Careers Action Plan

For this part of the Employability and Enterprise Award you will need to produce a careers action plan that outlines your career goals and the practical steps you will take to achieve this. Creating an individualised careers action plan will also help you to be proactive in shaping discussions with your tutor, careers advisor and maybe later on with a future employer for work experience or employment purposes.

You can choose the form, shape and layout of your Action Plan. It could be represented in the form of a timeline, table chart, ideas storming, flow-chart, progression map, mind mapping exercise or in written form.

Whilst there is great flexibility in the method you choose, you need to adhere to the following parameters:

  • Make sure it is clear, easy to read and understand.
  • You will have to include the contents below.
  • Wherever possible set SMART targets for each of the contents (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time bound).

What is the task of your Careers action plan assessing?

The task is assessing your ability to manage your career(s) from the beginning to its conclusion.

A brief summary of what your Careers Action Plan should contain:

  1. Current situation – describe where you are in terms of your qualifications, skills, abilities personal attributes, strengths and weaknesses in relation to any career ideas, job sector or perhaps an organisation that you want to work for.
  2. Ideal situation – what are your career goals?
  3. SWOT analysis – assess your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in relation to your career goals.
  4. Steps towards goals – identify specifically what you will do to reach your goals and set some targets with deadlines
  5. Resources – list the resources that you will use to research your career opportunities and to plan your action. The resources can include the prospects website, courses, training, your tutor, careers advisor or anything else that you will engage to enhance your career aspirations.
  6. Reflection – explain how you are thinking and feeling about your career plans and evaluate the plans you have made so far. Ask yourself: “Have I been successful?” If not:” what do I need to change?”

Guideline on what you could include in your careers action plan

1.Current situation

Describe your present career situation the best you can. You could include the factors in your life that may have a bearing on your career development such as:

  • What you are currently studying or the subject you recently graduated in
  • Where you are working
  • What your job role(s) is/ are
  • Whether you have any hobbies or interests that might impact upon your career
  • Where you are based geographically and whether you have transport
  • Whether you have dependents or caring responsibilities that may impact upon your career choice

An explanation of how you are viewing the next stage of your career:

What career transitions you are facing at the moment (e.g. you may be facing the transition from full time study to your first graduate job)

  • The choices and decisions you are making at the moment (or need to make)
  • What your career ideas are
  • How confident you are feeling about these choices, ideas and transitions
  • What you want to achieve by creating this career plan. For instance maybe you want to:
  • Generate a list of realistic career options
  • Gain certainty that you definitely want to work in a particular occupation
  • Work out what you will do to enter a particular career area

(For this part we recommend a minimum of one A4 size and maximum of two)

2.Ideal situation

Describe and explain your ideal career situation. How near or far into the future you visualise is up to you. You may like to comment on:

  • A specific job you'd like to do in the future (e.g. paralegal)
  • The type of work you'd like to do (e.g. legal administration)
  • A client group you'd like to work with (e.g. homeless people)
  • A specific organisation you want to work in
  • The sector or industry you want to work in
  • A particular person you want to work with or for
  • The responsibilities you want to have in your job (e.g. organising events, managing budgets)
  • The skills/ abilities you'll be using in this ideal situation
  • Where you want to live and work geographically
  • The benefits your work provides (e.g. job security, being able to afford luxury items, having time to spend with family, being able to work flexible hours)


  • Write down anything that occurs to you about how you'd like your life to be. At this point do not worry about whether these ideas are realistic: you will research and assess these ideas later in your SWOT analysis.
  • The more specific you can be about your ideal situation, the easier it will be to create your SWOT analysis. If you would like some help visualising your ideal situation, see our suggestions on generating career ideas.

Reflect upon this ideal situation. You could, for example:

  • Explain why you are drawn to this ideal situation.
  • Compare the elements within your ideal situation. Are they contradictory or harmonious? (For example you may decide that you'd like a job with lots of responsibility but no stress). How might you resolve any inconsistencies?
  • Prioritise the elements within your ideal situation so you know what is most important to you.
  • Explain what you think your ideal situation reveals about your values and what motivates you.

More help with your planning 

  • Pebblepad (see eportfolio icon on desktop)
  • Windmills - an online career planning tool

(For this part we recommend a minimum of one A4 size and maximum of two)

3.SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats)

This is a useful way to analyse positive and negative factors that may impact upon your career planning. You are invited to consider your personal strengths and weaknesses and also external factors that may impact upon your career development.

Careers research

Before undertaking a SWOT analysis, ensure you have researched the ideas that you identified in your ideal situation. This will ensure that your ideas are realistic: it is no good, for example, saying that you want to work in a stock exchange in Wolverhampton because there is no stock exchange in Wolverhampton!

It is vital that you have thoroughly researched your ideal situation to make sure it is realistic. Useful careers research resources are listed in our information about investigating careers and our Careers Library Online

You should research:

  • Specific occupations, organisations or industries you want to work in
  • The duties and work activities of someone doing the kind of job(s) you are interested in
  • Entry routes
  • Possible career progression
  • Trends in the type and amount of work available
  • External factors causing these trends such as: Government policy, the economy, customer/ client demand, cultural and societal issues, emerging technology or environmental agendas.

Completing the work related task will enable you to build the skills necessary to conduct careers research, so consider completing this task before moving on to the SWOT analysis.


Identify and explain the strengths you have in relation to your ideal situation. These are mainly within your control and could include:

  • Personal values (e.g. helping others, earning a large amount of money)
  • Skills (e.g. team work, organisational skills or more specific skills such as being able to write funding bids or program in C++)
  • Personal qualities (e.g. determination, patience)
  • Knowledge (gained from studies or experience)
  • The amount and/or type of experience you have
  • Contacts that may provide useful career information or experience
  • Money or time to spend developing employability
  • Experience and/or knowledge of the career area you're interested in

Include a reflection on how you think these strengths will be useful in your ideal situation and in your career planning. For instance you may identify that you find it easy to make new contacts and networking is the main way that people find jobs in the sector you've selected.


Identify and explain any weaknesses that could act as barriers to your ideal situation. These are often things you can change and may include:

  • Lack of skills, knowledge, qualifications or experience
  • A mismatch between your personal qualities or values and those that are important in your chosen career area
  • Lack of contacts
  • Lack of confidence in your own abilities
  • Health issues that impact upon career choice
  • Lack of money or time to spend doing the things necessary to move towards your ideal situation
  • Lack of transport
  • A limited understanding of job opportunities, entry requirements and career pathways in the career area you're interested in

Include a reflection on how you will deal with, and overcome, any of these weaknesses. Practical steps you are going to take to address areas for improvement should be included within the 'steps towards goal' section.


Identify opportunities that your research has highlighted. These may include:

  • Established entry routes into your ideal job or field (e.g. a postgraduate course, a placement).
  • Opportunities that you create yourself to build skills and experience (e.g. setting up a student society, creating your own portfolio).
  • New openings in the labour market (e.g. if the companies you are interested in are diversifying their work activities maybe you could apply for employment in one of their new specialisms).
  • Unique selling points (maybe in the industry you have chosen there is a lack of people with the skills and experience you have and you can use this as an opportunity to stand out from others).
  • Self-employment - maybe you have spotted a gap in the market for a product or service that you could provide through setting up your own business.
  • Career progression once you have successfully entered the job, organisation or sector you have in mind.
  • Include a reflection on how you view these opportunities. You may find the following questions helpful:
  • What has caused these new opportunities? You may like to comment on Government policies, the economy, customer/ client demand, cultural and societal issues, emerging technology or environmental agendas.
  • Which opportunities relate to you most and why?
  • Which opportunities will you take advantage of and why?
  • How might your strengths and weaknesses help or limit you from taking advantage of these opportunities?


Identify threats that your research has highlighted. These may include:

  • Job shortages or recruitment freezes in the area you are interested in
  • Competition from other job seekers
  • Downsizing of organisations you want to work for
  • Lack of opportunities in the geographical area you want to work in
  • Include a reflection to analyse these threats. You may find these questions helpful:
  • What has caused these threats? You may like to comment on Government policies, the economy, customer/ client demand, cultural and societal issues, emerging technology or environmental agendas.
  • How will you deal with these threats? Will you create a contingency plan to fall back on? Will you adapt your 'ideal situation' in light of this information? Will you put greater effort into addressing your areas for improvement?

Explain in your 'steps towards goals' section how you aim to achieve these amended goals.



(For this part we recommend a minimum of two A4 size and maximum of three)

4. Steps towards goals

Your SWOT analysis should have highlighted action you need to take to maximise strengths and opportunities and to deal with weaknesses and threats.

You now need to turn this into a practical plan of action with steps that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound). Here are some tips:

Break your goal down

Break your goal down into smaller steps which are specific. For example: 'I aim to get a place on a teacher training course' is not specific. These steps are more specific:

  1.  Use the 'UCAS Teacher Training' course search to find out where I could train
  2.  Look at course directories to find out their entry requirements
  3.  See a careers adviser for tips on how to complete my application form

Make your steps measurable

Make sure you will be able to measure when each step has been completed. E.g. 'I will develop my confidence' is not measurable, but 'I will volunteer to lead the presentation on the 14th July to build my confidence' is measurable.

Set steps that are realistic

Make sure each step is realistic and achievable. E.g. 'by next week I will get a job in graphic design' is not necessarily achievable because the decision to recruit you lies with another person. If you were to say 'by next week I will submit my CV for at least 3 graphic design jobs' this is achievable.

Set dates

Set yourself a date by which you will complete each step. Also set review dates to check your progress and make changes.

(For this part we recommend a minimum of one A4 size and maximum of two)

5. Resources

List the resources you will use to put together your career plan. There could include career websites such as Prospects or Target Jobs, professional body websites and publications, newspaper articles, company websites or brochures. People are also an excellent resource; talking to careers advisers and people you know who are employed in your chosen career can be enormously helpful in clarifying your plans.

Useful careers research resources are listed in our information about investigating careers and our Careers Library Online.

6. Reflection

Your career ideas and plans develop and change all the time so it is important that your careers action plan is a living document rather than something that you complete once and never look at again.

Set yourself a date for when you will review and modify your careers action plan. When reflecting you may like to comment on:

  • How has your current situation changed? E.g. perhaps the way that you are now viewing the transitions you face has changed.
  • How has your ideal situation changed? Maybe you career ideas have radically changed or you have become more specific about what you want in the future.
  • How are you now seeing your strengths and weaknesses? Are you aware of new strengths or weaknesses that you didn't see previously? Have you successfully overcome any weaknesses?
  • Are you aware of any new opportunities or threats? How far have you got in capitalising upon the opportunities that you have identified? What have you done to minimise any threats?
  • What steps towards your goals have you taken? Are you on schedule? Have any steps been difficult to implement? Why? What will you do differently as a result?
  • How have you found the process of building and implementing a careers action plan? What have you learnt about the way you like to plan? Which techniques have you found useful and which will you use again? Which will you change in the future?

If you are struggling to come up with any concrete career ideas, it may be a good idea to visit the website above and use their Career Planner portal. Alternatively, you can take advantage of our workshops in the careers centre that are designed to help you plan your career.

(For this part we recommend a minimum of one A4 size and maximum of two)