The Importance of Career Planning

The ongoing global pandemic has ensured that 2021 has not started off in the way that many of us would have liked, but it has potentially provided a small silver lining giving us a chance to focus on what is important to us and to appreciate the small things.

More time spent at home and less time in the diary for events has hopefully given us more free time or opportunities to squeeze in time for activities that would have otherwise been taken up with other things. For example, one such activity is Career Planning. Many might question why you need to “plan” your next move but this is a very sensible strategy considering the volatile job market that the global pandemic has brought about and the continued uncertainty around hiring in Higher Education right now.

There are lots of things that we can do from the comfort of our own homes in order to try and advance our career options and skills sets. Probably the most important step in the career planning process is to begin with some self-reflection. What do you enjoy doing on a day to day basis? What skills do you like using? What are your strengths and values and are these mapped in your current role? If you are happy in your current role and looking to progress – what skills / experience do you need to gain to make the jump?

Have a look at the IAD Skills Audit template and spend 20 minutes filling it out.

But what if you enjoy using skills that don’t feature in your current role? Now is the time to research alternative roles. Use the Pop-Up IAD training to listen to the recording on career choices for researchers to gain some ideas. Make the most of career websites like in order to find out more about different sectors and specific roles that are of interest.

Next, give yourself time to think about building your network and speak to individuals working in these roles so you can find out what a typical day is like. Whilst, restrictions are in place we cannot network in the usual face-to-face way so use sources like LinkedIn to expand your network online. Consider setting up virtual coffee meetings to chat with contacts. The Careers Service has useful information for tips on what questions to consider asking when conducting “Informational Interviews”. If you get stuck or it’s not working out as planned consider booking a 1:1 Career Consultation with the IAD Career Consultant, for further career clarification.

Career planning comes in many different formats, it can focus on networking and building contacts in your area (useful for future moves within the sector) or it can be about building new skills that will make you more attractive to a potential employer.

If you are considering a big career change then planning is an absolute must! With fewer jobs predicted it may be that alternative roles outside of academia (or indeed still within HE) have to be considered.

Steps to successful planning:

  • Think about your target goals – where do you want to be in the next 5 years? What skills / experience do you need to get there?
  • What alternative roles are available to you? Do you know anyone working in one?
  • Consider finding a mentor (or a friendly colleague in a more senior role to ask for advice).  The University runs the Mentoring Connections programme.
  • Conduct market research and study any job descriptions closely so that you can identify the key skills and experience required (if you don’t already have some of these think about how you can develop them over the next few months).
  • If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this post further with Eleanor* please book a 1:1 Careers Development Consultation.


*Eleanor Hennige is the Research Staff Careers Consultant based in the IAD.  

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