Cover image of Let's Talk Employment guide
Let’s Talk Employment
A Guide for Family Members of Individuals in Mental Health Recovery


Steps Towards Employment: Example of a Vocational Plan


What Question Should I Ask?

  • Can you elaborate on the steps to employment?
  • What would an example of a vocational plan look like?


What You Should Know

Each job seeker follows his or her own process or journey on the road to vocational recovery. For some, decisions are made quickly and without extensive thought about complexities. Others need more time, thought, and mini steps before finally applying for and receiving the job of their choice. At times, someone will take steps forward and then go back to a previous step or rethink decisions. (It also happens that someone almost unexpectedly will decide to pursue work.)

The following are steps in the process of achieving employment; they may be considered wide steps than can include many small steps. You will find more on the process of keeping employment in Section 11.

Stairs with the labels Considering, Choosing, and Getting

Considering involves job seekers being able to:

  • Evaluate their interests, strengths, & limitations as they apply to work.
  • Consider the impact of wages and potential incentives to work if on Social Security, Health benefits, and/or Veterans benefits.
  • List the pros and cons of working vs. not working.
  • Talk to other peers about their experience returning to work.
  • Find out what possible supports there would be to choose and get employment.

Choosing involves looking at a variety of options for education, training, employment, and/or career. This step often requires:

  • Narrowing down possible areas of employment to pursue.
  • Establishing a vocational goal that takes into account the job seeker’s interests and talents as well as labor market forecast.
  • Identifying any necessary training and selecting a program to provide the training.
  • Exploring and selecting the vocational supports & partners that will be needed.
  • Developing a plan of services, supports, and time frames to achieve the goal. In some cases this plan might include steps that are preliminary, such as an internship or on job training.
  • Identifying potential job types.

Getting involves the job seeker, with support of others, obtaining the desired employment or career position.

  • Potential employers and jobs are identified.
  • Applications and cover letters are sent.
  • Job interviews are obtained for the final desired employment situation.
  • Follow up with each employer is completed and handwritten thank-you notes to employers who provided interviews are sent.
  • Choice is made.
  • The supports that are necessary to make the job successful are in place along with any certifications, licenses, prerequisites or accommodations that might be needed.

See also section for “Keeping” the job.



Vocational Plan: Whether working primarily with a supported employment program, school system, clubhouse program, or vocational rehabilitation agency, the job seeker is required to help develop and sign a plan with the goals and services required to get and keep employment. All accommodations that your family member anticipates needed should be included in the vocational plan, described specifically in the portion about job finding and job keeping. Here is a sample plan; depending on the agency, the state, and other factors, it will take different formats.

Example vocational plan