Create an action plan for your career development - quick tips

Action planning will help you to focus your ideas and decide what steps you need to take to achieve your goals and turn them into a plan, rather than a dream.

An action plan is a statement of what you want to achieve over a given period of time. The online Vitae Researcher Development Framework Professional Development Planner enables you to identify the areas you want to develop further. Use the following tips to get the most out of your action plan.

Review where you are now

Self-reflection features in sub-domain B1 of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) . Thorough knowledge of your current abilities is the starting point of any action plan. The language in the phases for the RDF descriptors will help you assess your strengths in each area. Which phase best describes your abilities and which ones do you aspire to?

Find evidence

The more specific you can be, the better. Can you qualify or quantify? Can you compare to where you were previously or to your peers? Take care to be neither too harsh nor too optimistic. Talk to others to get their views about your strengths and capabilities.  Evidence does not have to relate to your research but can be gathered from other aspects of your life.

Choose the career direction(s) you may wish to pursue

The Vitae Researcher Development Framework is not limited to planning a career in academia. What skills might you need to develop to allow you to succeed the career of your choice? Our lenses on the RDF  have been developed to focus on specific areas such as teaching or enterprise. Consider how your skills and experiences will enhance your prospects of success in various career areas by finding out what is needed.

What do you need to get there?

To move from one phase to the next you could attend courses, gain experience and confidence or seek out informal development opportunities. Prioritise development on those areas which are most relevant to the career(s) you have identified. The level of detail in your action plan is a personal preference, but put some thought into it.

Make your action plan SMART

The acronym ‘SMART’ stands for:

  • Specific - break your goals down to actual discrete actions you can undertake and outcomes that can be evidenced
  • Measurable - you need to be able to say whether or not you have completed what you commit to. Therefore avoid thinking in terms of ‘some’, ‘many’, etc.
  • Aspirational - consider including actions in your action plan that you may not other undertake in any case (although there is value in thinking about what skills you gain from everything you do)
  • Realistic – be careful not to give yourself too many, or too difficult, actions to do in the time available: don’t set yourself up to fail
  • Time limited - Put deadlines to your actions and set up reminders for yourself.


Review your progress against your action plan regularly and go through the cycle again.