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A framework for career planning

In a large-scale research study of work-based career discussions, Hirsh et al. (2001) found that if the providers and recipients of career support shared a common framework, the recipients thought the discussions were more useful. The implication of this for practice is that students/trainees are most likely to find the career support you provide helpful if you are both working from the same framework.

Just as there are lots of different models of patient consultation, so too are there different approaches to career support. But the four-stage model outlined below is the one that is most commonly used in higher education.

  • Stage 1 Self-assessment
  • Stage 2 Career exploration
  • Stage 3 Decision making
  • Stage 4 Plan implementation

Using this four-stage framework, and sharing it with your trainee, helps you approach the task of providing career support in a systematic way. So, for example, if a trainee comes to you asking for help with their CV (a Stage 4 task), you need to establish whether they have spent adequate time on the previous three stages and that their career decision is robust. Similarly, poor career decision making (Stage 3) often rests on inadequate self-assessment and career exploration (Stages 1 and 2).

Bearing in mind the importance of the model, in your first session with a new trainee it is good practice to check their understanding of the four-stage framework. It is also useful to ask your trainees to bring their learning portfolios and career-planning folders to all of their meetings with you. This will help them to review their work and facilitate the development of a systematic approach to career planning.

Each of the four stages will now be explained in further detail.

Thinking points

  • Thinking back over the career decisions you have taken to date in your own career, identify one that you feel (in retrospect) worked out well. With this decision in mind, think about how you approached each of the four stages: self-assessment; career exploration; decision making; and plan implementation.
  • Now see if you can identify a career decision that you feel, in retrospect, didn’t work out so well. With this decision in mind, think again about how you approached each of the four stages.
  • From this personal comparison of two previous career decisions  you have taken in the past, what observations can you make about the four-stage model?


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