Manage Your Career

Any transition in work life can be very stressful. The information and activities provided in the Job Seekers Guide can help you through this stressful transition. The purpose of the Job Seekers Guide is to provide you with a step-by-step process that can be started at any time in your transition.

Managing your career is a process, and it can be different for each person. The Job Seekers Guide has been separated into five sections that reflect each step in the Manage Your Career wheel. Below are brief descriptions of the five sections that reflect each phase of the career management process.

Step 1: Assess Yourself
How do you know where to go if you don’t know where you are? This step helps you discover and organize all of your skills, interests, and values that are necessary to explore the world of work and present yourself to a potential employer. It is a good idea to do this step every year, even if you have a job, since you may have gained new skills, or your interests and values may have changed.

Step 2: Explore Careers
Learn how to take all of the information you have learned about yourself and explore occupations that fit the person you are today. Find out how to research the educational requirements, tasks, outlook and growth, average salaries, and skills necessary for occupations that interest you.

Step 3: Create a Plan & Set Goals
Now that you have narrowed down the direction you want to go in, setting goals and making a plan will improve your chances of getting there. Setting goals helps you focus on your career path instead of just looking for jobs. People tend to be more successful when they set short- and long-term goals. They think about what they can do now to achieve their goals in the future.

Step 4: Expand Skills
List the skills you need to learn and determine where to get them before you start the job search. Learn about resources for going back to school and options for financial aid.

Step 5: Find a Job
Are you ready? Finding a job involves many components. You are going to need an updated resume, a winning cover letter, and know how to present yourself during interviews. In some situations a portfolio of samples of work may be required. You will also need to know how to use your contacts to tap into that hidden job market. This step will provide you with information and activities to really make you stand out.


The Job Seekers Guide provides an introduction and basic overview of the career management process and is not intended to serve as a replacement for any of the resources or professional services provided by the Career Development Center. For personalized assistance from one of our experienced Career Consultants or to learn more about our programs and services, please visit our website at or call our office at 412.422.5627.

Build a Foundation

Build a Foundation helps you to start managing your career. Your foundation includes personal issues and work issues that affect your ability to do be a good employee. Do you know what employers expect of their staff in the new world of work? For example:

Why should you build a foundation? Employers tend to promote people who are good workers. Building your foundation will benefit you if you want to keep your job, are trying to move up, or are looking for a different job.

Know the basic expectations of career management. You'll be better prepared for job changes.

Is a Job the Same as a Career?

It sometimes seems like the terms "job," "occupation," and "career" mean the same thing. In fact, they have very different meanings.

For this guide we will be using them to mean the following:

  • A job is a specific position, or work for which you get paid. Example: an engineering technician at XYZ Company.
  • An occupation is a type of job with the same characteristics. Example: physicians, teachers, or scientists.
  • A career is a lifelong journey that lasts your whole work life. You build skills, knowledge, and experiences. It includes education, training, work experience, and community involvement. It includes school and work. It also includes unpaid work and hobbies.

Setting goals helps you move from a bunch of jobs to a career. Successful people tend to set short- and long-term goals. They think about what they can do now to achieve their goals in the future.

What’s the difference between an occupation and an industry?
Your occupation is what you do, or a type of job. Your industry is where you do it, or a type of business.

A janitor is an occupation that is found in most industries. Health care is an industry that employs many occupations. You can find doctors, accountants, and janitors in health care.

You need to know the difference between occupations and industries. It will help you know what type of work you want to do, and where you want to work. It will also help you to prepare for that work. Plus, you will be better at your job search.

What is Career Management?

Career management is a lifelong process. It means creating goals for your work and personal life. It also means working towards your goals. Career management is more than just what you do to find a job.

Why should you manage your career?

The job market is not the same as it used to be. Today's economy is global. This impacts what employers want from workers. The types of work and training that you can pick have also changed.

Having career goals helps you decide what to do when the economy changes. The next two pages show what job seekers and employees face today.

How do you manage your career?

Manage Your Career is at the center of the career-planning model. The other steps in this model help you know how to manage your career.

When you manage your career:

  • You learn to flow with the changes that occur in your work.
  • You commit to lifelong learning.
  • Every now and then you think about your skills and interests.
  • You have a “can do” attitude.
  • You take charge of your career.

New World of Work

Are you prepared to be successful in the new world of work? Sometimes people expect that they will get one job and stay there for their entire work life. Or they expect their employers to take care of them. Or, they have trouble dealing with a job loss.

Today's world of work means that you are responsible for your career.

Be prepared. Learn about the ways the work world used to be. And be prepared to be successful with how it is today. Learn about the benefits of goal setting.

The Job Market

How it used to be: How it is today:  
Earn a high school diploma; more school or job training was not required. More jobs call for a degree or training past high school.
Most people rarely needed to use job search skills. Everyone needs to keep his or her job search skills sharp.
Compete for jobs only with local job seekers. Job seekers compete for jobs with people all over the world. Employers can move to another country. More workers can live away from their work. They use a computer to check in with their employer.

Relationship Between Employers and Employees

How it used to be: How it is today:
Employees did not plan to change jobs or companies too often. Employers did not trust those who change jobs every few years. Employees tend to change jobs every few years. Each move brings more skills and opportunities.
Employer = Caretaker. Companies laid off workers only when things were bad. Workers planned to be in one full-time job long term. Layoffs are more common. Workers see employers as customers. Full time employees act as contractors. Part-time positions are more common.
Employees stayed with one employer for a long time to get good benefits. Employers paid benefits based on how long you worked and your wage. Employees take their retirement plans with them when they change jobs. Workers are in charge of their own retirement plans.

Employment Realities

How it used to be: How it is today:
Workers had one career their whole life. They worked for one company long term. Workers have many careers and jobs in their lifetime.
Employees could predict how and when their pay and work duties would increase. Workers create their own career paths within one or many employers. They have more say in their own pay raises or change in duties.
Employees would do exactly the work an employer told them to do — and no more. Job duties change more often or match projects. Employers want workers who think for themselves.
There were many manual labor jobs in the production industries. More jobs are in the service or knowledge industries. Workers need to be creative. They need to provide good customer service. They also need technical skills.
Most people worked full time for one employer. Employees might work full time or part time. They might be short-term or contract workers. They may work for more than one company at once.
Employees who worked hard and were loyal got good pay and job security in return. Employees need to work hard and take charge of their own career goals. They get pay and training from many employers.
Advantages to the New World of Work
You Relate to Others as Equals: There is more of a “team” mindset in the work place. Supervisors’ roles have changed from "parent" to "coach.” You joined the team voluntarily and can leave any time. You can leave when you are ready. You also know that an employer can ask you to leave at any time.
You Find Greater Joy in Work: You can choose work that you find interesting. Since very few jobs offer real security, why not do what you love?
You Keep Growing: To keep growing, you need to expand your skills and add to your knowledge. You need to build relationships with coworkers and others in your field. You must be flexible and able to adapt to changes in your work. You must be able to transfer your skills to different types of work.
You Get to Define Yourself: Telling your story using your skills puts you in charge of your career. You can say, “I am good with my hands and I’ve put my skills to use in the past four years in painting houses.” You have more options than saying “I was a painter.”


Motivate Yourself in the New World of Work

M Manage your own work life: You are in charge of your career.
O Options and opportunity: Be aware of your choices and be ready to act on them.
T Training never ends: Keep updating your skills and learning about your career field.
I International mindset: Value different cultures. Think about the economic and work trends in other countries. Think about how they affect your work.
V Value all work: It shows that you place worth on your time and yourself.
A Achievement: Do the best job possible, set and realize your goals.
T Technology: Know how to use computers. Stay current with new technology.
E Economics: Understand how the economy affects you. It impacts the job market and your career field.

Take Care of Yourself

How serious are you about being successful?

Successful people know the importance of taking care of themselves. This means taking care of your personal life. Get enough exercise and sleep. Eat healthy foods. Belong to a social or spiritual group. Spend time with your family. Set a regular schedule. Get regular checkups.  

Self care means being prepared to work.

  • Do you have transportation ready?
  • Do you have child care arranged?
  • Do you have health care resources?
  • Do you have stable housing?

People new to managing their careers may need help. Don't be afraid to ask for it. Your community may have programs to help. You can ask about health care, child care, or housing programs. Ask at your public library or use the resources below.

Self care means making good choices.
Sometimes you have many options. What kind of job is best for you? Should you go to school? If so, what kind of school? Should you move to find a better job? It is easy to feel overwhelmed.

It may be helpful to write down all of your options. Make a list. Then weigh the pros and cons of each choice. If you have too many good options, you can rank them in order. Someone close to you can help you with this list.

When you need to make a decision, use the Weigh Your Options (pdf).

Online Resources

Manage Your Finances

Do you know how to make good choices with your money? Do you have the skills needed to save or make a budget?

No matter how much – or how little -- money you have, you can keep track of how much money you have coming in. Pay attention to what you are spending it on. Know how much you need to save for the future.

Here are some tips for staying financially healthy while looking for work:

  • Start with a reality check. Think about which of your career choices will pay you enough money. You need to pay for housing, car payments, health care and other bills. Use the Value of Your Dollar (pdf) worksheet.
  • Learn how to manage your credit and debt.
  • Create a Personal Budget . You can plan your spending. Use calculators and online tools. Talk to a financial counselor.
  • Save part of your money for emergencies and long-term goals.

 Online Budgeting Tips & Resources

How to Create a Personal Budget

Make plans for your money that fit your needs today and in the future. If you are not working, make a budget anyway. You can use an occupation that is a good fit for you now. If you need ways to find an occupation, look at Explore Careers.

Make copies of the Personal Budget (pdf). You can create a budget to use now. Then make others that show how much money you might earn and spend in a few years. See how your money plans change when you add or cut expenses. You can also change your income to make a different budget.

Look at your current budget.

If you are married or have children, plan your money together.

  • Do you have enough for savings and the things you need?
  • Can you spend less on the things that are “nice to have” but not needed?
  • Where can you cut costs?

Sometimes people eat out less or buy fewer supplies. Sometimes people learn to live without cable TV or use a cheaper cell phone. If you have long-term goals, think about how to budget for them. See Create a Plan & Set Goals to help you.

Deal with Changes

Changes in your work life can be stressful for anyone. You may be a new job seeker or career changer. You may be facing a lay off. This information can help you with work changes so you will not be as stressed.

Job security is not certain in this New World of Work. You may lose your job through no fault of your own, or with little or no warning. It's a good thing that you do not have to face these changes alone.

Where to find support.
You may have things in your life that you are not sure how to handle. Support services can help you with child care, health care, transportation, and other needs.

Go to the library. Or you can use the Internet, or find a career coach that can help you.

  • Find local, state, or federal social services near you.
  • Connect with family and community services.
  • Join employment programs that fit your unique needs.


More resources to deal with changes

Move Forward

The Move Forward section shows you how to advance your career and keep growing.



Career Management Tips

Think of your career as a lifelong journey. It's important to know that the choices you make now will impact your future. All of your experience including your volunteer work, extra training, and jobs, are steps on your career ladder.

A rewarding career doesn’t just happen. You have to keep working at it. To be successful, use these tips. If things get difficult, stay positive.

Career Management Tips
  • Stay current in your chosen career field. Join and be active in professional and trade associations. Use these groups to see industry trends and to add to your network.
  • Lifelong learning is important. Think about short-term training options. Go to the workshops and trainings that your employer offers.
  • Be aware of how changes in your personal life affect your career and visa versa.
  • Know your personal and work values. Develop a sense of purpose.
  • Look over and update your career and personal goals every few years. Also review your goals when big, life-changing events happen.
  • If you need to, you can revisit the steps of this career plan in any order.
  • You can work on more than one step at the same time.

Do you have a good attitude toward your work?

  • Ask questions and ask for help when you need it. Accept constructive criticism.
  • If you make a mistake, admit it and find out how to fix it.
  • Before you look for a promotion or a new job, learn all that you can in your present job.
  • When you get a performance review, use it to learn how you can do your job better.

Succeed in the Workplace

You've found a good job. Now, how do you live up to your employer's expectations? What can you do to show you deserve a raise or a promotion? Here are some tips to help you keep and succeed in your new job:

Tips to Succeed in the Workplace
Stick to your work schedule
  • Always be on time for work. Have a backup plan for transportation and child care. If you are running late, call your boss as soon as possible.
  • Don't take time off in the first few weeks. Let your new boss know you're dependable.
  • Leave and return from breaks on time. Let your supervisor know when you will be away from your workstation.
Follow the rules at work
  • Know the company rules and policies. Pay attention to all manuals, orientations and safety lessons. If you are not sure of a policy, ask your supervisor or human resources.
  • Follow the proper chain of command if you have a problem at work. Talk to your immediate supervisor first, unless told to do something else.
Dress appropriately
  • When you start a new job, find out what clothing is appropriate and is safe to wear.
  • Come to work clean and well groomed. Do not wear heavy perfumes or colognes. Go easy on the makeup.
  • Look like you take pride in yourself and your job.
Act professionally
  • Don't make personal phone calls or use company equipment for your own tasks.
  • Speak in a way that's appropriate for work. Don't use curse words, slang or speak too casually to customers or your boss.
  • Never use alcohol or illegal drugs at work. You could get fired if caught. It could also keep you from being hired for other jobs.
Get along with others
  • Be a team player and help coworkers with projects.
  • Hang around coworkers who have good attitudes and work hard.
  • Everyone has different views of politics, religion and cultures. Most companies have rules supporting diversity.

Online and Local Resources

These are websites and services to help with your career, training, and job search decisions.

Manage Your Career
Career One-Stop Resources
The Center for Women
Catholic Charities
Jewish Family & Children's Services of Pittsburgh
South Hills Interfaith Ministries
North Hills Community Outreach
United Way of Allegheny County
Department of Human Services, Allegheny County
NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania
Smart About Money
My Money
Career Development Center, Pittsburgh
Advantage Credit Counseling Service
Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation
Assess Yourself
Career Development Center
Skills: Pennsylvania Careerzone
Skills: O*NET
Skills: My Skills My Future
Interests: Pennsylvania Careerzone Interests
Interests: O*NET
Work Values: Pennsylvania Careerzone Work Values
Work Values: O*NET
Explore Careers
Career One-Stop
Pennsylvania Labor Market Information
Carnegie Library Job & Career Education Center
Pittsburgh Business Times
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Pennsylvania Careerzone
My Next Move
O*NET Career Clusters
Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board
Create a Plan & Set Goals
Jibber Jobber
Expand Skills
Career Development Center Online Learning Center
Carnegie Library Job & Career Education Center
PC Training- Carnegie Library
Local One-Stop Career Centers
Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council:GED
Pittsburgh Job Corps Center
Job Trak PA
Community College of Allegheny County
Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania
New Horizons Computer Learning Centers
Quick Train for Jobs
Bidwell Training Center
Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management
Khan Academy
Directory of Apprenticeship Programs
Pennsylvania Department of Education: Adult Basic Education
Distance Education and Training Council
U.S. Military
Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs
Pennsylvania Department of Education: Degrees
Career InfoNet: Certifications
Free Application for Federal Student Aid
Career One-Stop Financial Aid
PHEAA Financial Aid
Career InfoNet: Financial Aid
Scholarship Search
World Education Service
Find a Job
One-Stop Career Center
Career Development Center
PA Career Coach
Professional Groups
Employer Locator
Pittsburgh Employment Services
Pennsylvania Professional Employment Network
Priority Two
The Seekers
Diversity Job Fairs
Coast to Coast Career Fairs
Employment Guide
National Career Fairs
Resumes: Career Development Center
Resumes: Career One-Stop
Resumes: iSeek
Resumes: Career InfoNet
Cover Letters: Career One-Stop
References: iSeek
Interviewing: iSeek
Interviewing: Quint Careers