Career Planning

Making some time to think about your career plan can pay dividends in your future career!

Career planning is about organising your career ideas to make them achievable.  It doesn't matter where you start with your career planning, so long as you consider all the steps along the way.

Check out each step below to make a start on your plan:‌

Making a Start

Options after your course

Unsure about career plans

What jobs would suit me?

Identifying your skills

Planning your actions

Further Information

Making a Start

There are four key steps to consider, as shown in our handy infographic below!

You can make a start today by noting down some initial ideas and planning what you can do next.


 Career planning

1. Thinking About Me

Consider what you want out of your career and what you have to offer. Think about your individual skills and talents and what careers line up with them. Your skills can be diverse and usable in a variety of fields! Use this section to help identify your skills and figure out what careers might suit you

2. Researching My Options

Think about the options that are open to you and find out where to research opportunities. This could be as simple as looking for jobs online, to networking to identify contacts in your sector. Visit the Jobs and Work experience section for advice on searching for vacancies.

3. Making Plans

Writing an action plan will help you achieve your goals! This can be in any format, so use what suits you best. Start by using our tips on planning your actions

4. Taking Action!

Finally, you can put your plans in to action! Use your skills, knowledge and experience on your CV, applications and at interviews.

You can also talk to our friendly and expert staff at the Careers and Employability Service. Why not organise an appointment or drop in to have an informal chat?

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Options After Your Course

Scientific Research, Analysis & Support

A useful starting point for career planning is to look at the options for graduates from your course.  Graduate Prospects' options with your subject looks at how you can use your degree. 

You should also think about job roles that are not linked to your degree. Many employers seek graduates from any discipline.

Employers are not only interested in the subject you have studied. They value the skills and understanding you have developed and your future potential. Employers will support new graduates with on the job training. Providing support for you to learn the specific knowledge for your role.

What do graduates do?  looks at the career areas students from each degree course across the country have gone into.

What do Portsmouth graduates do? provides career destinations of University of Portsmouth students. (You need to be logged on to the University of Portsmouth Network to access this information).

You can also use LinkedIn to get in contact with previous graduates of your course. 

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Unsure About Your Career Plans?

Don't worry if you're not sure what career path you want to take. Students often find it hard to identify what jobs appeal to them.

Follow these key tips to give you some ideas of the actions you can take to clarify your ideas.

Computer Aided Guidance

Try an online questionnaire to think about your skills and interests and match them to job ideas. While not a perfect solution, they can provide a useful starting point. 

Check out the Job Match quiz from Prospects to get started on some ideas. 

Try to be positive with your answers and avoid choosing "don't mind" too often. 

Make a note of any questions that you think are very important to you - this will help you idenfity what you want from a career. 

Analyse your job suggestions - which ones interest you and why? Any you wouldn't consider? Why not? 

Other graduates from your degree

Seeing what your peers or those who graduated before you are doing can really help you out. 

The LinkedIn Alumni Tool is really good for this, as is Prospect's "What Can I Do With My Degree"

Job Families

Many jobs that are similar to each other are in clusters or "families" with lots of overlap. This can give you ideas that branch off from your interests into areas you may not have considered. 

Listings of Job Profiles provide a great starting point, you could try Prospects Job Profiles, the job descriptions from TargetJobs or the National Careers Service's Job Profiles

What don’t you want to do?

Identifying areas that you definitely don't want to work in can help you narrow down the areas that you do!
Try doing a vacancy sift by getting hold of some job listings online. Now cross out everything you would not consider; do it quickly with not much thought. Then take a look at what you have left - what sort of things do they have in common? What was it that appealed to you?

Don’t just think about job titles

These days there are nearly as many job titles as there are jobs, so don't feel like you have to go for a specific job title. Doing so could exclude a wide range of jobs that all have the criteria for a job that you are after!
For example, an Accountancy graduate could investigate the many roles in the Finance sector. The role does not have to have "Accountant" in the job title to be of relevance and interest.

Take it easy

Latest statistics show that most graduates change jobs within three years of graduation. Don't try and identify something you will do until retirement. Try and find something that will hold your interest and allow you to build up experience for a couple of years.
You could even choose to take a year out after you graduate; try volunteering options or researching your path more clearly. Remember, you can always come and speak to our friendly staff for a chat about your options!

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What jobs would suit me?

To find out what kind of jobs would suit you think about the skills you have to offer an employer, what interests you in a job and what would motivate you.
It is not always easy to come up with answers to these sorts of questions. A good place to begin is by using an online guidance package that takes you through the process:‌
Prospects offers Job Match. These online questionnaire helps you generate ideas and explore your interests. The questions are also designed to identify your skills and find out what motivates you in a job.
It will then match these to graduate-level occupations and help you to research jobs in more detail.‌‌‌‌

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Identifying your skills

Knowing what skills you have to offer is an important step in the career planning process.  This awareness will help you identify if you match the requirements for a particular job role. You will also find out what skills you still need to develop.
You will also need to be able to outline and demonstrate your skills in applications and during an interview.
Thinking about the skills you have to offer involves looking at all aspects of your life, including:
your academic studies (modules, projects, group working)
your work history (work experience, work shadowing, paid and unpaid employment and voluntary work)
your social life (membership of teams, societies or activities in your community)
Take a look at the example below:

Career Planning - Identify Skills Infographic

A good way to get started with identifying your skills is to use our Key Skills Audit (PDF). This will help you to compare your skills against those in a job description, giving you a handy reference to consult to see examples of your skills in action. 

Employers will be looking for a broad range of skills; many roles will require specific qualifications, experience and knowledge.  Find out more by visiting our Getting into your Chosen Sector pages.  You will also need to demonstrate that you have transferrable skills and general competencies.  TargetJobs features advice to help you understand the different skills and competencies graduate employers expect and provide tips on how to develop them and demonstrate your abilities.  

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Planning your actions

Once you have a rough idea in mind, it can be hugely beneficial to produce an action plan.
This will bring together all the work you have done so far and give you a clear idea of what your next actions should be. 

You should include the steps you need to take to get to where you want to be in the future. Include a timeframe of when you want to achieve things by, as well as built in times to review your plan. 

Ensure your plan is flexible so you have a contingency to fall back on. Try to think of your short, medium and long-term goals. 

We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. method to set your goals:


I‌s your goal well-defined? Avoid setting yourself vague or unclear objectives - instead try and be as precise as possible.

Incorrect: I want to do well in my exams.

Correct: I want to increase study time to thirty hours per week.


Be clear on how you can tell when you have achieved your goal. Use details like dates and times to represent clear objectives. 

Incorrect: I want to get fit.

Correct: I want to swim twenty lengths, twice a week for the next three months.


Setting yourself impossible goals will only end in disappointment. Make your goals challenging but realistic. 

Incorrect: I want to give up all junk food, never stay out past 11.00pm and complete four marathons in the next month. 

Correct: I want to improve my fitness by making sure I go to the gym at least twice a week.


Make sure you are always keeping your goals relevant to where you want to end up. 

Incorrect: I want to make sure I attend each of my team's home games this season. 

Correct: I want to be fluent in Spanish within the next three years so I can work in Madrid. 


Set yourself a timescale for completing each goal. Even if you need to change this as you progress, this will help you stay motivated. 

Incorrect: I want to look into working abroad over summer.

Correct: I will complete my CV and identify at least four overseas working opportunities by the end of the Easter vacation. 

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Further Advice & Information

Further advice and information

  • Key Skills Audit (pdf)‌
  • You can also look at the Student Employability profiles (pdf) produced by the Higher Education Academy with the Council for Industry and Higher Education.  Profiles are available for 53 subject disciplines helping you to identify the work-related skills developed through your studies.
  • Prospects - job profiles for a wide range of graduate roles in various sectors. Find out what’s involved, entry requirements and where you can find jobs advertised.
  • The National Careers Service website provides a broad-range of job role profiles for you to explore.  
  • One-to-one support for your career plans is available from the Careers and Employability Service.  Helping you set targets and make a plan of action to achieve your goals.
  • Our Disability, Equality and Diversity Guide (pdf) – for students who feel that their personal issues may affect or disadvantage their career planning or job selection process.

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