Career Goal Setting in Cyclical Careers

This article is help persuade you to get interested in career goal setting and why you should plan for the future.The ways we live out our working lives is beginning to change. We can now begin to exercise more and more personal control over our career choices. The traditional concept of the career gave the majority of career control to the organisation we worked for.

John Caple, in his book “Careercycles” points out that the traditional career centred on a ‘pyramid’ where we tried to climb the ladder to the top.This is what the traditional map looks like: From

  • Black team contributer
  • Yellow Team Leader
  • Green Department Manager
  • Blue Senior manager
  • Red CEO

    traditional career pyramid

    In this hierarchical model there are really only two directions for movement: up and down. Like the childhood game “I’m the King of the Castle”, only one can stay at the top, and getting there usually involves someone being displaced from the top.
    The traditional career map saw people gaining more and more status and authority the higher they progressed up the ladder. People were quite often awarded promotion because it was the next logical step for them, or because they had simply been in their current position longer than anyone else. The organisation decided who would move up the ladder, and when. Positions were not always advertised so ‘outsiders’ had little chance of securing a position on another ladder. In this scenario it often thought t be a waste of time career goal setting unless you are after promotion.


    Caple, in his book, goes onto explain a second career model that describes the feelings and emotions we experience as we progress through our working lives. This is what the Caple’s circular map looks like:

    career cycle

    More on career goal setting here

    With this map a typical working person might feel some dissatisfaction with the present job after a period of time. They would then explore, do some career goal setting or be given one or more options for alternative work. This alternative work could take the form of a promotion from the existing job, or it could be the opportunity to move into a new field within the organisation.

    On securing the new position they commit to a course of action, to the new career or position and this leads to change. Then comes renewal of the person’s energy and enthusiasm. The excitement of a new environment and responsibilities are stimulating and the person soon finds their place.

    As the months go by, they consolidate skills and abilities, and become very proficient in the work being done. This is followed by recommitment to work, to achieving the job’s goals, and possibly to future job changes.

    When this first cycle has been completed, generally in two to five years, the person may come again to the discontent phase and is then ready for further exploration. The opportunity to change jobs, or to rise up the ladder further start us going around the cycle again. So if you accept this cycle model it is a good idea to do career goal setting on a periodic basis every few years.

    During each stage we may experience particular feelings and emotions:

    Discontent is the start of the cycle, the energy that gets us moving. It may come from within, a feeling of boredom that all is not right, or from without, for example, a change in working conditions.

    Exploration flows on from discontent. It is a pro-active stage involving searching and evaluating. Again, it may be internal eg; self-analysis, or external eg; actively searching for information on a job.

    Commitment develops from exploring career goals setting. Once enough data is gathered, answers found, a decision is made to commit to a direction.

    The Break in the circle represents the change that happens as a result of the commitment eg; a new job or career, and can be within or without the same organisation.Renewal builds from the sense of well-being and rediscovered confidence resulting from the change. It often involves the recognition that we can rearrange our lives.


    Consolidation is the process of coming back to reality and entering the stable stage of the career change. Awareness of both the joys and the problems of the new position emerge.

    Recommitment is the final stage in the sequence, involving knowledge that the process has completed the dedication to or recognition that the full cycle is likely to be repeated. It requires a willingness to keep learning and to venture into uncharted territory again.

    Today, more than ever, the concept of career goal setting is important. Change is constant and we must be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances. For many people this will involve a variety of jobs or careers, and frequently a variety of employers. Each change in your career is likely to take you through this career cycle.



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