If You're Unfulfilled, Unhappy or Dissatisfied In Your Career, Change The Plan That Got You There — Here's What Goes Into Creating An Effective Career Plan

December 4, 2022 by Silviu Cojocaru

Read time: 9 minutes

If you're unfulfilled, unhappy, dissatisfied or simply not where you want to be in your career

… that’s because you created the perfect plan to you get there.

  • “Silviu, but I never had a career plan.”

‘Go with the flow, get another job, have no plan’ – is still a plan.

  • “Silviu, but what’s the point of creating a career plan if plans change every time?”
If it’s a good plan, it will change.

The key is to move away from a rigid to a more flexible approach to planning your career – more on that later.

  • “Silviu, but in the past I was disappointed by not achieving the plans I made.”
That’s because the planning method was ineffective.

And my experience is that most people don’t know what we mean by creating an effective career plan.
So let’s dive into the Implicit Career Search (ICS) planning method – the same method we use with our clients in coaching sessions.

The 6 Modules to develop an effective career plan are:

1. Increase your awareness by taking more charge

“We cannot solve problems at the same level of thinking that we were at when we created those problems.” 

There’s no point in writing a plan from the same level of consciousness you have now.

You will write the same plan you had yesterday. You need to increase your awareness first. You increase your awareness by taking more charge over your life

You're more in charge of the outcomes in your life than you realise

You take more charge by assuming you make all those decisions for a certain reason - a payoff.
The more payoffs you identify the more you increase your awareness.

Writing a plan from a higher level of awareness is the difference between a flexible and rigid approach to career planning.

Rigid approach: “I need to get another job. I can’t get out of my current job because it provides security. I’m stressed and even though I hate my job and my manager, I can’t do anything about it”.

Flexible approach: “I'm in this job that sucks. For now. If my boss is rude that’s not great but that’s more of my boss’ issue than mine. I’m in charge of how I react to him being rude, I'm in charge of how I feel, I’m in charge of my current situation and I have options.”

2. Remove the obstacles you put in the way of having a clear picture of who you are.

My experience is that people don’t have a very accurate perception of who they are.

You’ve bought into certain labels.

But you’re not those labels.

When you or others judge you they judge your labels.

When you judge yourself, you judge your labels.

The most effective career plans are written from the essence of you.

The ‘you’ without the labels.

The more you get rid of those false perceptions about you the more you let the real self - your essence, your core self, whatever you call that part – to come to the surface.

That’s the part of you that you want to write your career plan from.

3. Align your career with your life – by defining who you intend to be and writing your Mission Statement

Before deciding what work you want to do, decide upon the person you will be from this point forward.

If you don't define what kind of person you want to be first, you end up succeeding at work but failing in other aspects of your life: family, relationships, health, fun, etc.

Now that you removed labels and re-connected with the real self, describe who you intend to become – by writing what we call a Mission Statement.

Next, you can focus on work:

4. Decide the current and future purpose of your career plan

Every plan (whether made consciously or unconsciously; whether is written down or not) has a purpose.

The purpose is the reason you have a plan.

The purpose of your career plan can be:

a) based on work conditions:

  • work so I can avoid stress
  • work so I can pay my bills/pay for my holidays and lifestyle
  • work so I can have more time/freedom/flexibility

b) based on a contribution:

  • find work through which I can contribute to improving the society

The purpose of your career plan is the reason you work – we call that Work Purpose.
The good news is that each career plan has:

  • a Primary Work Purpose
  • and a Secondary Work Purpose.
If you make your Primary Work Purpose – a contribution...

You will still get to achieve your Secondary Work Purpose – having the work conditions you want.
The two Work Purposes are not mutually exclusive, but the priority matters.

a) Should your Primary Work Purpose be focused on finding work with the right work conditions – then you’re at the mercy of the economy, company or other people.

There’s nothing wrong with working to have better work conditions, but even if you’re very successful (like the ex CEO of Twitter) – everything can change in one day.

You can be fired, the company can be bought, your favourite manager can leave the team, a new toxic colleague arrives in the team, you're forced to change jobs or location, pandemics, etc.

Since working conditions are influenced by others...

They are in charge of you rather than you being in charge of them.

b) Should the Primary Work Purpose of your career plan involve chipping in to make the world a little bit better – then regardless of what happens in the economy, company or job you will continue to achieve your Work Purpose.

Here’s an example: if my Work Purpose is to contribute - by helping people to learn to plan their careers:

  • my company can go bust, however I can still do that for another coaching company
  • or the economy could collapse and I could still do that by lowering my prices

– no matter what happens, I can continue to achieve my Work Purpose.  

Plus, we found that basing the purpose of your career plan on a contribution is the ultimate fuel that provides:

Fulfilment, motivation and a sense of direction – even in those rough days, and even when you change jobs, companies, industries or careers.

I know clients whose Work Purpose at the beginning of their careers was to get a good salary. So they worked hard and got there...

But then they realised their work environment was more and more toxic, so they changed their Primary Work Purpose to “find work that has good managers and nice colleagues”. So they found a company with nice people.

But then they realised they don't have enough time for themselves, so they changed their Primary Work Purpose to “find work that's more flexible and gives me more time back”. So they found more flexible work.

But then they got bored so they changed their Primary Work Purpose to find work with growth potential. So they did.

But when they got to the end of their careers, they realised…

“Is this all there is? I worked all my life for money, good lifestyle, managers, seniority but all I did was to help organisations damage the society, I don't like the world my kids live in and I could have done something about it.”

“Your antidote to burnout is not necessarily less work. It could be more meaning.” 
-Adam Grant

But when they got to the end of their careers, they realised…

"Is this all there is? I worked all my life for money, good lifestyle, managers, seniority but all I did was to help organisations damage the society, I don't like the world my kids live in and I could have done something about it."

A person with a career plan that has ‘contribution’ as the Primary Work Purpose, still achieves the secondary Work Purpose of their career plan but also are fulfilled because they participated actively in improving the world, rather than complaining about it.

Before developing your plan, decide what you want your primary Work Purpose to be - why do you want to work and should you decide to make contribution as your primary work purpose, decide how you want to chip in to improve the society.

5. Develop that purpose strategically

Your Work Purpose is developed from an idea to a career plan using the Career Development Spectrum – this is a proprietary framework developed by Steve Miller (the creator of the Implicit Career Search approach and partner in the Aha! Moment Academy):

Once you decide on your Primary Work Purpose, use the 5 stages of the Career Development Spectrum:

1. The Craftsperson stage develops the necessary skills. (fun)
2. The Manager stage learns how to make a living with those skills. (discipline)
3. The Leader stage learns how to be of service with the skills. (passion)
4. The Expert stage provides innovative solutions from using the skills. (courage)
5. The Creator stage combines all four of the previous stages to deliver a unique contribution to the world. (bliss)

The names of the stages have nothing to do with becoming a manger, leader, expert, etc.

Since this framework is proprietary and since it takes hours to explain the Career Development Spectrum in full, I won’t elaborate each stage and what goes into it.

But a key insight is this: at each stage you develop a new skill – see words in brackets.

Most people are stuck in the managerial stage because they can’t get enough security (the main attachment for that stage) so all their career plan looks like this (below) – no wonder why they can’t wait for Friday to come sooner:

Instead of creating your plan as a random to-do list, use this framework to develop your Work Purpose into a fulfilling career plan.

And the final stage is... 

6. Planning - bring everything together

Now we’re ready to write the strategic part of the career plan.

We take all those 5 modules and put them on a couple of sheets of paper in a strategic manner, with vision stages, implementation steps and contingency plans– answering the question:

How do I achieve my Work Purpose effectively – now and in the future?

On the way to developing your career plan using this approach – you:

  • stop being dependent on what your boss thinks of you since you removed labels and helpless beliefs
  • improve your self-esteem and self-confidence
  • become more effective when dealing with people
  • learn to set healthy boundaries and avoid working in toxic environments
  • decide what kind of work-life balance works for you
  • get a clearer sense of direction in your career
  • define your skills and strengths
  • get to use your employer and your job to launch into another stage of your career plan (instead of letting them use you)

Here are a few client stories from previous participants in the Aha Moment Academy who applied the same approach.

After creating your career plan, you may:

  • Find a deeper sense of fulfilment in the same job and company
  • Change your job and company
  • Change your field or industry
  • Change your career
  • Start your own businesses

Whatever you do next, it will be based on a rational, sensible and strategic career plan..

To enable you to steer your career in the direction that you want, at the speed that you want.

Everyone needs a career plan.

Some people will create their career plan by themselves, some people will go to a shitty career planner and others will go to a really good

Too Long; Didn't Read (TL;DR).

Career planning isn't a to-do list: revamp CV, apply for jobs, land a job, repeat.

Efficient career planning involves 6 stages:

  1. Increase your awareness
  2. Remove labels
  3. Define yourself
  4. Decide on a Primary Work Purpose
  5. Develop that Primary Work Purpose strategically
  6. Create a fail-proof plan for now and the future – if everything goes well and if everything fails

That’s all I’ve got for you today!

Have a fulfilling week ahead!



See you again next week.

Whenever you're ready, there are three ways we can help you:

1. Work with us 1-1 to help you strategically manage your career here.

2. Work with us as part of a group to find and transition into a meaningful career stage here.

3. Tailor an individual coaching program based on your goals and challenges here.

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