Designing Your Career Action Plan

Ideas To Help You Make
Your Career Change Happen

Hopefully by the time you reach this page, you will have spent quite a lot of time and thought working out where you are, who you are and what you want. Exploring your career personality will also have given you some new insights.

This will have helped you to work out what the key career ideas are that you want to pursue. You will also have done some research into what is involved in these careers by reading, surfing and talking to people.


Now it is time to start turning your new career ideas into a new career reality. This is the point where you stop thinking and start doing.

So where to begin?

 SMART goalsFirst of all, my top tips on writing a Career Action Plan are:
  • Make sure the items on your action plan follow the SMART goal setting rules.
  • Break it down into small, even very small steps.
  • Set yourself clear deadlines for each step.
  • If you are not sure where to begin, just start anywhere. Choose anything you feel you can tackle to get you moving.
  • Make sure you get support from your Career Change Buddy and ask them to hold you to account with your action points.
  • Write down your action points so you can check them off as you complete them. Make a big wall chart or have them in a notebook you can carry round and refer to often.
  • Keep a ‘Success Journal’ and fill in every day what you have achieved to remind yourself what progress you are making.
  • Reward yourself along the way as you complete the steps (a bar of chocolate, a trip to the cinema, a day out with the kids)
  • Above all, keep going, keep taking steps, however small.

Action Planning Models

Here are a couple of Career Action Plan models you can use to get you moving.


GROW is a great model used by many coaches to help support their clients as they make changes in their lives. It breaks down into four stages.

So take a sheet of paper and divide it into four blocks horizontally, one for each step listed below. Once you have read the notes below, you can start jotting down ideas under each heading.


You have probably heard the saying:

‘If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.’

When you are designing an action plan, it is essential that you define a clear and specific goal for yourself. All the research you have done so far will have helped you be clear about where you want to go.

Make sure your goal is stated in positive terms. Avoid ’I will leave my job’ and aim for something like ‘I will be running my own children’s clothing shop’. A positive and well defined goal means you will know when you have arrived.

Write your goal in the first section of your Career Action Plan.


This is where you check you current situation in relation to the goal you have set. The good news is that, if you have used the career planning tools available elsewhere on this site, you will already have a good idea of your current situation. Make a note of things you have discovered about yourself and the positive steps you have already taken
towards your goal.

Write these in section two of your Career Action Plan.

Obstacles and Options 

Be honest here about some of the obstacles that you think may get in your way. These can be practical things, it could be other people or it could be you and your own attitude or beliefs. It is important to raise your own awareness of obstacles so you don’t get stuck without understanding why.

Then consider the options that are open to you.

This is another occasion for open-minded brainstorming. Work with your Career Change Buddy if need be to keep the ideas flowing. Be creative in finding ways round the apparent barriers. Keep on asking ‘What else could I do?’ Consider who could offer you help and support.

If you are feeling stuck for ideas, stop and think what another person would do in your place – you Mum, your best friend, a famous film character?

Fill up the third box of your Career Action Plan with as many ideas as you can think of.


What will you do? Go through your options and identify the ones you are ready to commit to. Which ones excite you? Which ones feel do-able?
Which ones would be a stretch, but still feel achievable?

  • Write them down in the fourth box on your sheet.
  • Put a completion date alongside.
  • Tell your Career Change Buddy what you have decided and ask them to check up with you once you have reached the completion date.

This GROW process can be run through again and again to help you move onwards towards your overall goal of career change.

Reverse Engineering

Another one of the career coaching resources you could use in creating a Career Action Plan is almost the opposite of the one above. It is called Reverse Engineering.

The secret with ‘reverse engineering’ is that you start at the end. This might seem odd as we know that the end goal can sometimes feel a bit intimidating as it seems so big and far away. But let’s face it, that is where you really want
to be.

So how does this work?
Write down your career change goal eg ‘be starting a new job in a law firm closer to home’, or ‘welcoming my first customers to my books and coffee shop’.

Then you ask yourself a simple question:

‘Could I be doing that within in the next week?’

Chances are that for your new career vision, the answer will be no! Not many career changes are taken in one fell swoop!

So then you ask a second question

‘What would I have to have done first to make that possible?’

Using the book and coffee shop example, you would probably start writing a long list! This is a brainstorming exercise again so just get any and every idea down that you can.

For example, your initial Career Change Action Plan might include – find a suitable location for my shop, learn about running a business, decide exactly who my market will be, advertise the grand opening, invite a celebrity to the opening, choose a company name, design a logo, fit the shop out, source book wholesalers, decide how many staff I will need….. the list goes on!

For each idea you come up with, ask the same questions – ‘Could I be doing that within the next week?’ and if the answer is no, ‘What would I have to do first?’

Eventually this will break your goal down to something so small, so achievable that you really can say

‘Yes, I can do that in the next 5 days!’

So in the example above, the very first step might be ‘talk to my friend Mary about when she worked in a bookshop and see what I can learn about the business.’

There’s your first action step!

Write it down. Put a date alongside to indicate when you will have done it. Tell your Career Change Buddy about your plans, so that they will hold you to your word.

That’s it!

‘A journey of 10,000 miles starts with a single step.

Just define your first step and then do it. Your Career Action Plan is then underway.

If your Career Change Action Plan includes doing some networking, you can read
more about that here.

If your Career Action Plan includes revising your CV or resume, you can read
more about that here.

About the author

Amy Thomas

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