Thursday, March 10, 2016

Action Plans for Your Career


Action planning is a process which will help you to focus your ideas and to decide what steps you need to take to achieve particular goals that you may have.
It is a statement on paper of what you want to achieve over a given period of time.
Preparing an action plan is a good way to help you to reach your objectives in life.

An effective action plan should give you a concrete timetable and set of clearly defined steps to help you to reach your objective, rather than aimlessly wondering what to do next. It helps you to focus your ideas and provides you with an answer to the question ‘‘What do I do to achieve my objective?’’.

It’s OK to have several objectives, but you will need to make a separate action plan for each, otherwise things get confusing.

Although here we shall be applying the techniques to careers, it can be used effectively to help you to reach your goals in many aspects of your life, for example: to pass your driving test.

The following are all valid goals for an action plan:

§ To get more involved in an organization or group to get to know more people.

§ To decide what skills I need to improve and how I will improve them.

§ To investigate the different tools available to help me to choose a career, such as computer-aided careers guidance.

When action planning in a careers sense there are likely to be three main areas in which you want to develop action plans. These are:

§ Choosing the career you wish to enter.

§ Working out a strategy to help you enter this career e.g. application and interviews.

§ Developing skills or determining the transferable skills that you need to acquire to allow you to enter the career of your choice and to be successful in it.


There are many different models of action planning, but a good starting point is the one shown below.
As you can see, action planning is a cyclical process, and once you have been through one cycle, you can start again at the beginning. Of course, in real life it’s not quite as simple as this. The process is more organic and stages will sometimes overlap, or you may change your goals as you progress, and you must be prepared to revise your plan as circumstances dictate. In more detail, the stages are as follows:

§ WHERE AM I NOW? This is where you review your achievements and progress, and undertake self-assessment.

§ WHERE DO I WANT TO BE? This is where you decide your goals.

§ HOW DO I GET THERE? This is where you define the strategy you will use to achieve your goals, and to break down your goal into the smaller steps you will need to take to achieve your target.

§ TAKING ACTION. This is the "nitty gritty" where you implement your plan!


The cycle begins again with a redefinition of your goals........

The main steps in preparing an action plan are as follows:

§ Have a clear objective. (‘‘Where do I want to be?’’)

§ Start with what you will do NOW. There is no point in having an action plan that will start in six months time.

§ Define clearly the steps you will take. ("How do I get there?’’) Think of all the possible things you could do to take you closer to achieving your goal, no matter how small. Break down any large steps into smaller components, so it doesn’t seem so difficult to achieve.

§ Arrange the steps in a logical, chronological order and put a date by which you will start each step. Try to set yourself weekly goals: what research you will do into jobs, what skills you will concentrate on learning etc. It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of planning a timetable each evening listing your tasks for the next day or two.
Decide when you will review your progress. Keep a diary or logbook of your daily activities and record in it your progress as things happen.

A good time to start your review is about two weeks after you have begun. Review how far you have got towards your objective, identify any mistakes you made and what you can learn from them, look at any new ideas or opportunities that may have presented themselves and then revise your plan to incorporate these.

To your successful job search and development of your Action Plan.

Fran Watson

P.S.  Need some help getting started?  Drop me a line or post a comment below.

P.P.S.  Check out this article

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Networking...What Is It and How Do I Do It?

What is networking?

The art of networking is part of the proactive approach.  Just to be clear  right from the start , networking is not nepotism (i.e. getting a job because of who you are rather than what you are).

It is the system of identifying those who can give you information and advice to help you increase your knowledge, make good quality decisions and possibly source opportunities.
Remarkably we all have a's not the preserve of the few! Even more remarkably, most people are willing to help if they can.

How can networking help?

It’s much easier to know how an industry or profession works when you’re on the inside. Networking allows you to benefit from an inside view (and often varied experiences) from the outside!

Asking for advice on your CV; finding out who the experts are in your field; identifying any gaps in your skills or experience; knowing how post-grad qualifications are viewed; finding out when and where vacancies are advertised; getting a chance to work shadow; learning what might come up at interview – all of this, and more, is available if you use your network and ask the right people.

Who is in your network?
Friends and family....and friends' families and families' friends (think about it!) 
Are they doing or have they done jobs which interest you? Do they work for organizations which appeal to you? Have they positive/negative points of view to inform your decisions?

Academic staff - not just lecturers -postgraduate students may also be able to offer help and insights.
Personal contacts - from work placements, vacation and term time jobs or voluntary projects.

Professional Associations - are you a student member? Is information on job opportunities sent to you? Do you attend seminars or forums -places where you can meet those working in the field you are interested in?
Local Contacts and Alumni - the Careers Service  has information on professionals living and working locally who have volunteered to provide information and advice to students interested in their area of work.
Take advantage of any alumni events hosted by the Careers Service and your academic department - a great chance to meet people

Constructing your own network 
Start constructing your own network. Write down the people in your life  who may be able to help. Think freely! 

Keep your network up to date , adding and subtracting names as life moves on. And  remember to thank the people  who help you and keep them informed of your progress...maybe you'll be able to return the favour one day.

The above exercise has identified people who may be able to assist your career plans either because they can give you an insight into specific work which interests you, help you obtain relevant work experience - or they know someone who can!

So who are you going to contact first?
Use the telephone to contact friends and acquaintances outside of your area.  You do not need to be formal, but do keep calls brief and ask specific questions.  Do not take up their time by soliciting help in an unstructured way.  Follow these guidelines when calling your friends.
Ø  Explain that you are looking for a new job and would appreciate their advice
Ø  Briefly review your goals, special skills and work experience
Ø  Give your “Thirty-Second Summary,” if your friend is not aware of your work history
Ø  Ask for names of people or organizations that may have openings in your area of expertise or names of people who could give you more information on a specific career you are interested in
Ø  Ask if you can use their name as you contact others
Ø  Be positive and express confidence that something will turn up
Ø  Thank them for their time, mention you will send a resume, and ask if you can call again
To your networking success
Fran Watson

P.S.  Check out this article on Careerealism... Click here

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Job Searching? What do you know about the industry you are looking into?

What do I know already?

Have you ever had a part–time job, volunteered to help an organization or been a member of a club or society inside or outside of university? If so then you will have a useful starting point from which you can reflect on your experience(s) so far.

Think of an organization/company/club/society you have been involved with in a paid or voluntary capacity and ask yourself the following questions.

·         What products or services does this organization provide?

·         Who are these products/services targeted at?

·         How does this range of products, or level of service, compare with that provided by other similar organisations?

·         How is this organization structured?

·         How does this organisation see itself? What is its ethos/culture? (eg industry leader; work hard/ play hard approach; democratic style, family friendly policies.)

·         What are they key issues facing this organisation and other organizations in this sector?

·         How is this organisation affected by external factors (eg the state of the economy and the current political context?)

·         What have you discovered about the career opportunities offered by this organisation?

If you can answer these questions, you already have some business awareness. Finding answers to questions like these helps you to develop your business awareness.

 Assessing your general level of business awareness

Below are some questions to think about which will help you to decide if you need to develop your general business awareness:

·    What is a business?

·    What is the difference between a sole trader, partnership, private limited company, franchise & public limited company?

·    What factors impact on business cash flow? And how can you define profit?

·    What are the main differences between public and private sector organisations?

·    How does a business attract and keep customers?

·    How can a business differentiate itself from its competitors and gain a competitive advantage?

·    How can a business build and maintain its reputation?

·    How can good relationships be maintained with customers, employees and suppliers?

·    How has business responded to globalisation?

·    Why are businesses concerned about their social responsibility image?

·    What impact is the state of the economy likely to have on business decisions?

·    What impact might the political environment have on businesses?
These are just some of the questions to consider when developing a fuller awareness of business. For some there are no definitive answers, but an awareness of the concepts and ideas highlighted by them will be useful to think about.

Consider checking out various company websites to see what the similarities and differences are.

To your job search success.

Fran Watson

P.S.  If you would like help with your resume, cover letter or interview tips, contact me.

P.P.S.  Check out this article from Careerrealism

Friday, March 04, 2016

How Well Do You Communicate?

According to Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D., and Katharine Hansen, Ph.D., Every employer is looking for a specific set of skills from job-seekers that match the skills necessary to perform a particular job.

But beyond these job-specific technical skills, certain skills are nearly universally sought by employers. The good news is that most job-seekers possess these skills to some extent. The better news is that job-seekers with weaknesses in these areas can improve their skills through training, professional development, or obtaining coaching/mentoring from someone who understands these skills.

 So, what are some of these critical employability skills that employers demand of job-seekers?

Communications Skills (listening, verbal, written). By far, the one skill mentioned most often by employers is the ability to listen, write, and speak effectively. Successful communication is critical in business.

Analytical/Research Skills. Deals with your ability to assess a situation, seek multiple perspectives, gather more information if necessary, and identify key issues that need to be addressed.

Interpersonal Abilities. The ability to relate to your co-workers, inspire others to participate, and mitigate conflict with co-workers is essential given the amount of time spent at work each day.

Leadership/Management Skills. While there is some debate about whether leadership is something people are born with, these skills deal with your ability to take charge and manage your co-workers.

Teamwork. Because so many jobs involve working in one or more work-groups, you must have the ability to work with others in a professional manner while attempting to achieve a common goal.

Many of these skills can be developed through participation in a group or club such as Toastmasters.  Find out more by going to to find a club near you, then drop in for a visit.  You may be surprised by what you find. 
Many people have an unrealistic idea of what Toastmasters is all about.  It is not about giving speeches, it is about developing your communication skills - listening, sharing, evaluating and more.  Check it out.  You may find it very helpful in your working life.

To your success in communicating your ideas and strengths to others.



Thursday, March 03, 2016

Developing A Strategy for your Job Search

Developing a Strategy

To keep moving forward you need to have a strategy. You don't  need to have made any  final decisions – you may still be working on several possibilities. You should:

·         Identify and prioritise the strands – be as specific as possible

·         Identify any gaps or discrepancies in your knowledge and experiences

·         Explore what you can do about these

·         Identify a range of possible routes to your goals

·         Investigate ‘stepping stones’ for each route


Your Action Plan

Whatever your goals, whatever stage you are at in the decision making process, you are most likely to make progress if you break down the tasks you have to do into small steps and then identify the actions you need to take for each step. Many action plans fail because the tasks appear too difficult. You may have several goals – but you need to break each down into a list of tasks. Set a timescale for each action – but be realistic – do not expect the impossible.

Firstly identify clear and specific goals – these could vary from ‘find a job as an editor in Publishing’ to ‘explore the training courses for secondary teaching in Scotland’ or even ‘revisit my responses in Prospects Planner to narrow down my options’.

For each goal determine:

·         What actions you will take

·         How you will take action

·         Who or what will help you

·         Why you might not take action

·         When you will take action
To your successful job search

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

What Is Your Perfect Job?

Research and reflect 

Do your characteristics (skills, interests, motivations, temperament etc) fit with the requirements / characteristics of certain jobs? 

Are there some jobs you should avoid? 

The more you learn about jobs from reading, talking to people or hands-on work experience, the more discerning you become in identifying positive connections and negative mis-matches.

Completing the exercise below will help you to focus on job areas which are most likely to interest you. Don't expect to find a perfect match. for most there isn't just one type of work which is suitable  - there may well be several


·         Rather than trying to pinpoint the perfect job, look for themes. 

·         For a few weeks, browse through job advertisements in the press, put a circle round those which appeal to you and mark a cross against those which don't. 

·         Review this regularly to see if any broad patterns emerge. For example, do you automatically favour jobs which involve problem-solving or dealing with people and instantly discard those which require persuasive skills or working in the money markets? 


·         Talk over your ideas with people who are both objective and supportive….family, friends, your careers adviser. This "sounding board" approach may help clarify your career ideas.

Once you have clarified your ideas and looked at your options, it’s time to starting putting some plans in place. Whatever you’ve chosen to do, making it happen takes time. Having a clear plan keeps you on track, allows you to see how much progress you’ve made and avoids wasting unnecessary time.

By helping you break down the possible routes and identify the networking opportunities available , this section enables you to create a personal action plan that will help you achieve your goals. 

Once you have identified your career goals, you need to consider how to achieve them. Often there are a number of routes to your desired goal e.g. via further study, training programmes or "working your way up". If direct entry is not possible you may need to adopt a "stepping stones" approach. 

For example, sales experience could lead to marketing, voluntary work may increase chances of getting onto a post graduate course in social work, secretarial jobs might get you into the publishing field.

Now that you have identified some of the routes into the careers you are interested in, think about which route you would prefer to take. What action does that require? What stepping stones might you use as a back up plan?
To your job search success

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Getting Nowhere in Your Job Search?

Getting Nowhere?

So, you have been working hard at making it happen but it has not yet fallen into place. Don’t worry, it will.

But you may have to stand back and, with the help of a career adviser, take a look at what you have been doing so far to see what changes need to be made.

Are you spreading yourself too thinly?
Are you targeting too few opportunities?
Have you identified vacancies that are appropriate to you in terms of skills, experience and qualifications?
Are you placing too many constraints on yourself as regards salary or location or, indeed, your chosen career?

Are your presentation skills letting you down?
Is your CV
failing to get you to the interview?
Have you done yourself justice in your
Do you underestimate what you have to offer?

Is it a highly competitive field with many chasing few vacancies?
Are there back door routes you need to investigate?
Do you need to add to your profile or just polish up your act?

Becoming business aware
Business awareness is one of the key skills regularly flagged up by employers as being a skill they need, but which they feel too many graduates lack. Are you business aware?

Whatever the reason that you have been unsuccessful so far, there is certainly something you can do about it. Your career adviser  can help you identify any factors that may be preventing you achieving success and can help you focus on a way forward.
To your job search success