A career plan

If you want to have a good career that will last for a long time, you need to have a career plan as soon as you enter college. Developing a professional career will take a lot of efforts and determination because it is easy to get distracted or get changed if things do not happen as you hoped. This is why you need a written career plan to remind you of what your plan for the future is.

Having a written career goals makes them clearer, better and more visible than something vaguely in your mind. Your career plan can help you to define what you need to do, step by step, to achieve your goals. You can then monitor each step to see if you are still on the path toward your goals or not. Without a written career plan, it is easy to skip some steps, either because you have forgotten about them, or do not pay attention enough, or you have changed your direction. In college, there are many distractions and students change their minds all the time. Without a strong determination, career steps are often skipped and eventually students will get lost in short-term events and not achieve their long-term goals. For example, skipping classes will lead to bad grades, and bad grades may delay graduation or lead to failure in college. Writing a career plan is relatively simple but following it is what determines success and failure.

Most students can start their career plan by defining what your career goals are and the target date to achieve them. The goals should be something achievable that students feel as important to them else they will not care about achieving them. They should also be specific and realistic, rather than vague. For example, “To become a software developer after graduation then a project manager within five years after graduation.” is better than “Getting a good job after graduate”.

Once you have set the goals, write down in detail every step that you will need to do to achieve those goals. You must identify all specific tasks such as: Complete the course “Fundamental of Software engineering” by spending 3 hours to study for this course every day; Meet with the study group every Saturday to discuss and review weekly materials; Review my work after every test to learn from mistake that I made so I will not make them again; Request a meeting with school career advisor every three months to discuss career development or additional courses to take to achieve the educational goals. Or if you already working as software developer than you may identify some tasks such as: Determines system operational feasibility by conduct requirements analysis, problem definition, and propose solutions within three weeks after receive the assignment. Create flowcharts, layouts, diagrams, charts, and discuss with team leader to get approval by certain date. Review feedbacks and start the design and prototype by certain date. Prepares to implement solutions based on approved design system specifications, following company standards by certain date. Etc.

For every course you take or everything you do, you must set goal, define tasks to do in detail then organize your tasks in priority and scheduling the time to achieve them. You must know which tasks to do first with a realistic date for the completion and monitor them in your personal career plan. You also need to identify what else that you need to achieve your goals. There might be particular books to read, websites to see, articles to learn or people who could help you either a student or a professor who is willing to mentor you and help you to succeed.

A career plan is not a rigid document but dynamic because it will need reviewing and may change when some circumstances happen. Having a written career plan as a roadmap will help you to make the learning journey easier because you know your destination and all the steps that you must do.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University