Planning Your Career

By Dr. Howard Gauthier

Editor’s Note:  The Coffee House Mentor is a series of 10 topics that discuss all aspects of the job search process.  This blog on career planning is the third article of the series.

As the career mentoring group gathered for this week’s meeting, the group was prepared to have a strong discussion about how to properly and effectively plan their career.  Rob, the mentor and leader of the group, began the session by asking the group members if they knew what their ultimate career goal was, and if they knew how to position themselves to achieve this goal.

Two of the mentees had a pretty clear concept of what they wanted in a career and two were really trying to discover their way in life.  But Rick knew exactly what he wanted.  He wanted to pursue coaching and wanted to coach basketball at the Division I level.  He went on to say “When I was first fired as the head coach at the local high school, I was confused and didn’t know if I still wanted to coach.  However, as I reflected upon my strengths and weaknesses, I knew that my strengths are in teaching and coaching young people.  In fact, I love the game, I love teaching and coaching, and the firing might be the prodding I needed to help me pursue my dreams and passions.”

Rick went on to discuss a formula he uncovered for mapping out his career and a step-by-step process to help guide him as he planned a career toward becoming a basketball coach at the Division I level.  This formula for planning your career includes four steps and several strategies on how you should plan and position yourself for your dream job.  These steps and strategies include:

Step One:  Identifying Your Dream Job.  This includes identifying the following elements,

  • Type of Position (e.g. basketball coach)
  • Industry (e.g. college level)
  • Type of Institution (e.g. Public/Private, 2-year/4-year)
  • Level of Competition (e.g. NCAA Division I)
  • Where You Want to Live (e.g. region of the country)
  • Size of the Community (e.g. urban or rural)

As you continue on in this four-step process, you will want to research which organizations meet the above criteria for your career.  You should list these organizations in a personal notebook.

Step Two:  How To Get There.  As you plan for your dream job, research and identify the type of education, experience, and skills you will need in order to be hired for this position.

Step Three:  Positioning Yourself.  Working backwards, what type of positions will lead to your dream job?  The assumption is that you are just beginning your career and that your dream job is approximately 10-15 years into the future.  This also assumes that it will take approximately four career moves before you reach your dream job.  These assumptions will change depending upon where you currently are in your career.  Therefore, it might only take two moves instead of four.  With this in mind, work backwards from your “dream” situation in step one, and identify what the logical job would be that could lead to your career goal.  This is your “One-Position Removed” job. List this position in your notebook.  Continue on with this format and identify the type of employment that would lead to your one-position removed job.  This is your “Two-Positions Removed” job.  You will also want to list this in your notebook.  Complete this process by identifying your 2-Year Career Goal.  Your 2-year goal should lead to your “Two-Positions Removed” job and is the job you want to secure within the next two years.  List this position in your notebook.

Step Four:  Your Current Situation.  In this step you will list your current position and then identify the strategies you need to employ in order to become hired into your next position within two years.  These strategies can include:

  • Repositioning yourself within the industry
  • Obtaining an entry level Job
  • Staying in your current position and begin a networking plan
  • Volunteer to gain experience
  • Attend Graduate/Undergraduate School
  • Complete an internship (paid or unpaid)
  • Find a mentor who can give you perspective and advice

These four steps gave Rick the necessary process and strategies that allowed him to gain a clear focus into attaining his dream job.  The mentoring group was pleased with Rick’s input and Rob continued on by discussing the process for identifying the people and organizations you should target in your job search campaign.  This will be discussed in next week’s blog.

For more information about the job search process, please contact Howard Gauthier at or go to our website at  Remember, ultimately the job will go to the candidate who is prepared and who effectively executes the basics of the job interview process.  In all you do, you will want to EXECUTE FOR SUCCESS!

Howard Gauthier is an Associate Professor of Athletic Administration at Idaho State University.  He is a former collegiate athletic director and collegiate basketball coach.  He is also an author of 9 books.  Check out his latest book, Getting Hired In College Sports – 2nd Edition at


2 thoughts on “Planning Your Career

    • Martin, quite often trying to identify your dream job is the difficult part. This is where the self-assessment piece of the job search process comes into play. One of the assessment worksheets that is popular amongst our clients is an exercise entitled “The Motivated Strengths and Enjoyable Activities Exercise.” It helps people to recognize the activities that they have truly enjoyed throughout their life. Please let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.


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