How To Develop a Career Action Plan

With the right career action plan, you can find work you enjoy and that pays well.
With the right career action plan, you can find work you enjoy and that pays well. (Image: Ryouchin/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Career planning is a four-step process that involves self-evaluation, researching career options and fitting your skills and interests to the careers you've researched. The final step in the planning process is creation. During this stage, you formulate what is commonly known as a career action plan. Your career action plan is a snapshot of how you'd like to spend your long-term professional career and how you are going to get to your career goals.


Career action plans provide information about the who, what, why, when and where of our professional path -- that is, they answer questions about our work. The basis of creating any career action plan thus is personal inquiry. During the creation of your plan, you should ask yourself questions such as what professional priorities and visions you have, what skills and deficiencies you may have or need to address and what opportunities exist or will exist in the future. You also should ask what pros and cons exist for each career option or stage in your plan.


When you come up with your inquiry set for your career action plan, you should get some feedback from others. This is because the answers you may gather independently will rely on your self-assessment and research. It is difficult to get a completely accurate picture of yourself and your skills, and you may not have all the information you need to construct well-educated answers. Talking to others will show you if you've reached the proper conclusions and give you alternatives you might not have considered.


Career plans that are not easily adjusted are not realistic or practical. For example, your plan may include getting a college degree, but you may lose financial aid. The best career plans accommodate contingencies that could slow you down or pull you in a different direction. The way to find some of these contingencies is to identify the resources necessary for every step of your plan and then ask yourself how and why those resources are unstable or lacking in guarantee.

Volunteering and Networking

In order to get a good job, you usually need some experience. This is a little bit of a Catch-22 because you cannot get experience without a job. To keep from getting trapped in this circle, make networking and volunteering a major part of your career action plan. The more people you have helped and know in areas related to your career, the more likely it is that you will hear about job openings, obtain references and proceed smoothly through your plan.

The "Elevator Statement" Test

If you have created a solid career action plan, you should be able to summarize the plan in just a few short statements. Try creating a default summary of the plan you can recite in 60 seconds or less -- the time it takes to travel a few floors in an elevator. Think of the elevator statement summary like an abstract to a paper or proposal. It has to hit on all the main points of the plan without delving into too much detail. The benefit of doing this is that the elevator statement works exceptionally well as an answer for when new employers ask you the "Where do you see yourself in x years?" and "What career goals do you have?" questions during interviews.

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