A Plan for Choosing a career, in fitness is a huge problem for new health and fitness professionals. Because of the many specialties and subdisciplines linked with the health and fitness industry, the process is less black and white and more multicoloured, which can make decision-making difficult.
The full 5-step plan provided below can be used as a decision-making tool to assist you choose your most desired path while continuing to build your talents and serve your clients. Before we get into the specifics of picking a professional path, let’s agree on one thing: a “career path,” like behaviour change, is not a straight line.
A career path is made up of the many positions or jobs you have held during your life. It is conceivable and common to advance to more advanced or high-level administrative positions, as well as to move laterally into similar positions or occupations at different businesses.
A Personal Look at One Path
I’ll use my own work journey as an example to make this relationship more “real life” and customised.
It began in 2003, shortly after I received my bachelor’s degree in exercise science. In 2004, I received my first NCCA-accredited certification and began personal training (a role I still love today). During that time, I applied to and was accepted to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in kinesiology and health. I worked as a clinical research manager for a National Institutes of Health project while in graduate school.
Following that experience, I obtained a position at an outpatient physical therapy clinic as an exercise physiologist and fitness centre coordinator. I was pulled to teaching and writing while serving others as a result of my employment positions and knowledge advancement. I took a chance and accepted a position as the chair of the health and human performance department and an instructor in higher education. During my nearly ten years in that position, I pursued more certificates and, finally, a doctorate in adult and post-secondary education. Though that degree is not in my “primary science subject,” I pursued it because I enjoy teaching and want to be the best I can be in that capacity.
In the present, I am still a full-time exercise science faculty member (and adjunct for other institutions). However, my interests have broadened, and I now have the opportunity to pursue all I enjoy and feel compelled to do. Teaching, writing, presenting, serving as a subject matter expert and instructional designer in the health and fitness area, giving virtual personal training, health and nutrition coaching, and mentoring future health and exercise professionals are all part of the job.
Doesn’t that seem like a lot? If you’re reading this and feeling overwhelmed by what I’ve said, keep this in mind: I’m about to embark on a career path that will last nearly two decades. And mine, like yours, began with the first step.
A 5-Step Plan for Choosing a Career
Step 1: Self-evaluation
This stage gives an important chance for self-reflection, which is essential for building insight and recognising the values we most need to fill our “occupational wellbeing” bucket.
If you’re just starting out after graduating or completing a certification, it’s typical to look for an entry-level position to begin gaining experience. Depending on where you live, your selections may be plentiful or limited. The goal of this stage of the process is to create a vision for the future, not to “get” your dream job right now. Consider this stage to be the start of your strategic plan.
Step 2: Destination Evaluation
This stage is all about determining which roles, locations, and environments correspond to the “bucket list” criteria determined in step 1. This comes with a reminder that there are no “ideal” employment; ups and downs in any work are a part of the journey, but you must go through them in order to progress.
This is where you can scribble down ideas and positions that you’d like to investigate further. Draw a circle on a piece of paper with the title of your field, degree (e.g., exercise science), career interest, or certification. Then, identify the environments that employ your destination function, conduct research on related wage surveys and Bureau of Labor Statistics statistics, check job boards on agency websites, and gather any other relevant information connected to any questions you have about the “wish list” role.
It’s a good idea to plan your journey in five-year intervals. This allows you to plan for improvement and set incremental targets toward your “dream.”
Step 3: Knowledge Versus Interests
At this point, we must distinguish between knowledge and interests. Knowledge encompasses the concepts, theories, principles, skills, and abilities that you are aware of and possess. Interests, on the other hand, represent your personal and leisure hobbies, as well as other parts of your field about which you may be unaware. During this stage, use bullet points to summarise your knowledge base. If you are a qualified personal trainer, for example, you are familiar with issues such as training and conditioning methods, movement assessment and screening, solid nutritional habits, and safe and effective programme design.
While these are topics you are already familiar with, you might be interested in learning more about prenatal exercise programme design, behaviour modification, or nutrition counselling. Repeat the preceding activity, but this time bullet point your list of interests.
This prepares you to bridge the knowledge gap between what you know and what you wish to know.
Step 4: The Gap
This step entails a thorough analysis of the gap between your expertise and your interests. For example, you may already be familiar with safe and effective programme design, but you want to apply it in a clinical or specialised setting (e.g., with special populations). What you already know about programme design is useful, but it is more applicable to a broad healthy population. As a result, there is a chasm that must be filled.
This stage assists you in identifying areas in which you want or need to learn more, indicating if you need to seek specific education, training, or extra specialist or NCCA-accredited certifications.
As you acquire experience and learn more, your knowledge and interests will expand. Overlap is unavoidable. The goal is to assist you in deciding on your next topic of study. Always keep your clients in mind and ask yourself, “What do I need to learn to enable me serve my clients’ interests at the highest level?”
Furthermore, it might be a good time to start looking for a mentor to help you go forward.
Step 5: Next Steps
The fifth step is to lay out your action plan. The goal here is to answer the question, “How will I get from point A to point B and subsequently to point C?”
By the fifth stage, you will have a firm grasp on what you require to meet your occupational health objectives, what “bucket list” work (or occupations) appeals to you, a clear explanation of what you already know and what you aspire to acquire, and actions to bridge the gap between your knowledge and interests. This implies you’re ready to figure out your next five steps or action items to assist you carve out the professional path that’s right for you.
Set tiny, reasonably doable stages or goals, much as you would with a new customer, rather than attempting to harness all of your desires at once. Building a career requires a significant amount of time and patience, as well as guidance and mistakes. Being deliberate and careful about your job path will help you attain your goals more successfully and joyfully.