Effective Career Planning Strategy

One of the most challenging questions asked of students is; "What are you going to do when you leave school?" Many simply have vague ideas of what career they might like to pursue; some have no idea whatsoever and drift into a university course with no clear plan for the future. The result would appear to be large numbers of students leaving university with an irrelevant and very expensive qualification and still with no clear idea of what career path they wish to take.

But career planning is an ongoing process that evolves and changes shape and direction through life and the experiential learning that it brings. It can be broken down into four distinct steps which can be applied whether you are a student, a school leaver, an adult wishing to add to your skill set or an adult seeking to implement a complete career change.

Career planning is a continuous and career long process of; considering your interests, values and skills; exploring what work and learning options are available to you; making sure that your work suits your personal circumstances; and continually fine-tuning your learning plans and work options to enable you to manage changes in your life and work.

Simply consider the step that is most relevant to where you are at this stage in your life and start there:

Step 1: Know yourself

Think about where you are now. Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?

Now you can work on establishing your interests, skills and values by asking yourself these questions and noting down your findings:

  • Where am I now?
  • Where would I like to be?
  • What do I want from a job/career?
  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What am I good at?
  • What's important to me?

You should now have a clearer idea of your work or learning goals and your personal preferences. Now you are in a position to compile a "wish list" against which to compare the information you gather in the next step.

Step 2: Discovery

In this step you are going to consider in greater depth the occupations and learning areas that particularly interest you. Having completed this step you will be in a position to research the specific skills and qualifications that you will need for those roles.

Look at the occupations that interest you and consider how your current skills match up with those roles. Are there any gaps in your knowledge? What would you have to do in order to address those gaps or gain additional qualifications? Is this type of work available to you in your present location or would you have to up-sticks and move?

You should now have a list of your preferred occupations and/or learning options.

Step 3: Decision making

Now it's time to compare your options; narrow down your choices even further and consider what's best at this current time in your life. What are your best work or training options? What fits best with your skills, interests and values? How do they fit with the current jobs market? What about your present situation and domestic responsibilities?

Be careful to weigh up the pros and cons of each option. Is there anything that will help or hinder you and if so, what action would you have to take?

You have now narrowed down your options still further and will have a much clearer idea of what's required to help you achieve your goals.

Step 4: Plan of action

Now you are ready to plan the steps you will need to take to put your plan into motion using everything you have learned about your skills, interests and values together with all the other information you have gathered and noted down.

First of all, ask yourself:

  • What actions will help me achieve my career/learning goals?
  • Where can I get the help and support I will need?

Now you have a clear plan to help your explore your career options further; for example work experience, further research etc; or a plan setting out all the steps you will need to take to reach your next learning or work goal.

Alison Page

About Alison Page

Alison is a freelance writer and author. She is a member of the UK national panel of dressage judges, holds a degree in Equine Science and a Diploma in Business Studies.

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