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Plan your career in relation to your goals

  • Start the activity with Know yourself and work through the stages
  • Each has related links or activities to explore.
Introduction Introduction to career planning. 24 sec

Adele: Hi I'm Adele Merrison and I'm a Careers adviser.

Identifying the right career, course or training route for you is often called the 'career planning process'.

This can be divided into four parts and it's important that you work through all of these so you can research and weigh up the options open to you in an informed, methodical and realistic manner.

Take advantage of Adult Directions, a tool available to OU students to help you identify your work-related interests and skills, combining them to identify suitable careers. It also allows you to choose a suitable occupational level so that your career suggestions are appropriate whatever your level of study. The occupational information in this resource focuses mainly on opportunities in England and Wales. You will need your OU computer username and password to access this tool.

Prospects Planner is another tool to help you match your skills, interests and motivations to generate occupations that will suit you. Registration is free.

Know yourself Video about knowing yourself. 1 min 36 sec

Adele: Start by asking yourself 'Where am I now?' 'Where do I want to get to?' and 'How do I get there?'

To answer these key questions it's helpful to start thinking about yourself... what you enjoy doing...what interests and challenges you...what skills you want to use and can offer an employer.

This can be really difficult to do but it's so important that you know what you're looking for - otherwise how will you know when you've found it?

How else can you make sure you channel your energy in the right direction and are realistic about what you are going for?

There are loads of useful activities a careers adviser can suggest you use, to help you with this … there are work books like the OU's career planning and job hunting pack…computer-based career interest assessments like Adult Directions and Prospects Planner…or self-help exercises your careers adviser can suggest you try.

In my experience, OU students and graduates often have limitations on what they can do. They may be tied to a particular location because of family commitments. They may need to earn a certain amount of money because they've a mortgage to pay. They may be unable to travel too far or to work unsocial hours because they have children to take to school and collect. Sometimes plans need to be adjusted to take these limitations into account - this can mean ruling out some options - difficult to do if you've set your heart on it but you do have to be realistic to achieve your goals.

Take advantage of the Prospects Planner tool to help you match your skills, interests and motivations to generate occupations that will suit you. Registration is free.

Related links

  • About you - Go here to find information and activities for you to work through and develop your self-awareness.

Additional resources

Explore opportunities Video about exploring opportunities. 50 sec

Adele: This is the key to successful career building. In my experience people can often spend a lot of time identifying what skills they want to use and where their interests lie but they don’t put nearly as much effort into researching how they can use them. For example is there a market for them? And are their plans realistic for their particular situation? You have to be sure that someone will pay you to use the skills and interests you’ve identified.

There’s loads of careers information available to tell you about the training and qualifications you’ll need, where vacancies are advertised and lists of contacts such as professional bodies and trade associations that can provide additional advice and information.

Take advantage of the Prospects Planner tool to help you match your skills, interests and motivations to generate occupations that will suit you. Registration is free.

Related links

Additional resources

  • Connexions Direct offers an A–Z of occupations and a searchable database.
  • Prospects offers a comprehensive database of occupations. Their Options information lists jobs related to particular degree subjects. The What do graduates do? section offers a detailed analysis of graduate employment destinations, listed by degree subject.
Decide what to do Video about deciding what to do. 54 sec

Adele: Remember you may need to 'build' a career. You might not get the ideal job straight away and so you'll have to plan how you are going to reach your goal. You may have to be prepared to gain experience at a lower level...or in a voluntary capacity - and possibly in a variety of situations - before actually getting the job you want.

Often the people I advise are looking for their dream job. It's important to recognise that for most of us the perfect job probably doesn't exist. Talk to anyone about their job and you'll find most of them dislike something about what they do. So try to be realistic in your expectations.... don't expect to enjoy your job 100% of the time. Instead look for something that meets most of your preferences...most of the time.

Take advantage of the Prospects Planner tool to help you match your skills, interests and motivations to generate occupations that will suit you. Registration is free.

Related links

Additional resources

  • The Prospects planner uses information on different occupations to help you to evaluate your options.
  • The National Careers Service Action Plan tool can help you to evaluate your options; keep you on track; and get you working towards your career goals.
Take action Video about taking action. 1 min 13 sec

Adele: So often the students I see don't realise the value of work experience. For some careers, such as clinical, educational or forensic psychology, social work and teaching - it's a requirement. For others it's a distinct advantage as it sets you apart from those who haven't done it. Equally importantly, you get the chance to see if working in that setting... with those types of people... in that kind of role - actually suits you. You can also make useful contacts for the future... people prepared to write you a reference... let you know when vacancies arise... help you with applications... maybe even practise interviews.

Finally you need to familiarise yourself with the general and graduate job market. Keep an eye on the local and national press... use job sites... look at the careers websites of your local universities and look at the websites of professional bodies... For more advice on this, or anything else I've mentioned please look at the OU Careers website.

Take advantage of the Prospects Planner tool to help you match your skills, interests and motivations to generate occupations that will suit you. Registration is free.

Related links

Additional resources

Succeed in the workplace

This careers course ‘Succeed in the workplace' on OpenLearn takes you through the foundations of career planning. The course is valuable if you're considering career change, career development or returning to work after a break. It includes lots of practical ideas to reconsider your future and to help you plan your career goals.

Career Planning Diagram

What employers say about career planning

Watch videos about employers' perspectives on career planning.

(Registered students only)