Thursday, 6 December 2012

Writing a Career Action Plan

Writing a Career Action Plan
By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Guide

Developing a career action plan is the fourth step in the career planning process. One arrives at this step after a thorough self assessment and a complete exploration of viable career options which were identified during the self assessment. Next, one must choose from those occupations after examining them carefully and determining which one is the best match. The career planning process is ongoing, and bi-directional, meaning you can move back to previous steps when you need to gather more information or clarify your choices. Once you have identified an occupation to pursue you should develop an action plan.

An action plan can be considered a road map that will get you from point A -- choosing an occupation -- to Point B -- becoming employed in that occupation. It even helps you get past Point B, to Points C through Z, as you grow in that career. It is also referred to as an Individualized (or Individual) Career Plan or an Individualized (or Individual) Career Development Plan.

According to Individualized Career Plan Models - Eric Digest No. 71(ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult Career and Vocational Education), “Personal plans of action -- individualized career development plans -- are becoming important instruments that counselors and others are using to help their students and/or clients (both youth and adults) meet their changinggoals, interests and needs in this fast-paced, rapidly changing society.” Though the ERIC Digest talks about individualized career plans being used by counselors and other professionals, you can develop a plan yourself. Even if you do work with a counselor, you will need to do some of the work yourself. For example, a counselor can't set your goals for you. He or she will just help you clarify your goals and help you find strategies to reach them. In addition, an action plan should be amended over time as your goals change, your priorities change, and your career grows. Let's begin now to take a look at how to develop a career action plan step-by-step.

Here is a worksheet you can use to develop your career action plan. Next are instructions for completing it.
Employment History/Educational Background

This part is straightforward. List any jobs you've had in reverse chronological order -- most recent to least recent. Include the location of the company, your job title, and the dates you worked at that job. When you put together your resume, having organized this information will prove very helpful. That goes for the next part as well -- Education and Training. List the schools you've attended, the dates you've attended them, and the credits, certificates, or degrees you've earned. Also list additional training and any professional licenses you hold. Next, list volunteer or other unpaid experience. You may find that several of these activities are relevant to your occupational goals. By volunteering you may have developed skills that will play an important role in your future career. Again, this information can be used on your resume. It can also be used in job interviews, or when applying to college or graduate school.
Self Assessment Results

If during the career planning process you met with a career development professional who used self assessment tools to help you gather information about yourself, this is where you can write down the results of those assessments. You can then list the occupations that were suggested to you during that phase. You may even want to attach the information you gathered when you explored those occupations in case you want to refer to your notes later on.

Out of all the occupations you explored, at some point in the process you narrowed your choices down to one occupation. That is the one you plan to pursue. You may even have two occupations -- one to pursue in the short term and one to pursue in the long term. They should be related, the second being one that is a step up from the first. For example, you can say you want to first become a nurse's aid, and then after you get some experience you will pursue a career as a registered nurse.

Short Term and Long Term Career Plan/Occupational Goals
You should break your career plan down into goals you can reach in a year or less and goals you want to reach in five years or less. You can use increments of one or two years in this five year plan as well. This breakdown will make your plan easier for you to follow.

There's also a place to include your goals for education and training. Your occupational goals and your educational goals should correspond to one another, since reaching your occupational goals will usually be dependent upon reaching your educational goals.

If your long term occupational goal is to be a lawyer, here's what your short and long term plans might look like:
Year One: Complete my bachelor's degree (12 credits left to go), apply to law school, get accepted to law school (a positive attitude is a good thing)
Year Two through Year Four: Enter law school, study hard and earn good grades, graduate from law school with many job offers
Year Five: Begin working in a law firm

Barriers to Reaching Goals
As you try to reach your goals you may face some barriers. If you want to pursue your goals, you will have to get around these barriers. In this section of your action plan you can list all the obstacles, or barriers, that may get in the way of being able to reach your goals. Then list the ways you can deal with them. For example you may be the primary caregiver for your children or elderly parents. This may interfere with your ability to complete your degree. You can deal with this barrier by enlisting the help of your spouse or another relative. Perhaps you can arrange for child or adult daycare.

You're On Your Way
A well-thought-out career action plan will prove to be a very useful tool. You've gone through the career planning process carefully choosing a suitable occupation. Setting goals and planning what you need to do to realize them will insure that you reach your career destination.


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