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Career planning

This is your brief guide to career planning, designed to:

  • explain what career planning involves
  • show you why it’s a good idea
  • introduce the people who can help you
  • give you some practical suggestions to help you develop lifelong career planning skills
  • help you get started.

What is career planning?


A career plan is like a map of your future. Career planning involves:

  • thinking about yourself and your ambitions
  • working out what you want to do
  • finding out how to do it; and
  • doing it!

Career planning is something you’ll do quite often throughout your working life as your circumstances change. Maybe you’re getting ready to move on from your current course, or feel you need a change from the job you’re doing at the moment.


And, of course, when you’re preparing to make the move from school into the world of work, or into a course at college or university, career planning is vital.


Goals and targets


Any kind of planning involves setting goals and targets, career planning is no different.


Goals are the things you really want to do or be. They are your ambitions. Targets are the steps you take towards your goals.


Your career planning targets are the steps you need to take to make your career goal a reality. For example, if you want to study Medicine at Glasgow University, one of your targets will be to apply for a place on the course through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).


Goals and targets matter because they:


  • give you a sense of purpose or direction
  • help you to work harder to get what you want
  • help you to plan how to get what you want.  

But, keep in mind that your career goal, or targets, may change. Your interest in, or feelings about, a particular career or career area might alter.


Or, circumstances might mean that you have to find a different route into your chosen career.


This is perfectly normal. You may have to review your goals and targets many times during your career.


What career planning actually involves


Career planning is a process, which you can break down into four main stages.


  • Knowing yourself – knowing your skills, interests, personal qualities and values, and understanding how these could influence your choice of career.
  • Exploring your options – finding out about the career options open to you, and knowing about the different routes or paths into those careers.
  • Making decisions – learning how to make realistic decisions and deciding on your career goal.
  • Moving on – choosing the career path that’s right for you, making plans to follow it through and being prepared to change your plans if you need to.  

What career planning can do for you


Career planning makes sense because:

  • it involves useful ‘me time’, when you can feel free to have a serious think about yourself and your ambitions
  • it’ll help you to improve your chances of getting into the job or course that suits your interests, skills and preferences
  • and, you then improve your chances of being happy at work – and most people spend more of their time at work than anywhere else!

And if you want to make the most of your opportunities throughout your working life, career planning skills will help you to:

  • move up (in your current career) or move on (to a different job)
  • adapt to changing circumstances
  • develop your career
  • assess risks and make decisions
  • look forward, be prepared to face new challenges.

And, you should always remember that many people change their job or career several times in the course of their working lives.


The people who can help you to plan your career


There are lots of people who will be ready to give you help and support with career planning, if you need it.


Here is a short list of your own band of potential ‘supporters’:


  • your family and friends
  • your key worker or carer
  • your guidance, pupil support or pastoral care teacher
  • your student adviser or course tutor
  • your Skills Development Scotland careers adviser. 

You can get help and advice on career planning from your SDS careers adviser. You can put yourself forward for a careers interview in school by filling in an SDS referral form, or ask your guidance, pupil support or pastoral care teacher about arranging an appointment.


Your careers adviser will help you to draw up a career action plan. The career action plan will set out ways to achieve the career ideas and goals you discussed and agreed with your career adviser at the interview. You usually need to set goals and targets as part of your career plan.


And lastly, a brief guide to getting started


The first stage of career planning is thinking about yourself (Knowing yourself). What sort of person are you? What matters to you? How can you make the most of your strengths and interests? What are your ambitions?


Look back at everything you’ve done so far. Think about:


  • what you have achieved
  • what you enjoy
  • your skills and abilities
  • your personal qualities.  

This will help you to work out:


  • what you are good at – and how to become even better at it
  • what you are not doing so well at – and how you can change this. 

Be realistic about your goals, but don’t be afraid to aim high. You can get help on career ideas from your school careers adviser and your guidance, pupil support or pastoral care teacher. Your parents or carers can also help.


Career and employability sessions in school or college will help you to work through the different stages of career planning. You’ll not only pick up lots of useful information, but also acquire a whole range of skills that will help you in the future.


And, there is a lot you can do to help yourself.


You can:


  • use the careers library or careers resource centre to find information
  • use career databases to help you to work out what you want to do
  • go on work experience
  • go along to college and university open days
  • go along to career exhibitions and job fairs
  • take part in enterprise or employer events
  • talk over your ideas with the people who are closest to you. 

Career planning support on PlanIT Plus


The career information and career planning activities (quizzes, assessments and exercises) on PlanIT Plus are free. You can use them at any time: in school, college or at home. You’ll find them in Career Zone under Career Planning.


PlanIT Plus uses the four stages of career planning (knowing yourself, exploring your options, making decisions and moving on). You can work through the stages step-by-step, moving towards a career choice that will help you to get the most out of your working life.

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