If you are in the plan phase of career thinking, you will already have some ideas about your direction.
The next step is to make a plan that will firm up your ideas and provide a pathway towards your graduate career. This will include looking at entry requirements and identifying the types of skills and experience you need to gain in order to progress. Along the way, you will need to make some decisions about the path you want to take.
Whether you are a first year or a final year student, we have everything you need to create a realistic Plan that will get you where you want to go.
Once you have a plan in place, you can use our resources to find and compete for opportunities. Equally, we all know that the best-laid plans can change, so it is never too late to explore new options.
Before you start planning in earnest, it is important to check that the career area(s) you have in mind are a good fit with your personality and skills. Use our Explore resources to help you understand more about yourself and what you want from a career.
Creating a realistic plan
When planning, a good starting point is to find out the possible entry pathways for your career area(s). You will need to research the qualifications, experience, knowledge and skills needed to get there.
To ensure your plan is realistic and achievable, you will need to consider how you measure up to these requirements and identify any that you need to develop.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself:
- Are you ready for employment or further study?
- Do you need to gain some relevant experience?
- Do you need to hone your interpersonal skills, technical skills or other skill areas?
- Do you know how competitive your career area is?
- Do you have any contacts with employers and other relevant organisations in your sector?
The resources on this page will help you investigate ways of gaining the qualifications, experience, knowledge and skills you need.
Gaining experience and skills
Placement years and work experience
Many graduate employers require applicants to demonstrate relevant experience when applying for graduate roles. Undertaking a placement year between Stage 2 and the final year of your studies can be a great way of gaining the experience needed. In addition, you will gain a range of transferable skills that will increase your employability across a range of graduate occupations.
You could also consider shorter periods of work experience. Check out our summer internships, micro Internships or part-time work and volunteering. Don’t forget that extra-curricular activities like clubs and societies are also good ways of developing the skills you need.
There is a whole range of online learning activities that you can access to develop and hone the skills needed for you career area(s).
Improving workplace skills – a suite of 15 minute interactive courses, each covering a specific work place skill
LinkedIn Learning – a library of over 5000 training videos and tutorials
MOOC – thousands of free online courses for covering business skills, technical skills and personal development
Considering further study
Undertaking postgraduate study could give you the competitive edge in a turbulent job market, along with providing you with the opportunity to specialise in your chosen field.
Discover different types of postgraduate study and factors to consider in order for you to decide if postgraduate study is right for you. Also as a finalist from the University of Plymouth, you may be entitled to our alumni 20% discount.
Considering self-employment, working as a freelancer and/or running your own business
Being self-employed can give you more flexibility and allow you the opportunity to think creatively, use your initiative and shape your own future. Find out more including the specific support and funding available at the University depending on your stage of thinking.
If you are considering self-employment, then developing knowledge and contacts within your business sector will be important. Discover more about how to achieve this in the sections below.Find out more about self-employment.
Developing sector knowledge and contacts
A key part of planning is gaining some inside knowledge of the sector(s) you are interested in and making some professional contacts. This will help you to:
- clarify the emerging skill needs within your career area and which ones you should focus on developing
- evaluate the chances of securing graduate employment and the relative merits of different entry routes
- connect with people in working in your career area who may be able to help you.
Employer fairs, events and workshops
Our employer events are a fantastic opportunity to meet employers and discover opportunities, entry routes and the roles / skills employers are looking for. These events include employer presentations and panels, careers fairs, networking sessions and business competitions. For some, meeting employers can feel intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Talk to us so that we can support you to build your confidence and ensure that our events work for you.
Developing your network
Investing some time in establishing contacts within your career sector can be invaluable. As well helping you understand the jobs market, a network of contacts can provide advice and support with your career planning. Furthermore, networking itself is a key workplace skill, with many businesses using networking to convert contacts into clients. It is therefore a useful skill to practice and develop.
- Connect with professionals using LinkedIn – information and advice on how to use LinkedIn to interact with professionals, graduates and others to plan and grow your career.
- Business networking tool – use our online tool discover companies in a specific sector, find people who work at specific companies, or identify people in certain roles.
- Get support from a professional mentor – our mentors come from a variety of career sectors and can provide help with career planning, insights into their sector and building your confidence
Use our industry reports provide information about labour market trends, top companies and useful contacts for a wide range of career sectors.
As you plan, you will be making decisions about your career idea(s). By bringing together an understanding of yourself with an understanding of jobs and entry requirements, you will be able to review the suitability of your idea(s). You can then decide which options are right for you or whether you need to explore a different career area.
There are many ways of making decisions, but some of the questions that people often consider are:
- What are my priorities?
- What are the pros and cons of following this path?
- How much energy will I need to invest for this idea?
- Who can help me?
In some cases, there may be more than one entry pathway for your career. For example, there may be a choice of taking a postgraduate study or a work-based route. Understanding your preferred learning and decision making style can help when making decisions about the best option for you.
Don’t forget that you can get help with your decision-making by booking an individual guidance appointment with one of our professionally qualified Careers Consultants.
Putting your plan into action
An effective plan will consist of some focused actions that will move you closer to your career goal(s). Whether you choose to attend a careers event, undertake a placement year, or investigate postgraduate study, you will need to check that the actions you have planned are the right ones for getting you to your career goal(s).
Use the SMART acronym as a checklist to make sure your plan is good to go:
Specific – do you have a clear idea of your goal(s)?
Measurable – how will you know that you are making progress towards your goal(s)?
Achievable – do you have the necessary skills and resources to attain your goal(s)?
Relevant – is your goal worthwhile and meaningful to you? Is it really what you want?
Time-bound – do you have timescales and for the actions you are taking towards your goal(s)?
Get help with your career plan
Accelerate Your Future Workshops
We run regular bite-sized workshops to help you with your career planning. The following workshop titles are particularly relevant for students in the Plan phase of career thinking:
- Cream or jam first? Making sound decisions for your future
- Considering postgraduate study
- Master LinkedIn
- Networking – how to prepare for a careers fair
Search for upcoming Accelerate Your Future workshops on myCareer.
We have a number of mentoring programmes that provide students with a personal mentor. Our mentors come from a variety of career sectors and can provide help with career planning, insights into their sector and building your confidence.
Talk to an adviser
Our trained advisers can help you think through your plans and prioritise the actions you need to take.
Our helpdesk is open to all careers related enquiries Monday to Friday, which is ideal for quick queries or discussions about how we could support you on your journey. If you are not on campus you can speak to our helpdesk virtually via phone 01752 587456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like some information and advice regarding your future career, you can book a 20-minute advice and application appointment with one of our advisers or a 30-minute guidance appointment with one of our qualified Careers Consultants.
All our appointments are currently delivered either via Zoom or telephone. If you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact us directly on 01752 587456 or email email@example.com.
"Throughout my degree I've built up a vague idea of some career pathways I’m interested in pursuing. The Careers Service has supported me in exploring these based on my personality and skills. Advice and Guidance meetings have helped me to learn about myself and how to progress onto the next steps of my career. I was encouraged to undertake a placement year, which allowed me to identify my passion for conservation biology and marine outreach. If, like me, you have some idea of what career you’d be interested in, I’d recommend checking out MyCareer to participate in placement and recruitment fairs run by the service and consider getting involved in student competitions and awards to gain valuable skills."
– Lorraine, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology