybe I need to select a course to study at the university or polytechnic or if I’m a graduate who needs to choose a career. For the sake of our flow let us continue.

Here in this stage I then narrow down my career options to my preferred one or ones. My choice(s) here could be temporary as I may discover better options sometime in the near future. The important thing is to make a decision based on the results of my exploration. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume I think I can do well as an astronaut (the first real Nigerian astronaut).

4. Preparation

Now that I know what I want, I need to create a plan to achieve my goal of becoming an astronaut. This plan is to help me determine how to prepare well to achieve my goal. The plan will include:

  • A list of the skills I need to have e.g., mathematical ability, athletic skills
  • The type of education or training I need (school in Nigeria or the US)
  • How to study better, etc.
  • Funds required (money available or can I get a scholarship?)

5. Implementation

In this final process, I begin to act on my plan.

That’s it. All of the resources on this website will align with these career planning processes. I am personally interested in this system and will be working with it in my career progress, too.
I have adapted the model to create My Career Planner, a tool to help you identify and select your career options based on your interests and their real life prospects.

Does a Genius Need to Work Hard?

Hard Work

You probably know a genius, someone who is naturally smarter, quicker, stronger, or more flexible than the rest of us. Do geniuses need to work hard like us? In Hard Work is Not Enough, I wrote that deliberate practice1 or what I call smart hard work is the difference between ordinary and top performers in school or work. Now natural talent does count as an advantage but it still does not guarantee success ultimately.

Does a genius need to work hard, too?

Yes, a genius indeed needs her 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become successful above her peers. Genius, natural talent is only valuable where you put in the effort to refine your talent into growing skills. Recently, I read a research paper2 on the background and work of Magnus Carlsen the reigning world champion in chess in all categories since age 23. Yes, he sure practices like all grandmasters but they do not call him the “Mozart of chess” for nothing. However, this is the same guy who “is a keen sportsman, with a penchant for playing or watching football rather than practicing chess intensively.”

Do you stand a chance competing with them? Here is what I think:

1.Talent is cheaper than table salt.3 No one works for it. It is a gift. Talent is only rewarded up to a certain extent and then the allure fades. There are gifted acrobats, dancers, footballers (some say better than or as good as Messi and Ronaldo in Nigeria) but whatever happened to them? You must add to your talent work, that is, study and practice, and other elements of physical, emotional, and even social efforts.

2. Many geniuses never attain their true potential. These may be due to a lack of exposure or opportunity or just a sense of pride and entitlement. The world may only sympathize with those who fall in the former category but I can relate to the others because, well, I have been there… somewhat. Talent can sometimes be an obstacle, knowing that you have many options can stop you from taking the necessary steps to work. You cannot rely on talent to bring you reward in life for very long. Skills, hard work become more important as you grow older and the world expects more from you.

3. Finally, smart hard work beats mere talent any day. Applaud the geniuses who may outrank you on the medals table or in your profession when you meet them but always remember to work hard in a smart way. You will rank among the best at the least even if someone mercurial outranks you by all points. This reminds me of Neymar’s words:

“For all modesty, today I am the best player in the world — because [Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi] are from another planet.”

My advice to the rest of us:

  • Seek ways to work hard smart. Learn to make this deliberate practice thing work for you.
  • Get a coach or someone who can review your performance and provide critical feedback without fear.
  • Enroll in a system, or school or course or academy to provide you structured learning.
  • If you choose self-study, make sure you can track your progress properly.
  • Participate in contests. Stretch yourself.
  • Be true to yourself. Keep learning. Keep doing.

The miracle of deliberate practice over 10,000 hours only makes sense in hindsight. Do not live your life aiming to clock 10,000 hours of practice in your career. Live instead to do your best daily, learning, practicing, stretching constantly, improving, and doing better than the last time. Leave the business of time recording to the success watchers and historians to determine if you attained your 10,000 hours or not.

Footnotes:

1 Deliberate Practice: https://jamesclear.com/deliberate-practice-theory

2 Checkmate to deliberate practice: the case of Magnus Carlsen: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4132259/?inf_contact_key=3fc32eb2f9294f27b9145945be80238608d4de38d482b48a4672a392e56adf8e

3 Here is one of my favourite quotes from Stephen King. It is heavy with reality and keeps me humble.

4 Neymar Quote: https://www.goal.com/en-ng/news/neymar-im-the-best-in-the-world-as-messi-ronaldo-are-from/w9vv8ko7f16k1sd1cdq0gvl95

Hard Work Is Not Enough

Hard work

You must work hard to excel in your academics or career and rank among the best. But just working hard is not enough, you need to adopt a system that provides you feedback on how you perform per time and helps you continually improve.

Hard work is not enough

Report from a research by the psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and his colleagues1 in the 1990s told us that top performers in their fields became so because they practiced more consistently, and focused on their goal more than others. Malcolm Gladwell popularized this concept in his book Outliers2 where he presented to us the magic of 10,000 hours. Simply put, the top performers in any field from music to sports, the academia to the arts put in at least 10,000 hours of consistent, structured practice to become the best (or rank among the best of the best).

Let’s do a little math: if you work at the same task for five hours every week for 10 years you will total 10,000 hours of work (5 hours x 5 days x 4 weeks x 10 months x 10 years = 10,000 hours of work).

Why do you and I know people who work at the same job for many years or 10,000 hours but never become the best or leaders in their field? Something is definitely missing. The answer? Deliberate Practice.

Deliberate practice means

  • Practicing consistently even when it becomes difficult
  • Practicing with increasing difficulty
  • Practicing with honest, frank feedback
  • Practicing with the goal to improve, develop new skills, improve on existing ones
  • Practicing and learning continually even when you think you know it all

This concerns you whether you are student or a professional. For example, my typing is not as fast or as accurate as I would like even though I have been practicing for years. I could actually get better if I worked with a practice-feedback programme like Mavis Beacon. In like manner, just reading your book from cover to cover as we say in Nigeria is not enough for you to excel or pass an exam. We know efikos always studying who perform less than classmates who spend less time studying. The difference is to have a system to test your understanding of the text from time to time and to advance to more difficult exercises.

Sources of honest feedback

I will tell you some simple ways to get honest feedback about your performance. These include:

  • Your teacher or lecturer at school
  • Your supervisor or manager at work
  • A coach, mentor, or spiritual leader
  • An application or app to track your progress and set you new challenges

Deliberate practice is smart hard work

The results of 10 years of work depends on whether you engage in mere hard work or smart hard work. Smart hard work does not mean less work, it means more work done intelligently with the ultimate goal to improve on your current skills. 

If you want to excel in school or your career, you must be prepared to work hard, adopt a means of honest feedback, and focus on succeeding no matter how much it takes. Are there geniuses who do not need to practice deliberately like the rest of us? I will write about that in another post soon.

References

1 Deliberate practice and acquisition of expert performance: a general overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18778378

2 Outliers: The Story of Success – https://www.amazon.com/Outliers-Story-Success-Malcolm-Gladwell/dp/0316017930

The Artist

Fine Art

The artist is a professional who creates unique work from his imagination. He draws inspiration from many different sources such as his society, the Internet, and his own experiences. Furthermore, she may decide to specialise in a specific medium such as water or oil painting, sculpture, and weaving. Artists also work with other type of media such as textile, drawing, computer graphics design or even photography. 

Personality Traits

An artist may be someone who enjoys being by herself or may be an outgoing person. Artists are marked by their special ability to see beauty in the things many of us ignore or overlook. They are usually introspective people, independent-minded, and often labelled as being eccentric.

Role Models

You will find great role models in famous Nigerian artists such as Yusuf Grillo, Nike Davies-Okundaye, and Bruce OnobrakpeyaHere is a list of some of the most famous artists from Nigeria. But hey, you should pay attention to the new school of brilliant artists in Nigeria, too. I think you will be impressed by the work of Ayobola Kekere-Ekun.

Education & Training

Secondary School: Key subjects are Fine Arts, Literature in English, English Language, Mathematics, Biology (one Science subject), and any other subject.

Higher Education & Professional Training: A diploma or degree in Fine Arts may be useful, but not necessary. Some artists develop their skills through self-training or may decide to sign up as apprentices or students at an art school. It is a wise decision to attend a attend some form of training if you do have the opportunity. See a list of some of the best art and design schools in Nigeria. Going international? Here is a list of the 34 best art schools in the world according to www.format.com.

Career Prospects for The Artist

The career prospects for artists are looking increasingly bright in the twenty-first century. Some artists are self-employed while others prefer to work for organisations such as media or advertising firms or other creative enterprises. Artists and their work are appreciated and richly rewarded in business, movies, marketing and advertising and publishing. The artist’s work plays a vital role in the success of these industries. If art is your thing, you can be sure of getting rewarded for your work in the field(s) you choose to work in.

Resources

Footnotes:

Sports Betting

Sports betting is now the favourite, and sometimes rewarding, past time of many young Nigerians. The real problem with sports betting and all gambling isn’t that you could lose your money, it is that you lose the far more precious resources of your time, energies (physical, intellectual, creative, emotional), and the focus you need to excel at school, craft, or profession. Sports betting may appear to solve our immediate money problems but it robs us of our future and should be shunned.

Thumbs up?

Bet winnings take care of immediate economic needs. Here’s a breakdown of other positives:

  • Money to feed
  • Money to create capital for other investment or business (potentially)
  • Increases commerce in creating more betting businesses
  • More jobs, more employment opportunities for shop attendants and pundits
  • Increased sale and consumption of internet bandwidth
  • More tax, internally generated revenue for government in VAT, income tax, and business tax

Thumbs down

Excellence in any endeavour requires diligence. These are some ways your continual involvement in sports betting could pose a serious problem for you if you aim to excel in your studies or profession:

Betting or gambling competes with your attention at school or work. No one can excel at a task while distracted all day calculating, agitating over the millions he could make from the NGN 100 bet he placed; or worse if he’s reeling from a near-miss from winning NGN 30 billion. Would he be so inspired to work hard the next day at school, office or workshop?

Betting saps your useful energy. You need enormous amounts of intellectual, creative and physical efforts sustained over time to gain mastery in any field. To succeed at school, you must devote yourself to your studies consistently day after day. The ambitious professional must concentrate for hours per time over the years before he graduates from a rookie to a master.

You can become addicted to betting. Furthermore, the allure of betting can go beyond solving actual economic needs to doing it just for the thrill of winning or losing (for some strange reasons), or just for anticipating the results of events you have little control over.

The Right Bet

You may win more money than you ever put in when you bet but that’s the game: you lose whether you win or don’t. What you lose isn’t money. It’s time, and the miraculous resources of emotional and creative energy you would have expended to create real wealth.

We all lose. We lose the benefit of better products and services, the possibilities of better education and technological advancements when our teachers, barbers, engineers, and students are endlessly fascinated by dreams of easy money from sports betting. Sports betting, though it appears to solve our immediate economic needs, robs us of our future and should be shunned. If we must bet, let us bet only on steadfast work and the fruits we’re bound to harvest now and in the future.

I published my first thoughts on this subject here on my personal blog.