Career Planning

Making some time to think about your career plan can pay dividends in your future career!

Put simply, career planning is the process of organising your career ideas to make them achievable.

In order to be effective, a career plan needs to involve a number of steps - it doesn't matter where you start in the process, so long as you consider all the steps along the way.

Simply check out each step below to make a start on your plan:

Making a Start

Options after your course

Unsure about career plans

What jobs would suit me?

Identifying your skills

Planning your actions

Further Information

Making a Start

When you start to make your career plan, there are four key steps to consider, as shown in our handy infographic below!

Taking this step-by-step approach to your career planning will help you whenever you want to evaluate your career goals. You can make a start today by noting down some initial ideas and planning what you can do next.


 Career planning

1. Thinking About Me

Consider what you want out of your career and what you have to offer. Think about your individual skills and talents and what careers line up with them - remember, your skills can be diverse and useable in a variety of fields! Use this section to help identify your skills and figure out what careers might suit you

2. Researching My Options

You need to think about the options that are open to you and understand how and where to research any opportunities that might be available. This could be as simple as looking for jobs online, to networking to identify contacts in your sector. For help with this, visit the Jobs and Work experience section for advice on searching for vacancies.

3. Making Plans

Once you have thought through some possible options, you can make an action plan to help achieve your goals! This can be in any format, so use what suits you best. Start by using our tips on planning your actions

4. Taking Action!

Finally, you can put your plans in to action! Reflect on your particular skills, knowledge and experience and use these to present yourself effectively on your CV and in person during interviews. 

Talking through your ideas and thoughts about career planning can often be really helpful. Our friendly and expert staff here at Purple Door can help you with this, so why not organise an appointment or drop in to have an informal chat?

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Options After Your Course

Scientific Research, Analysis & Support

Once you have finished your course, a useful starting point for career planning is to look at some of the options that are open to graduates from your discipline. The options with your subject section of the Prospects website outlines how you can use your degree. 

You should also be open to exploring job roles or sectors that are not linked to your degree - many employers seek graduates from any discipline.

Employers are interested in the skills and understanding that you have developed during your studies and they value what you have gained and the potential that you offer. Many employers will support you with on the job training and support to gain the specific knowledge for your role.

To gather some ideas about the wide-range of career areas previous students from your degree course have gone into, visit What do graduates do? This will give you a national picture, but if you want to look at the career destinations of University of Portsmouth students specifically, visit What do Portsmouth graduates do? (You need to be logged on to the University of Portsmouth Network to access this information).

You can also use Social Networking sites such as LinkedIn to get in contact with previous graduates of your course. 

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Unsure About Your Career Plans?

Don't worry if you're not sure what career path you want to take - lots of students find it hard to identify what jobs appeal to them.

This can be particularly difficult if you are studying a course that is academic rather than vocational. Follow these key tips to give you some ideas of the actions you can take to clarify your ideas.

Computer Aided Guidance

There are a variety of packages available to help you think about your skills and interests and relate them to job ideas. While not a perfect solution, they can provide a really useful starting point. 

Check out options like Prospects Planner get started on some ideas. 

Try to be positive with your answers and avoid choosing "don't mind" too often. 

Make a note of any questions that you think are very important to you - this will help you idenfity what you want from a career. 

Analyse your job suggestions - which ones interest you and why? Any you wouldn't consider? Why not? 

Other graduates from your degree

Seeing what your peers or those who graduated before you are doing can really help you out. 

The LinkedIn Alumni Tool is really good for this, as is Prospect's "What Can I Do With My Degree"

Job Families

Many jobs that are similar to each other are in clusters or "families" with lots of overlap. This can give you ideas that branch off from your interests into areas you may not have considered. 

Listings like Prospect's Job Profiles and the National Careers Service's Job Profiles are great options for this. 

What don’t you want to do?

Identifying areas that you definitely don't want to work in can help you narrow down the areas that you do!

Try doing a vacancy sift by getting hold of some job listings in a local paper or online, then crossing out everything you would not consider. Do it quickly with not much thought. Then take a look at what you have left - what sort of things do they have in common? What was it that appealed to you?

Don’t just think about job titles

These days there are nearly as many job titles as there are jobs, so don't feel like you have to go for a specific job title. Doing so could exclude a wide range of jobs that all have the criteria for a job that you are after!

For example, as an Accountancy graduate, you could investigate many roles in the Finance sector that do not have "Accountant" in the job title. 

Take it easy

Latest statistics show that most graduates change jobs within three years of graduation. Don't try and identify something you will do until retirement - just try and find something that will hold your interest and allow you to build up experience for a couple of years.

You could even choose to take a year out after you graduate, trying volunteering options or researching your path more clearly. Remember, you can always come and speak to our friendly staff for an informal discussion about your options!

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What jobs would suit me?

It can sometimes be difficult to figure out what you want to do for your career and many people will feel this way at some point in their lives.

In order to find out what kind of jobs would suit you, you should think about the skills you have to offer an employer, what interests you in a job and what would motivate you.

It is not always easy to come up with answers to these sorts of questions; however, a good place to begin is by using online guidance packages that take you through the process - try some of the ones below:


Prospects Planner takes you through a series of questions designed to help you generate ideas, explore your interests and values, identify your skills and find out what motivates you in a job.

It will then match these to graduate-level occupations and help you to research jobs in more detail.

Adult Directions

Adult Directions Online is a career and skill-matching tool to help with career decisions. The programme provides access to skills analysis, careers matching and a facility to produce an action plan. This does require a password to use, but you can come in to Purple Door to get logged in. Alternatively, contact us to set up a username and password.

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Identifying your skills

Knowing what skills you have to offer is an important step in the career planning process.  This awareness will help you identify how well you match the requirements for a particular job role or employer, as well as what skills you still need to develop.

You will also need to be able to outline and demonstrate your skills in any kind of written application and during an interview.

Thinking about the skills you have to offer involves looking at all aspects of your life, including:

your academic studies (modules, projects, group working)

your work history (work experience, work shadowing, paid and unpaid employment and voluntary work)

your social life (membership of teams, societies or activities in your community)

Take a look at the example below:

Career Planning - Identify Skills Infographic

A good way to get started with identifying your skills is to use our Key Skills Audit (PDF). This will help you to compare your skills against those in a job description, giving you a handy reference to consult to see examples of your skills in action. 

Employers will be looking for a broad range of skills; many roles will require specific qualifications, experience and knowledge.  Find out more by visiting our Getting into your Chosen Sector pages.  You will also need to demonstrate that you have transferrable skills and general competencies.  TargetJobs features an article on 'The top 10 skills that'll get you a job when you graduate'; with advice on how to show employers that you have them.

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Planning your actions

Once you have a rough idea in mind, it can be hugely beneficial to produce an action plan.

This will allow you to bring together all the work you have done so far and give you a clear idea of what your next actions should be. 

You should include the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be in the future, a timeframe of when you want to achieve things by, as well as built in times to review your plan. 

Ensure your plan is flexible so you have a contingency to fall back on if and when things go wrong and try to think of your short, medium and long-term goals. 

We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. method to set your goals:


I‌s your goal well-defined? Avoid setting yourself vague or unclear objectives - instead try and be as precise as possible.

Incorrect: I want to do well in my exams.

Correct: I want to increase study time to thirty hours per week.


Be clear on how you can tell when you have achieved your goal. Use details like dates and times to represent clear objectives. 

Incorrect: I want to get fit.

Correct: I want to swim twenty lengths, twice a week for the next three months.


Setting yourself impossible goals will only end in disappointment. Make your goals challenging but realistic. 

Incorrect: I want to give up all junk food, never stay out past 11.00pm and complete four marathons in the next month. 

Correct: I want to improve my fitness by making sure I go to the gym at least once a week.


Make sure you are always keeping your goals relevant to where you want to end up. 

Incorrect: I want to make sure I attend each of my team's home games this season. 

Correct: I want to be fluent in Spanish within the next three years so I can work in Madrid. 


Set yourself a timescale for completing each goal. Even if you need to change this as you progress, this will help you stay motivated. 

Incorrect: I want to look into working abroad over summer.

Correct: I will complete my CV and identify at least four overseas working opportunities by the end of the Easter vacation. 

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Further Advice & Information

Further advice and information

  • Unsure of your Career Plans (pdf)
  • Key Skills Audit (pdf)‌
  • You can also look at the Student Employability profiles (pdf) produced by the Higher Education Academy with the Council for Industry and Higher Education.  Profiles are available for 53 subject disciplines helping you to identify the work-related skills developed through your studies.
  • Prospects website provides a wide-range of profiles that make an ideal starting point to learn more about graduate roles in various sectors, what’s involved, entry requirements and where you can find jobs advertised. 
  • The National Careers Service website provides a broad-range of job role profiles for you to explore.  
  • One-to-one support for your career plans is available at Purple Door to help you set targets and make a plan of action to achieve your goals.
  • Our Disability, Equality and Diversity Guide (pdf) – for students who feel that their personal issues may affect or disadvantage their career planning or job selection process.

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