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What Is a Career Action Plan?

author image Christine Switzer
Christine Switzer has been a freelance writer since 2007. She contributes to travel and regional periodicals such as "Georgetown View" and "Burlington the Beautiful" and she enjoys writing on travel, lifestyle and the workplace. Switzer holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and a Master of Arts in English and has taught university courses in communication, public speaking and journalism.
What Is a Career Action Plan?
People writing down or drawing ideas, possibilities, and strategies on a big piece of paper. Photo Credit Creative-idea/iStock/Getty Images

A career action plan can help you develop a stronger, clearer vision for your professional future. With this plan, you can take practical steps toward seeing that vision become a reality. You do not have to already have a certain level of success to make a career action plan. In fact, this type of career planning can help you with everything from making a career change to discovering what you want to do in the first place.


Career action plans help you identify how you will go about achieving career goals and objectives. Janice M. Guerriero and Robert Glenn Allen in “Key Questions in Career Counseling: Techniques to Deliver Effective Career Counseling Services” explain that career action plans help you evaluate your interests and priorities and then help you focus on the most important aspects of your career. Unlike career objective statements or professional biographies, you do not usually share career action plans with potential employers.


Whether encompassing a few short paragraphs or a few pages, a career action plan will often identify a number of factors connected with the pursuit of your professional goals. Guerriero and Allen say the features of a career action include the following: detailed action steps and a proposed timetable for achieving your career goals; a list of factors in your life that both support and oppose your goals; a list of obstacles that you must overcome; and a list of resources that you can use to achieve these goals.


Career action plans can provide a wide array of benefits for your career. Megan Basham, in the career-oriented guide, “Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman’s Guide to Having It All,” explains that a career action plan can help you outline a clear, comprehensive and organized strategy for either advancing in your current career or changing professions. A career action plan can help you get past the dreaming stage and move you toward a more rewarding career in which you actually pursue your professional goals in more proactive ways.


The most effective career action plans have detailed action steps and specific timelines in which to achieve professional goals. Barry Siskind in “Selling From the Inside Out” explains that “there are two types of setbacks: circumstances beyond our control and self-created circumstances.” He explains that for a career action plan to be effective, you must face the reality of your current circumstances and develop clear steps toward achieving your professional goals as well as outline how you will address the deficiencies and limitations that you face.


Use a professional career guide, such as Richard N. Bolles’ “What Color Is Your Parachute: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers” or Siskind’s “Selling From the Inside Out,” to help you walk through the process of developing a career action plan. Allow yourself the necessary time to develop a clear, comprehensive plan, and then seek outside feedback from two or three trusted professional advisors, such as your current boss or a colleague. Also, enlist the encouragement and support of four or five friends as you seek to implement your plan.

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