Career Development Plan

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision April 18th, 2021

Understanding A Career Development Plan

Creating a career development plan can help you chart the course of your professional life.  The use of milestones and measurable objectives will help you to remain focused on your long-term goals.

The actual implementation of a career development plan takes a great deal of effort and time.  However, the personal improvements and resultant progress that comes with it are priceless. 

You will gain the opportunity to change your life for the better.  Moreover, you’ll come to understand where you excel, and what your next career move should be.

To best utilize your skillset means gaining the upper-hand in your professional life.  This allows you to control your own destiny as an employee.  You’ll feel more motivated and energetic, knowing full-well that your future is secure.

A successful career development plan means you’ll have access to:

  • Promotions.
  • Higher pay rates.
  • Better quality of work.
  • Educational opportunities.

If the idea of improving your life and career both sound appealing to you, then a career development plan is a necessity.  Below, we will define and explore the nature of an effective career development plan.

Bear in mind that these can be used by anyone, and for any career path.

Defining the Career Development Plan

A career development plan is a path to mapping out your own professional development.  To this end, it is essential that you consider and detail the following:

  1. Your current career status – Where you are right now in your professional life.  This gives you perspective in terms of what you can improve today, and what you should be considering for tomorrow.
  2. Your long-term goals – What you would like your future to look like professionally.  Try to consider the ultimate goals you would like to achieve.
  3. The problems – In this portion, you must face the hard truth.  Define the issues and obstacles that are preventing you from achieving your professional goals.
  4. A path forward – Create a step-by-step roadmap that details how you can overcome predicaments and attain the success you deserve. 

Understandably, this is a very personal process.  However, any personal career development plan should carefully assess each of these 4 categories.  This will greatly assist you in identifying your own strengths and weaknesses.   

Once you have completed your self-assessment, you can now begin creating a practical blueprint to reach your career goals.

Building a Personalized Career Development Plan

You’re now ready to create a personalized plan!

This document should be kept somewhere safe, where it can be easily retrieved.  Saving it to a secure word document file is a highly recommendable way of maintaining it.  This will also make it easy to alter in the future, should your goals or circumstances rapidly shift (which they likely will at some point!).

Continue by referring to the self-assessment you have already created.  Now consider:

1. Your Current -and Exact- Position as an Employee

To start, you will have to focus on your current circumstances and employment.  This will give you a way to define how to best propel your career forward.

Ask yourself and answer the following:

  • Which type of work interests me?
  • What natural talents and skills do I have?
  • Do I enjoy working with my hands, or on a computer?
  • What relevant education do I have that can help my career? 
  • What opportunities are near to where I live? 
  • Do I have any experience, or do I need to build up my credentials within an entry-level role?
  • Do I tend to lead others, or am I better at following instructions?

Write down the answers you came up with for each question.  Consider each of these as thoughtfully and honestly as you can. 

By analyzing these questions carefully, you can brainstorm ways of spring boarding yourself into a desirable career that best suits your skills and abilities. 

If you need further education, be sure to make careful note of this as well.

2. Analyze and Classify Your Ambitions

Now that you have a better picture of your current prospects and capabilities, it is time to decide what you want your future to look like:

Remove Inhibitions

Begin by considering what you would do if there was nothing in your way to prevent you from achieving your dreams.  What would this new life look like?  Where would you work?  How would you behave with this newfound success and freedom?  What would your final goals be?

By removing inhibitors in your mindset, you can more easily see what ultimately interests you.

Develop Your Exact Goals

Write down short and exact statements that define your goals.  Establish exactly how you would like the next five years to progress.  Consider exactly what you can do with your current abilities, education, and career, that will help spur you to new heights.

Incremental improvements are key, so do not worry if it seems like your progress is slow at the start.  A career development plan is meant to be for the long-term.

It can help to create a vision board that sums up your exact goals.  Being able to visualize your success can be an excellent point of reference.

3. Ponder Your Future

Consider the next five years of your career.  Ask yourself:

  • Do you still want to be at the same company?
  • Are there opportunities you are nearing in your current role?
  • Are there better opportunities elsewhere that you can pursue?
  • Do you feel your current career suits your needs and goals?
  • Would switching careers altogether make more sense than staying where you are?

These can be difficult questions to answer.  Take your time.

Once you have answered them thoroughly, you will now have a much clearer picture of your current circumstances.  This gives you the chance to define how to reach your goals and dreams in a realistic way.

4. Conduct A Gap Analysis

Conducting a gap analysis will help you identify obstacles and problems that inhibit your development.  Defining your career development plan requires that you understand any weaknesses or extenuating circumstances that can impact your ability to perform.  In short, you need to make sure any weaknesses are dealt with as quickly as possible.

To this end:

Search for your Dream Career

Study the kind of career you want online.  If you’re still not completely certain about what you want to do, there is a vast wealth of information on the internet that can help guide you.  Moreover, the job listings related to your desired profession can give you insight into what kind of work conditions and pay you can expect.

Take careful note of what education, experience, and abilities are required for the roles that interest you.  It can be very helpful to write these down for reference.

Finally, be certain that the careers that initially interested you are aligned with your ambitions.  If the pay isn’t enough, or if the industry is shrinking, it may be time to rethink your strategy.

Compare your Qualifications

Take some time to compare your qualifications to the employment opportunities you desire. 

This should take the form of a list of experience, education, and skills you have accumulated over the course of your career.  Match your qualifications side-by-side with the requirements of your dream job, and you will quickly be able to see any gaps in your profile.

For best practice, make note of any weaknesses in your resume.  These gaps can then be researched.  You can find out just how much energy and time you will have to invest in order to meet the listed requirements. 

This will give you insights into how to best use your resources toward improving your career.

Seek Out Knowledgeable Professionals

Consulting with a manager, mentor, or your professional peers, can be of immense help when planning the future of your career.  It is likely they can offer you insights or knowledge that you may not have already considered.

Naturally, you should not voice any discontent about your current position (if any).  However, career development plan ideas should be shared for feedback (even if this means being discrete or indirect). 

Try asking what future opportunities may exist within your current organization.  This will serve not only to enlighten you about your current prospects, but also to send a signal to your boss that you wish to develop yourself as a worker.  Often, employers are very keen to assign new resources, responsibilities, or even educational opportunities to enterprising employees.

Learning how you can benefit from new training and educational opportunities is a must.  If there aren’t any whatsoever, this may be a red flag that it is time to move on. 

Career Development Plan

Taking the initiative for your career development plan involves asking as many questions as possible.  You may even want to visit head-hunters or recruitment agencies.  Ask them the status of positions or industries that interest you.  This will give you a much better idea of how the employment landscape is faring.

Summarize Your Career Development Plan Research

By now you will have gathered information and made comparisons.  This will be invaluable for identifying how to best create -and move forward with- your career development plan.

Begin this phase with summarizing your strengths and weaknesses.  Try to categorize these as best as you can.

Once you have completed your summarization and categoric assessment, you will most likely notice a certain “flow” within your work-history.   Typically, you will have specific strengths and a firm skillset in certain areas.  Moreover, you will also have some weaknesses that may present themselves as obstacles to your progression as a professional.

The key is to now focus on how you can best improve and work towards your dream job.  Focus on exactly what you need to do in order to accomplish this:

  • If there are new technologies you need to learn or become certified in before you can be promoted, then dedicate all your resources towards that.   
  • Should there be certain skills you are currently lacking, then work on practicing and developing those as best you can.
  • If you need more education before you can be hired in a new career, then devise a practical plan that will allow you to attain this knowledgebase.
  • Should you lack experience in general, then consider how you can best close this gap.

Each of these circumstances represents a hurdle that you must overcome.  By dedicating as much time and energy towards these goals, you will be able to greatly improve your merit as a professional.

As Sun Tzu wrote, “Opportunities multiply as they are seized!”  So do not hesitate to seize as many opportunities as you possibly can!

Create Your Career Development Plan

At this point, you will have learned exactly what you need in order to move forward.

Creating your career development plan will now boil down to setting a timeline in place that you can easily follow:

  1. Start by taking your lists of skills, experiences, and education. Review and consider them before the next step.
  2. Now, set goals and tasks into your timeline that will allow you to achieve the necessary outcomes. If necessary, do more research so that you can create exact dates.
  3. Make this as easy-to-read as possible. It should be a step-by-step guide, and chronological.
  4. Be specific in your timeline. Create exact dates, and tasks that must be completed.  Follow them to the letter.
  5. If you need to sign up for a course, do so early. Plot the exact course times and dates so that you don’t miss any!
  6. Create deadlines that you can stick to. Don’t overwhelm yourself, but also consider that time is a factor!
Career Development Plan

By setting deadlines and staying organized, you greatly increase your chances of success!!!  Create a personalized setup like the one depicted above!

Oversee and Measure Your Progress

Now that you have built the foundations and objectives of your career development plan, you must measure progress.  This will help give you perspective on your achievements, while also keeping you focused on your long-term goals:

Keep a Journal To Track of Important Dates

Setting aside a small book, journal, or diary, where you can write down your activities, is a great way to stay organized.  Add a checklist to this, and you will have made a simple, yet powerful tool.

Take the time to compare your journal.  See if it stacks up to your career development plan’s timeline. 

Recognize the progress you have made and see if there aren’t any ways to further improve.

Consider Metrics of Attainment

As your timeline and checklists progress, you will steadily move closer to your objectives.  Your skills, experiences, and education will all steadily improve.  These milestones can signal important progress.

Should you find yourself obtaining better employment, a new promotion, or being granted awards, you will know you’ve made a decisive impact on your future.

These should signal to you that your career development plan is working!

Evolve Your Ideas

Within your life and career, there will inevitably be considerable changes that occur.  You may find yourself far ahead of where you thought you would be.  Perhaps you made a change in your direction and ended up in an entirely new industry.  You may also move several times, to vastly different locations.

Opportunity tends to knock on the door of those who develop their career accordingly.  It can be fresh and exciting.

A career development plan evolves to suit these changes.  Remaining flexible in your own thought process is key to evolving with the times.

To this end, review and reshape your ideas to suit changing circumstances.  This will also give you the added benefit of tracking your new progression, which can help in further planning down the road.

Why Career Development Plans for Employees are Indispensable

No matter who you are, a career development plan can help you build a better tomorrow. 

Being capable of remaining focused, and motivated, even as you calculate your future, are integral aspects of success. 

Always work toward improving your productivity, education, and your prospects.  Create a powerful professional network of like-minded individuals who place a premium on self-development and accountability. 

Moreover, remember to stay positive.  If you are new to your career, accept opportunities where you can find them.  Always work towards improving your capabilities. 

Seize on opportunities wherever possible and remain focused on your ultimate goals.  If you can adhere to a career development plan, odds are your career will come to flourish in time.

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