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How to Put Together a Career Plan

Get tips on connecting your experience, people, and story.

Any great undertaking requires careful planning, from writing a book to erecting a skyscraper. Your career, the culmination of years of academic and vocational training, is a major enterprise. Whether you’re exploring career options for the first time, changing careers, or looking to advance in your current field, a career plan makes it achievable.

You can’t plot a course of action before knowing your destination. First, spend significant time reflecting on your own personality, interests, strengths, passions, and values. Ask yourself what drives you and how you want to impact the world around you. Those answers will help you visualize a specific career goal.

Putting Together a Career Plan

With your target in mind, it’s time to develop a plan. The “EPS formula” is a great way to begin, as you consider experience, people, and story—and how to prioritize those on your path to success.

Step 1. Assess Your Experience

Begin by assessing your own experience and qualifications. Consider the prerequisite skills, degrees, and certifications you’ll need to be considered for your desired job. Are you currently marketable? Are there gaps in your relevant skills and work experience? If you come up lacking, search for ways to strengthen your résumé, such as volunteering at a community center or nonprofit.

If you haven’t already acquired the necessary degree, you might begin researching accredited universities that offer that degree program and applying to ones that seem right for you. If you’re already a student, academic advisors will help you plot a course of study and stick to your projected graduation date. Your school’s library research support staff can guide you toward the best career resources.

A wealth of industry information is available online through websites and platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, SmartBrief Jobs, PayScale, and Glassdoor. Make a list of your ideal employers, where those employers are located, and who your ideal colleagues would be.

Step 2. Define Your List of People

Next, develop your network. Professional organization meetings and networking events are great venues for face-to-face interactions with potential mentors and colleagues. Your school’s alumni relations department can also help put you in touch with local graduates in your field. You can hone your leadership and public speaking skills by joining a local chapter of Toastmasters. Further networking opportunities are plentiful online. In addition to popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, students connect through their schools’ web portals. Follow the work of researchers in your field through websites like ResearchGate and COS Pivot. Many universities use online repositories (such as Walden’s ScholarWorks) for faculty- and student-produced research. And LinkedIn is a powerful networking platform where you can also tell your career story.

Step 3. Create Your Career Story

As you work toward your goal, reflect on your progress, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Think about your struggles and successes, the professional experience and relationships you’ve gained. Reassess your purpose and motivations. How is your work making the world a better place? Keep a written journal, describing your journey in detail, and highlight recurring themes. Begin to shape these reflections into stories with a clear structure and purpose: a challenge or problem, the action you took to solve it, the result, and how the story applies to you now. In job interviews and other professional situations, this career story will communicate your unique identity to the world.

Do you need assistance creating a career plan? Your school’s career planning and development can help students and alumni develop workplace skills by providing one-on-one advising as well as career resources like interviewing strategies, live webinars, and online networking events. And, if you find you wish to add a degree program to your career story or résumé, Walden University is a wonderful choice. At Walden, an accredited online university, you can earn your degree online with the flexibility to continue working full time. The flexibility of online learning also helps you to maintain a better work-life balance while you enhance your credentials and further your skills.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a variety of degree programs online at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral level. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.