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Individual Career Plan Definition

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Individual career plans (also referred to as career action and development plans) can be looked at as an outline that helps a person figure out the steps he needs to take in order to achieve his ultimate career goals. The plan contains an organized list of the individual’s work-related experiences, education, preferences and other groundwork to illustrate his career choices and to help develop a career action plan


The National Career Development Association (NCDA) defines the plan as “a written list of the short and long-term goals that employees have pertaining to their current and future jobs, and a planned sequence of formal and informal experiences to assist in achieving their goals.” Individual career plans are intended to help a person reach her full career potential by considering both her strengths and limitations--central components when it comes to identifying the specific job and career route that is the best match. Such factors can detect the overall success and satisfaction a person will have within a specific career.


Individual career plans generate a portrait of sorts and provide individuals with important information concerning future career development and activities. Individual career plans are typically done after a person has completed a number of career aptitude tests, interest inventories, personality tests, work values inventories and skills assessments. These are great resources that can be employed to discover those careers which directly correlate to the individual’s skills, preferences, traits and overall objectives. Self-assessments are also used to help illustrate the specific career and work environments a person is most likely to thrive in.

Helpful Tools

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Careers in Motion Program (CM) involves a number of web-based tools for individual assessment and career planning, which allows individuals to set realistic, achievable goals and to design personalized, customized achievable career goals with measurable steps. Additionally, the Riley Guide is a good source for the above, along with, which utilizes the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) to help gauge how practical a person’s career goals and expectations are (see Resources). The objective of these tools is to help a person form and implement her individual career plan.


Although the exact format of individual career plans may vary according to the person, they all contain the same information. For example, it should begin with the occupation or group of occupations that the person is interested in. Following that is a section devoted to skills/abilities, interests, and areas to work on. The next portion is goal setting and planning. This include your objectives or actions you plan on taking to get to where you want to be. Identify and think about the amount of time and energy that needs to be devoted towards things like education and other activities that bring you towards accomplishing your objectives. See References for links to sample individual career development plans so you can look at the different formats and sections they contain.


Individual career plan models are something you can tailor to suit you best. For instance, you may want to include all of the assessments and use them to detail your progress or success and serve as a motivational guide towards your plan. Under the assessments, you can also record the results of any academic exams or occupational-related tests you’ve taken. The subsequent parts of an individual career plan should include any relevant work-based learning experiences, extracurricular activities and notable awards and accomplishments (this doesn’t have to be limited to academic achievements). Lastly, write down all potential strategies and actions that you’ll take. These strategies or action plans can be divided into specific areas such as personal/ social, academic/vocational, financial and workplace readiness.


Serena Spinello holds two master’s degrees and is pursuing her Ph.D. in medical science. She has been a professional writer and researcher for over 10 years and is an active member of the American Medical Writers Association, Academy of Medical Educators, and the National Association of Social Workers.

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