A career action plan lists your professional goals and the steps to achieve them. Your career plan will help you make smart decisions as you prepare for the real world—from activities and clubs to join to internships and jobs for you to pursue.
Here’s how to create your career action plan and how to take advantage of your school's Career Accelerator program or career services center.
1. Start by taking a long look in the mirror
The first step is self-assessment. It’s important to be honest with yourself, but not too critical.
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
What do you enjoy?
What does your employment and internship history look like?
Are your courses and major positioning you for success after graduation?
When you have a good idea of what you value, what you are good at, and where you are academically, you can better understand what you have left to do.
Draft your resume (if you have not already). Seeing your resume experience on paper will help you understand what gaps exist in your experience and education.
Make an appointment with your advisor. Talk to them about the results of your self-assessment activity.
Make sure the courses you are taking are in line with your career goals and that you are not leaving any gaps. Your advisor can also help you craft your resume or CV.
2. Create a list of possible careers
Once you have a good idea of who you are and where you stand, start listing career options that interest you. Start broad and work your way down. Do not worry too much about adding every possible option or adding options that are just ‘maybes.’ There could be some options you were not so sure about that look better after you research them.
Search campus events to learn about upcoming networking opportunities with companies in your field.
Join student clubs and organizations that align with your career interests. Participating in a club is a great way to meet other students and potential employers.
Ask a professional in your desired field to meet for coffee or lunch. Ask about the steps you should take to be successful.
3. Do your research and narrow down your choices
Now you should have a list of career options and some basic information about yourself. Start prioritizing, comparing, and considering factors such as job availability, obsolescence, and other factors. Narrow down your options to a shorter list of potential careers.
Create a LinkedIn profile (if you do not have one already). Keep it up to date with relevant experience, such as internships and volunteering.
Join Slack, Facebook, and other groups that pertain to your career objectives. Follow conversations and gain insight into what the day-to-day looks like.
Attend MeetUps and other career-oriented networking events. These are great places to meet people who do what you want to do and to ask them questions.
4. Set career goals and stick to them
Now that you have an honest self-assessment and a shortlist of potential careers, the next step is to figure out how to get from where you are to where you want to be. The best way to do this is to create career goals.
What steps can you take to achieve your career goals?
How long should it take to achieve your career goals?
Create SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time bound—goals. Write them down on paper. Break your long-term goals down into the smallest steps you can.
Collect all the components of your career development plan—your self-assessment, your career objectives, and your plan for reaching your career goal—meet up with your career advisor again. This time present your action plan and make sure you have not overlooked anything.
Apply for internship opportunities and volunteer positions to gain experience.
More career action plan tips
Do not be afraid to cross options off your list of potential careers. Now is the best time to figure out you do not like a job or a profession.
Be flexible—it’s okay to make changes as you go or even start over.
Keep an eye on your campus job and internship boards and research any other opportunities to learn and gain experience. Tell people and post on social media that you are looking for opportunities. The best way to know you what you want to do with your life is to try out a career first.