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Working out a career plan.


This checklist is designed to help those who want to start planning and managing their careers.

The importance of having a career plan cannot be overstressed. A career plan is a useful monitoring tool giving you a realistic picture of your progress.

Working out a career plan will ensure that you spend time understanding and organising yourself, so as to maximise your talents and abilities. Time spent on reflection is never wasted and will help you to identify your unique mix of skills, strengths and limitations and how these may change over time. Reflection leads to clarity, so that when opportunities emerge you are able to make informed choices.

Often, you will find that it is those who are most skilled at managing their careers and finding opportunities who get the best jobs.


Career planning has traditionally been seen as the process of assessing personal strengths, values and aspirations; establishing goals and objectives; and identifying the steps needed to achieve them. Rapid change in the nature of work and organisations, however, has complicated this process. Predictable career paths can no longer be relied upon and greater flexibility may be required.

Action checklist

1. Who am I?

The foundations of any plans for the future are based on your understanding of who you are, what is important to you, and your dreams and hopes for the future. This understanding helps you to begin a process of decision making about the future.

Some simple questions can help you reflect on your career:

1. What has triggered your moves in the past?

2. What are the significant influences on your life, and how have these affected your career?

3. What are your skills?

4. What do you see as your strengths?

5. What are your limitations?

6. What have been your successes and failures?

7. What values underlie your life?

8. What are your current obligations and commitments?

9. Are there talents in you that you feel are underdeveloped?

10. Do you feel in a rut of any kind?

11. Are your answers to the above an accurate reflection of you?

2. What do I want?

Once you have completed a review of where you are you can begin to focus on the future--where you see yourself going. You should not be restricted by the normal constraints of realism at this stage. Ask yourself:

Where do I want to be in the short, medium and long term?

3. No change

At this stage, you may decide that you don't wish to make any changes to your life. It could be that you feel that your current life does not need enhancing, or, after reviewing your obligations and commitments, you may decide that this is not the right time for change and that plans for the future should be deferred for a while. Whatever the reason for opting for no change, it should be a positive and conscious decision, rather than one arrived at from a feeling of having no choice

4. What change options do I have?

If you decide that you want to consider the change possibilities there ae many ways of approaching this. For example you may decide to:

* make a big change in one area

* make a small change in one area

* make several small changes

* plan changes over quite a long period

* make changes as soon as possible.

5. Changing your current position

Within your current job, there may be ways to enhance what you are doing and so increase your job satisfaction. Here is a list of suggestions:

* undertake a new project

* organise a visit to another department

* participate in a job swap

* volunteer for new responsibilities

* look for alternative ways of doing things

* offer to coach new juniors

* negotiate a redefinition of your job to include more stretch

* shadow a colleague

* investigate the options of part-time, job share, or flexible employment.

6. Changing yourself

Changing your situation may necessitate changing yourself by, for example, learning new skills or updating rusty ones; setting yourself more realistic expectations or more ambitious targets; or re-examining attitudes. Here are a few suggestions:

* attend a course or training programme

* undertake an external course of study

* encourage feedback and seek advice from someone you respect

* consult a careers advisor.

7. Changing your job

If you decide to look internally for opportunities within your current organisation, networking will be important. You will need to follow up useful contacts, or establish new ones in career areas you are attracted to. If you want to change your job completely it is worth examining your situation positively when making career plans, and thinking of creative solutions to ensure as close a match as possible between what you want and what is available. Consider whether, for example:

* you can identify gaps in your skills

* you have the time to update old skills or learn new ones

* you can polish up your interview techniques

* your CV may need revising.

There is no guarantee that the right job will become available at the right time or that your application will be successful. Don't limit yourself to thinking about opportunities which offer promotion; it may be time to think about a sideways move to broaden your experience or to increase job satisfaction

8. Updating your plan

As time passes you may find that you overestimated some abilities and underestimated others; or that you have discovered capacities you did not realise you had, or that circumstances have made some skills redundant and others more important. Your career plan will need regular revision--you should go through the review processes outlined here regularly, and at least once every three years.

How not to manage working out a career plan

* Practicality: often people have unrealistic aspirations. Be sure to check your ideas out with other people, colleagues, mentors, family and friends

* Limited range--it is possible to view yourself as only ever working in one type of job, this can narrow career your ambitions dramatically

* Inflexibility: over-detailed planning will leave little or no scope for responding to any changes in circumstances that may occur

* Taking responsibility: neither depend on others to recognise your potential nor devolve responsibility for your career on to your organisation

* Risk taking: guard against taking unnecessary risks--you should be making informed choices

Additional Resources


The 2006 what color is your parachute: a practical manual for job hunters and career changers, Richard Nelson Bolles

Berkeley Calif: Ten Speed Press, 2006

Working identity: unconventional strategies for reinventing your career

Herminia Ibarra

Boston Mass: Harvard Business School Press, 2003

It's your career: take control, Catherine B Beck

Palo Alto Calif: Davies Black, 2004

Take control of your career, John Lees

Maidenhead: McGraw Hill, 2006

Capitalizing on career chaos: bringing creativity and purpose to your work and life, Helen Harkness

Mountain View Calif: Davies Black, 2005

This is a selection of books available for loan to members from the Management Information Centre. More information at:

Related checklists

How to succeed at interviews (033) How to write your CV (055)


The Chartered Management Institute, Management House, Cottingham Road

Corby, Northants NN17 1TT

Tel: 01536 207400

The Institute has developed a web-based career development service for members which contains tools and techniques to help you plan your career. The site is designed to support members at every stage of their career, from starting out to gaining promotions, taking a career break or changing career and planning for retirement:

If you need more detailed, one-to- one career guidance, contact the Management Information Centre (MIC) for information about the Institute's commercial career guidance partners, who can provide members with further help, at reduced rates.
COPYRIGHT 2006 Chartered Management Institute
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Checklist 061
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Writing your CV.
Next Article:Preparing to be appraised.

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