Career planning

Planning your career can substantially help your professional achievement.

Graphic showing a crane moving letters to spell PLAN Career planning is essential; whether you are just starting out or established in your career but looking to change direction or explore new opportunities.

If you do not have a plan, it is unlikely you will progress. Regular planning and objective setting allows you to track development and ensure that you remain at the cutting edge of your profession.

First steps

The most important thing when considering a new job or career change is to explore the options and research the opportunities available to you.

You can undertake career planning at any phase in your professional life; whether you are a new graduate starting out, or an experienced engineer or technologist looking for a change of direction or a move into a new area of expertise.

Steps to achieve your ideal career

  • Identify the area that you want to work in and look at vacancies for the type of position you aspire to;
  • Where possible, undertake work experience;
  • Determine the skills you already have, any you need to develop and how you can use these to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Using Career Manager may help you in assessing your competence levels;
  • Draw up an action plan of how you will achieve your chosen job and set realistic objectives to get there. There may be a number of steps to reach your end goal, so set milestones to keep on track. Ensure that these time scales are realistic;
  • Once you are in work, undertake regular professional development and keep a record of it to refer back to. Over time, the skills and knowledge that you require will change and keeping these up-to-date means that you will remain competitive in the job market, showing your level of professionalism and commitment to prospective employers. It also allows for a level of job security as even if your current role ends, you will have the skills that other employers require;
  • Planning your career is not a one-off event and you should consider this an ongoing process. Ensuring that you have a plan helps not only your career progression, but also contributes towards and shapes your professional development requirements.

Reconsidering previous plans

Like many others, you may have left formal education unsure of what you wanted to do, or the career goals you initially set shifted with time or were affected by changes within the industry. Whatever your reasons for wanting to reconsider your position or change direction, you can always find a way to get back on track or start anew with a career plan to fit your individual requirements.

There is no reason to stay in a job where you do not feel you are fulfilling your potential. If you have planned a career and feel it is stagnating, or if you have not previously drawn up a plan but feel that you need some direction, it is not too late to start planning. You may have transferable skills and existing competences which you can use to build an idea of what you liked doing, what you didn't like doing and to set action plans to maximise the time you spend doing work you enjoy.

It may be that circumstances will not allow you to change career, or that you are content to stay where you are but are looking for new challenges. A change in job or sector is not the only way to develop yourself and expand your horizons.

Other options

  • Undertake continuing professional development (CPD) - this does not just mean attending courses or reading books, although these are good ways to develop. CPD can involve any number of experiences from social bookmarking, to talking in local schools about engineering or visiting a brewery with your Local Network. Any number of things can contribute towards your CPD;
  • Share your experience - mentoring other engineers or speaking about your successes enables you to expand your network of peers and also develop your own skills and experience. Many people who mentor others also gain a sense of achievement in helping others to reach their goals;
  • Aim to achieve - if you have not already done so, you may wish to explore your opportunities with a professional qualification and gain the recognition that you deserve. This is not a one off process and may help you to structure your career progress as you work towards the level of registration which is right for you.

Using competence frameworks for career planning

A competence framework can give you a structure on which to build your career.

Professional registration can give you a framework to develop your career, especially in your first years of employment as you develop new skills. 

Whether you are on an accredited professional development scheme or working on your own, the competence frameworks for CEng, IEng, ICTTech and EngTech provide a structure for setting objectives and recognising achievement.

IET members can use the online professional development tool, Career Manager, to build a job profile using UK-SPEC [new window] frameworks and a number of industry specific frameworks including the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) [new window] which is designed for IT professionals. 

Career Manager can also be used to set objectives for personal development and to build an application for professional registration.