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The four stages of career planning

Career Development Cycle: Interate-manage my next steps, Imagine-know myself, Implemenet-execute my plan, Investigate-know my options

By D.D. Kullman

The new year is a time when many people are thinking about a new career. Eight of the top 10 busiest days for job searches occur in January, according to Monster’s 2018 Year in Jobs report.

Navigating this period can be tricky as careers are ever-evolving to keep pace with the marketplace. There’s no longer a standard trajectory of job advancement or a playbook for how to successfully manage a career. To help you navigate this changing landscape, University of Phoenix offers a unique perspective on career planning: We call it the career development cycle.

The career development cycle

Careers are more fluid and flexible than ever. Employment is now a continuum, where you may find yourself in one of four stages — Imagine, Investigate, Implement and Iterate — in the career development cycle. Each of these points along your career journey presents challenges and opportunities. We help you stay focused with career tools, resources and guidance every step of the way. Here’s how:


Think of this stage as finding your path. What do you want to do next? What jobs would suit you? Where should you begin? A good starting point is our PhoenixLink™ career portal. The portal’s built-in Career Explorer tool helps you identify careers that fit you by assessing your interests.


From there, it’s time to research careers that align with your desired goals. What job do you actually want to do? What skills and education does the job require? This is the time to analyze your options and develop goals to reach career readiness. We’ll help you gain career-relevant experience and skills through program-related projects and learning.


This is the stage where knowledge becomes actionable. You finalize and execute your plan. Adapt to challenges. And persist toward your goal. You might not feel very motivated, or you might tell yourself, "I want to go for it, but I’m just not sure I’m good enough."

To build your confidence, we offer a wealth of resources and career-readiness tools for creating your personal brand, including assistance with writing cover letters and resumés, and tips for interviewing and networking.

Our PhoenixLink career portal gives you access to job listings, a resource library, the ability to connect with like-minded fellow alums, mentoring opportunities and events like career fairs. A tool called Vault1 within PhoenixLink even lets you research, find and evaluate employers, as well as see internship and job listings.

For those needing additional career guidance, personal career coaching is available by appointment with our career advisors. Academic advisors are also available to provide information about the University’s career services tools and resources.


Ongoing career management is a hallmark of the fourth stage of the career development cycle. What might you want your career to look like in the next year, or three years from now? What if you could no longer work at your current place of employment?

In the Iterate stage, you’ll engage in self-reflection, goal-setting and career decision-making in your pursuit of personal fulfillment and career agility. We provide access to mentors and guidance after graduation, and offer reskilling and upskilling options like certificate programs and single-course options to help you prepare for career opportunities.

Whether you want to start, maintain, enhance or change your career, you’ll find resources to help you at each stage of the career development cycle. At University of Phoenix, we’ll help you prepare with Career Services for Life® — from your first class to your last job. Learn more at

1 Vault is a registered trademark of Inc. All Rights Reserved.