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Strategic Career Planning

Strategic Career Planning is a structured process by which you:

  • clearly identify what is required to secure the job that you want (rather than relying on rumours or preconceptions),
  • assess your current situation (which areas you are strong or competent in, and which you cannot currently meet),
  • identify potential next steps to make you a credible candidate and,
  • commit to taking concrete action within a given timeframe.

GROW model

A useful way to think about this process may be by using the GROW model to structure your thinking and action. The model is often used in coaching to help people to take positive action in a situation where they feel stuck.


What is your goal and what does that look like? One way to find this out might be to review current job adverts in the area(s) that you are interested in – what are the essential and desirable criteria? Alternatively, you might ask a mentor to review your CV and identify areas where s/he thinks you might need to do more work.


To what extent do you meet the criteria for the job? Can you provide evidence of the skills, knowledge and experience that are being asked for? Which areas are you strong in, and which would you find it difficult to cover in your CV, application or interview.


What could you do to begin to close the gap between where you currently are and where you aim to be? Try to think as creatively and broadly as possible – don’t dismiss anything at this stage. For instance, one option might be to talk to a careers advisor or research staff developer about how to evidence your skills because it may not be that you don’t have the right experience, just that you need some help in articulating it.

Way Forward

This is where you narrow down your potential options to actions that are realistic and achievable for you. The potential options will be determined by how much time and what level of commitment you are willing/able to make, your current context and the timeframe you’re working with. Whatever you decide, your way forward needs to involve concrete aims that you will achieve within a given time (so, for instance, ‘improve my publications record’ is too vague – rather you might decide to have a first draft of your next article written within 6 weeks).
Once you have decided on one or two actions, ask yourself how realistic your aims are. If you were to rate this on a scale of 1-10, would you score them 8 or above? If not, you should ask yourself what would increase that score – are you being too ambitious or do you need more time? Are you uncertain how to achieve your goal? Will you need some help or training to get you prepared? If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, then you will need to reassess your plans in order to maximise your chances of success.