Develop a Career Action Plan

A Roadmap to Your Future

Road Map

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A career action plan is a roadmap that will take you from Point A (choosing an occupation) to Point B (getting a job and advancing in your career). Also referred to as an Individualized (or Individual) Career Plan or an Individualized (or Individual) Career Development Plan, it will help you reach your career goals.

Before You Begin

To begin developing a career action plan, first, choose an occupation. That endeavor usually requires a significant amount of effort. To simplify the task, or at least make it more orderly, follow the career planning process. It consists of multiple steps. The fourth and final is to create a career action plan. Steps one through three, in order, consist of:

  1. Self Assessment: During this step, use several self-assessment tools to learn about your values, interests, aptitudes, and personality type. Your goal is to identify a list of suitable careers that match these traits. Ideally, there should be between 10 and 15 occupations on your list.
  2. Career Exploration: Now that you know what occupations are suitable based on your self-assessment, begin to explore the ones that interest you. Don't do an extensive investigation into every single career on your list—only ones that are real possibilities deserve that sort of attention—but at least read a brief decision as not to eliminate any options based on preconceived notions about them. The occupation that appears on the surface as something you wouldn't like could end up being the one that interests you the most once you learn more about it. Dig deeper into the careers that you would consider pursuing. Begin to narrow down your list to approximately three to five occupations.
  3. Make a Match: Armed with information about several careers, begin to make a final decision. Think about the pros and cons of each of your options. Consider job duties, educational requirements, earnings, and job outlook. Not only must you enjoy your work, but it also has to support your lifestyle financially and should have decent job prospects. It is imperative that you be able to fulfill the educational requirements. Choose the career that, based on this data, is the best fit for you.

Setting Your Goals

Now that you have chosen a career, it is time to set goals which will make up the foundation of your career action plan. Include short-term objectives which you can reach in under a year and long-term ones that will take from one to five years to achieve.

A career action plan is different than a simple list of goals. It also includes all the steps you will need to take to reach them. To get started:

  • First, brainstorm to come up with a list of all your goals. Remember this is your list, and no one is judging what you put on it.
  • Categorize them into two categories: short-term goals and long-term goals. Applying to college or a training program, for example, will take under a year and is, therefore, a short-term goal while getting your degree or finishing the program is generally a long-term one.
  • Identify any barriers that could threaten your ability to reach your goals and then figure out if and how you can overcome them. If you can't find viable solutions, you may need to reformulate your goals. If, for instance, you have a learning disability that could impede your ability to earn a degree, find a college that provides students with resources to help them succeed.

Write Your Career Action Plan

Finally, it's time to write your career action plan. Your timeline for achieving your goals should start with your short-term ones and end with your primary objective, which at this point should be getting your first job. Some people find it helpful to begin their plan at the end. That is state the goal that will take the most time first, and work your way backward. There is no hard and fast rule, as long as your plan is easy for you to understand and follow.

List each of your goals and indicate how long, approximately, it will take to achieve it. Then, beneath each one, write a bulleted list of every step reaching that goal will require. Include, as well, the barriers that might get in the way, along with workable solutions for overcoming them.

Your career action plan should be flexible. Don't be afraid to make changes to it as you go. It may be necessary to add some short-term goals along the way. Once you reach your ultimate long-term goal, you may want to add another one, along with more short-term objectives to help you get there.