4 Step Career Planning Model

One of the best ways to launch a successful job search is to create a solid career plan.

Use the 4 step career planning model to make intentional and strategic decisions about your career and move forward in your job search. 

Your career plan can: 

  • Help you make valuable connections between the competencies you develop as a WGU student and the world of work. 
  • Keep you focused and strengthen your commitment to your career success.
  • Move you forward if you face challenges or obstacles.

Step 1: Self Assessment

  • I have identified and prioritized my skills, work, and personal values and interests.
  • I understand the influence my attitudes, feelings, and beliefs can have on making successful career decisions.
  • I have reflected upon the impact of my career choice on my lifestyle preferences and future opportunities.
The first step in deciding on a career or job is to think about who you are. The process of self assessment is one in which you attempt to objectively identify your interests, skills, and abilities. In order to find the right match between you, your education, and your career, look at the intersection of your interests and abilities. You will also need to consider your values, experiences, financial resources and needs, training requirements, family issues, geographic location, and more.

Start by considering:

– What do I like to do? What would I continue to do/study even if I didn’t have to or wasn’t getting paid to?
Abilities – What do I do well? What do I excel in – classes, work, hobbies?
Values (work and personal) – What really matters to me?

Self-Assessment Resources:
Below is a list of resources to help you conduct a self assessment.

O*Net Interest Profiler and Work Importance Profiler 
A computer administered vocational interest assessment providing self-knowledge about vocational interests.

CareerOneStop Skills Profiler 
Sponsored by United States Department of Labor, the Skills Profiler helps you create a list of your skills and match them to job types that need those skills.

Career Interest Game
Missouri Western State University developed this career interest game. It is based on John Holland's career theory and allows you to match your interests with similar careers.

12 Essentials for Success; Competencies Employers Seek in College Graduates 
Michigan State University's guide detailing competencies sought by employers.

Step 2: Investigation


  • I know how and where to find important career information.
  • I have relevant, accurate information on careers with which to make decisions.
Once you have a clearer idea of your interests, abilities, and values, careers and job titles will begin to emerge. Now you will want to do more research to determine the ups and downs of the various careers you have identified.

Think about:
What skills/experience/education do I need to compete/succeed in this field?
What environment/working conditions are typical for this profession?
What is a typical day like on this job?
What are the paths for advancement?
What is the average salary?
What is the employment outlook?

Investigation Resources:
The O*NET database, contains detailed information on hundreds of occupations, including demand, expected growth, and salary information. O*NET OnLine is created for the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration, by the National Center for O*NET Development.

Occupational Outlook Handbook 
The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook provides valuable career information for over 250 different occupations on the training and education needed, earnings, expected job prospects, what workers do on the job and working conditions. Occupations may be searched either in the index or in the table of contents. 

Informational Interviews  
Use this powerful --and underutilized --networking tool to gain valuable information about jobs and jump start your career.

Informational Interview Questions

Step 3: Goal Setting

  • I will synthesize information about my unique characteristics and about the world of work to make informed career decisions.
  • I will develop short term, intermediate, and long-term goals to facilitate my career preparation and future success.

In the goal-setting phase of career planning, you will take information gained about yourself and the world of work and develop your career action plan.

Remember to set S.M.A.R.T. Goals:

Goal-Setting Resources:
Career Action Plan
Use this worksheet to help you define and accomplish your career goals by identifying short and long-term goals and developing an action plan.

SWOT Analysis
This tool will help you analyze your career goal in terms of your present strengths and experiences and identify a specific and strategic plan for reaching your career goal.

Step 4: Implementation

  • I can define a job search plan, including strategies for the published and unpublished job market.
  • I can create appropriate, well developed, visually attractive applications and marketing materials.
  • I can research employers to identify potential opportunities and prepare for an interview.
In order to launch an effective job search for employment in the career field of your choice, you will utilize strategic career management skills and tools.

Implementation Resources:

Job Search Basics Webinar

Job Search Strategies Handout

Write a Resume

Resume writing guidelines.

Write a Cover Letter
Step by step guide for writing cover letters and sample cover letter.

Prepare for an Interview 
Tips and strategies to assist you in your interview.

Search for Jobs  
Job posting sites and resources.

Develop a Network     
Networking techniques and tools.

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