A career is more than a job. It is consistent participation on a chosen vocation or field of work, such a social work, office administration, law or horticulture, and includes all levels of participation. A career refers to a person’s whole work-related life, and therefore it encompasses both the person’s occupation (perhaps as a landscaper) and the field of work in which they have been primarily involved (such as horticulture). 

Many people simply ‘fall’ into a career by gaining a job in a particular area, then staying in that area because of the experience they have acquired and the familiarity of that kind of work. Other people choose a career on impulse, or because their friend is in that career, or their father or mother was, or a job opportunity arose in that career. This can work very well with some people, and lead to satisfying careers.

However, the pervasiveness of job dissatisfaction, depression and disinterest among employed persons indicates that it might not be wise to let the job market or external influences determine a career. The most consistently effective route to career building is to plan for a career that allows the individual to utilise his or her particular skills, interests and aptitudes, and that they feel good about. A successful career is one that nurtures the person’s self-esteem and sense of worth while providing for their living needs, and corresponds with their values.

Because a career does not just happen but is developed over a period of time, it requires a level of commitment and persistence in one field that go far beyond simple job-seeking. Therefore, the careers counsellor needs first to determine whether the client wants help just looking for a job or wants guidance and support in building a career. Clients who want or are compelled to make a career change may actually look for a new job and are not really interested in developing long-term career goals in a new field. In general, however, both paths are built upon the same principles of identifying goals, deciding on a field or job that will allow the individual to achieve those goals, and determining how to go about getting work in that job or field. These principles are described in the following section of these lesson notes, Elements of Career Building and Job Seeking.

Job-seeking, career-building and career or job change may occur at any time in a person’s working life. People can experience job dissatisfaction and difficulties or unemployment at any stage of their working lives. Also, age and experience do not determine whether an individual needs help just to get a job, or needs careful career planning. Therefore, the life coach must be careful not to make assumptions about a client’s needs because of their age, experience, or profession, and must remember that no one approach to career planning and achievement is appropriate for every job seeker or person seeking to build a career.



The most common job-seeking system is to apply for vacant and/or advertised jobs. Because thousands of other people are using exactly the same system, and are applying for the same advertised jobs, the chances of success may be quite low, depending on the current job market. Even when people find jobs this way, those jobs can offer little promise for the future, and people can end up in jobs that are wrong for them. More likely, job-seekers will become frustrated and disillusioned after many rejections.

The reality of the labour market is that many job seekers are competing for too few desirable positions, which means that even the most determined job seeker might not gain a desirable position and may end up in a job well below his or her capacities, and in which he or she has little interest other than as a source of income.

A more thoughtful and planned approach to job seeking is to plan to establish and build a career. Rather than applying for every job, the career builder focuses his or her attention and energies on field of work, such as horticulture, or animal care, or sales. Focusing on one area   will encourage individuals to work on strengthening their skills and knowledge in that area to develop a sound understanding of what is required and what is happening in that area. Even when a person is looking for and will accept any job to meet their financial needs, having a career plan will increase their awareness of, and responsiveness to any opportunities that will support their long-term goals. In formulating that career plan, both client and careers counsellor should ask three questions:


What (what do I have to offer)?

Where (where do I want to end up)?

How (how do I get there)?


Career planning begins with deciding exactly what a person has to work with. This includes existing abilities, special skills, transferable skills (that can be applied in different areas. See lesson 6), talents, interests, experience and desire to learn. These are the basic blocks of a career, and will allow a person to identify a field of work in which they can thrive and achieve satisfaction. The more the person knows what they want to do, the more energy and enthusiasm they will bring to their job-seeking and career building in that field.

The next step is to find where that person can best use their abilities, develop their interests, and find stimulation and satisfaction. This involves identifying a field of work that calls for or will develop those skills and interests, a location or locations, (country, town, urban or rural etc), and the kind of working environment that person wants. At this stage, the client should be undertaking considerable research into possible careers, and the life coach should be prepared to support the client’s investigations in several ways, such as discussing possible sources of information, planning information-gathering interviews with employers or practitioners in that field, helping clients develop their interview and telephone skills, and helping them analyse the information to reach some conclusions.

During this stage, the individual will accumulate knowledge about career prospects in the chosen field and will develop an understanding of that is and is not realistically possible. The research and analysis of the information in collaboration with the life coach should help the client separate wishful thinking from possibility to formulate clear, realistic and precise goals. With those goals in mind, the individual is able to make better short term choices, such as finding a job right now, or entering a course of study, while working towards larger career objectives.

The third step in career planning is the determine how to get a job in the field that you have chosen. This is where a life coach must be creative in helping clients devise strategies for finding or creating desirable jobs. This is also the stage at which the client’s research into can be turned into action. For instance, the client who has identified key organisations in that field and even key personnel can focus on obtaining an interview, can use the contacts made previously to get an appointment, and can use his/her knowledge of an organisation’s goals and vision to promote him or herself to that employer. Another aspect of this stage could be undertaking study to gain the requirements for work in that field (having previously learned, of course, exactly what course of study is desired by the employer).


To illustrate how these three steps might work, consider the case of a young woman interested in working with animals because she likes and has a ‘way’ with them. At the first stage, she might determine that she doesn’t like study and is thoroughly disgusted at the idea of watching a surgery. She does enjoy petting animals and being around them; she likes making things pretty; and she is a careful, attentive person with a fairly easy-going personality. So she eventually determines that she wants to work in the area of pet grooming. Checking around, she learns that most pet groomers are self-employed in either small salons or with mobile services. This suits her because she likes working in a small, friendly workplace, and she can work in any city, which she prefers. She decides to take a pet grooming course while looking for any job with pets, even at a pet shop, with the long-term goal of setting up her own pet grooming business. She approaches the pet shops, grooming places and vets that she talked to during her earlier research, telling them she is available for any kind of work as she completes her course, and discussing with them how they might use her pet grooming service, thus building and reinforcing her professional network.





Realistic Expectations

It's not difficult to get work; it's just sometimes difficult to get the type of work you want.

Some people have very set ideas about the job they want, others are really undecided. The first step in getting a job is the same for both types. In fact anyone of any age, sex or level of skill needs to take the same first step:

The first step in getting a job is to develop a REALISTIC ATTITUDE! Realistic goals are based on a sound understanding of what constitutes a successful career for that individual, of one’s strengths and weakness and current marketplace trends, and of likely changes to which one must adapt. Because very few people begin in the same job they want to finish in, a career must be realistically seen as something that evolves or develops. You will probably not begin in an ideal position, but with careful planning, you can probably improve your position in your career as time goes by.


  •            Don't expect to start at the top;
  •            Don't expect to like everything about your job at first;
  •            Be prepared to make the best of your situation and maintain a positive attitude;
  •            Be prepared to accept any job in your field at first if you cannot get your ideal job, or any job at all if you cannot get a job in your chosen field. If you are in employment, even though not in your chosen field, you are developing your career further than you would be if unemployed (or not studying).

A Range of Options

There are thousands of options open to anyone looking for a job. The more options you identify and the more carefully you evaluate them according to reasonable criteria, the more likely you are to make good choices.                           


The first thing to remember is that it is always better to be working than not, irrespective of what type of job you are in. For one thing, research shows that it is easier to get a better job while you are employed. Also, people often get good jobs because of work experience which might seem irrelevant at the time, but which proves to be valuable to the prospective employer. . And it’s the employers’ attitude that matters most to a job seeker.


Consider the following scenarios.

1. A young man who graduated with a business diploma 12 months earlier is employed as a manager or supervisor because he spent the previous year mowing lawns, and delivering leaflets to letterboxes for a local supermarket. The boss has judged this young man as having good motivation because he worked at anything he could find while looking for a job. Other applicants for the position had the same diploma, but they sat at home waiting for replies to applications for the ‘right’ jobs.


2. A middle aged woman who has been on unemployment benefits for 6 months has been doing voluntary work at the local hospital and community centre.

She applies for a job as a sales assistant in a shop, along with a lot of other unemployed people. She gets the job because her volunteer work shows the employer that she has strength of character and motivation.


Other options are listed below. Until an individual has weighed each of them, she or he really is limiting the available choices. However, all options should be weighed according to measurable criteria. Examples of criteria might be:

  •            must allow me to pay my fixed and living expenses;
  •            must require no more than ½ hr travel each way (because of family commitments);
  •            must allow me to drop off and pick up my children from school;
  •            must be a respectful, professional environment;
  •            must allow me to develop my computer skills on the job.


Persistence (Staying in the game)

The lesson of the above examples is that it is essential to be seen to be working. If you don't have a job, work anyway, even if you don't get paid!!! By doing this, you will have a far better chance of getting work when a possible job comes along.


Here are just a few ways you can stay in the careers game when you do not have a job:


Do voluntary work for charitable or government organization:

You can approach churches, sporting clubs, recreation or community centres, hospitals, old age homes, schools, local councils, conservation groups, clubs and societies etc. They will not only provide you with new learning and work experiences, they will also help you develop a responsible working attitude and self-confidence. Your contribution will be appreciated, and will often result in excellent references for your resume.


Start a Business

Keep it simple and basic. You don't need to invest money to start a business from home. At first, stick with things you can do without too much fuss or expense, such as washing cars, gardening, cleaning windows, washing dogs, cleaning shoes, labouring, babysitting, sewing, etc.

For example, an unemployed girl wrote a brief note 100 times on pieces of paper and dropped them in letterboxes around her locality. The note read:

WORK WANTED - 18 year old not afraid of hard work!

Washing cars, Sweeping Paths, Cleaning windows, Weeding the garden, Babysitting etc.

I am available any time, any day. Reasonable rates. Phone : 333 333 Jane

Believe it or not, people have done this and it has worked well. To ensure success, offer a price or a service which is better than they are likely to find elsewhere, or offer something different.


Create something and work ‘on speculation’

To work ‘on speculation’ (on spec) is to create a product then try to sell it without going through he processes of research and market analysis to gauge the feasibility of your business. It means to speculate on marketplace interest of your product.

For example, if you have artistic skill, you might create a series of paintings and put them up for sale. If you are good at a craft, make some items and place them in craft shops on a sale or return basis; many craft shops sell goods this way. If you can write, you might start writing a book, or you might write magazine articles and submit them to a publisher "on spec". If accepted, you may get paid, or at least this might open doors for future work opportunities.

You may succeed in a speculative enterprise like this, or you may not. Many other factors such as local economy, need or desire for your product, or fashion can affect the results. However, many successful careers have been built in just this way.  Some examples -   One example is eBay is an online auction site. In 1995, a 28 year old software developer called Pierre Omidyar, was writing some code. He put a broken laser pointer for sale on a test site. It sold for $14.83. He knew that this had potential. He contacted the buyer and was told that he collected broken laser pointers. From that humble beginning, began eBay. IN 1996, Jeffrey Skoll joined the company. By 1998, eBay had gone public and Omidyar and Skoll were billionaires!


Billabong    A famous clothing company in Queensland Australia began in this way almost by accident. A mother designed a label and attached it to simple Tee shirts and shorts for her son. The labels were soon in demand from parents of schoolmates, and the hugely successful Billabong clothing company was born.


Richard Branson (Virgin) How did Richard Branson of Virgin start. Richard was born in Britain. He started off at the age of 16 by publishing a student magazine. Then over the years, he has developed a wide range of successful businesses, such as –

  •          Virgin Atlantic
  •          Virgin Megastores throughout the UK, USA and Australia.
  •          Virgin Books
  •          Virgin Creditcard
  •          Virgin Holidays
  •          Virgin Trains
  •          V2 Music
  •          Virgin Active
  •          Virgin Galactic
  •          Ulusaba
  •          Necker Island



If you cannot find work, or do not feel prepared to seek work, make yourself more employable. Learn new skills, and develop transferable skills. You can enrol in a course and study formally if you have the money for the fees (or can obtain subsidy).

If you don't have the money, you can still embark upon an informal study program either using your local library or setting yourself a project to research. For example, one unemployed person decided to draw and describe all of the plants which grow naturally in her local area. This helped her develop a reputation as a plant expert which then led to eventual job opportunities.

While these choices might not provide job security, they greatly increase the prospects of employment in three ways:

1. They show potential employers that you are motivated

2. They develop knowledge, skills and life experiences which are useful in the workplace, making you more attractive to employers.

3. They put you in touch with people who might connect you with work opportunities.


It is important for careers counsellors to be aware of the pitfalls and advantages of many different careers. If they don’t know a specific course, they need to know where to go to obtain that information. 


Case Study - Careers In Photography

Photography offers a wide range of employment prospects and career paths.

The industry is a dynamic one, but one that is also in the midst of upheaval as people move away from film photography and into digital photography.

Developments in digital technology have had a huge impact on the photographic industry causing many large and well established employers to reduce job numbers. At the same time, new technologies have offered small businesses and freelance photographers an opportunity to compete more strongly than ever before with larger and more established businesses and professionals.

In summary, photography offers lots of opportunity, but it is a rapidly changing industry, and to succeed, you need to stay up to date, and have the capacity to not only adapt quickly to new technology, but also be innovative in the way you apply it and the way you mover your career forward.

Photography is NOT a profession where you can do a course, get a job,

and be set for life.

It is continually changing, and you need to be able to change with it.

Job Opportunities

Freelance Photographers

E.g. Wedding or portrait photographers; Contract Advertising or PR photography

Specialist Photo libraries

Often individual photographers who build up a collection of stock photos, which they sell to publishers, graphic artists, web site developers or anyone else seeking certain types of photos. Some will sell collections of stock photos on CD. Others will supply photos on request, or via a catalogue (printed, or on the internet). E.g. See our school’s service at

House Photographer

Retained on a permanent contract or salary, by a business/organisation or business such as a newspaper or magazine publisher, advertising agency, tourist facility (e.g. Theme park). 

Photographic Manufacturers/Suppliers

Large manufacturers or suppliers of photographic materials or equipment such as Kodak or Agfa.

Photo Retailer

Photo shops employ photographers in sales, for studio photography etc.

 Photo Artist

Some outstanding photographers have succeeded at developing a business selling their work through a gallery (retail outlet), or by developing a line of products such as greeting cards, posters, calendars etc.

Some photography graduates never succeed at achieving their ambitions and others do. Success is not just a matter of doing well in a course. It also requires persistence, an innate artistic ability and a creative free thinking personality.

Most graduates can get work in the industry, if they are prepared to initially (at least) accept any job they can find; but that may mean simply taking photos at restaurants of an evening, or being a part time sales assistant on the photo counter at a chain store.

Progression beyond such humble beginnings is a matter of both luck and ability. A qualification can help, but it is not always necessary.

 If all else fails, a photography graduate can always start their own business; but to succeed in a business will require more than just the ability to take photos.