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Individual Opportunity Plan (IOP): Step 3 — Planning Your Career

To achieve your career mission, you must translate your lofty mission statement into specific actions. This step of the IOP will help you plan your career and answer the following questions:

How will you achieve your Career Mission?
What are your GOALS for the next 3–5 years?
What are your OBJECTIVES for the next year?

The LADDER is a simple model for career planning:
  • the GOAL is at the top of the ladder
  • the uprights represent the PLAN to achieve that goal
  • the rungs are the individual OBJECTIVES necessary to reach that goal



Goals are dreams with deadlines!
Your goals are the major activities that you will undertake in the immediate future toward your career mission.
On your IOP worksheet list in priority order your goals for the next 3–5 years.
Define a timeline for each goal.

Examples of Goals:
IOPclinician02   Clinician:
 To learn how to conduct community-based research.
 To identify disparities in health care in Worcester’s underserved populations.
IOPresearcher02   Researcher:
 To secure funding for my research program.
 To manage an efficient and productive lab.

Be careful to distinguish your goals from the expectations of others (supervisor, mentor, spouse). Do those expectations differ from your goals? Do you know the expectations for your current position?


Objectives are the specific actions necessary to achieve your goals—the rungs of the ladder. Objectives divide the path to your goals into achievable steps that can be prioritized.

Objectives should be S.M.A.R.T., i.e.
  Specific — not abstract
  Measurable — explicit, you will know when you have achieved it
  Achievable —a stretch but realistic
  Relevant — focused on your goal
  Time-limited — not open-ended or vague

On your IOP worksheet, for each of your goals write at least one objective that you expect to achieve in the next year.

Examples of Objectives:
IOPclinician02   Clinician:
 To complete a course in community-based research in the next year.
 To interview clinician-investigators focused on healthcare disparities by the end of the year.
IOPresearcher02   Researcher:
 To submit an application to the Alzheimer’s Foundation for the Jan 1 deadline.
 To participate in a program on research mentoring this Fall.


Relate your objectives to your personal SWOT
—for each objective on your IOP worksheet, list:
  What personal strengths does this objective build on?
  What personal weaknesses are addressed?
  What opportunities will you exploit to achieve this goal?
  How will you address the threats to achieving this goal?

Use the IOP to plan for resources, mentoring, and the new skills needed to accomplish your objectives
—for each objective on your IOP worksheet, list:
  What resources are required: time, money, space, personnel, equipment, materials or subjects.
  What help you need: mentors, collaborators, community partners.
  What new skills are necessary and how you will acquire them.

IOP Navigation: IOP Worksheet | Overview | Step 1 | Step 2 |