What is a Career Development Plan?
Starting your professional journey, changing jobs, or re-igniting a stagnant career can be a daunting task. With so many options and paths ahead of you, it is hard to know where to begin and what to do. Career development plans are one way you can add strategy and structure to an otherwise uncertain and confusing process. Creating a strategic plan will give you a roadmap to guide you from where you are to where you want to be in the short and long term.
This plan can be made at any point in your career. Follow the steps below to create your own career development plan.
Step One: Assess Yourself
As you begin, reflect on what you have done professionally thus far. Consider how your education, work history, accomplishments, and volunteer experience have contributed to your toolbox of skills and qualifications. You should also reflect on your core values and passions, keeping in mind that any career path you take will need to align with these core values in order for you to feel personally and professionally fulfilled in a position. Meeting with a career coach will aid you in this reflection and give you a more in-depth understanding of your current career status and path.
Once you have an understanding of your abilities and drivers, consider your current situation: Is this the point and place where you would like to be? Do you have the potential to be in a more preferable place professionally?
Step Two: Set Goals
You can now begin to build your career development plan, starting with your goals. Think about where you would like your professional journey to take you in the long term: Is your goal to have a higher salary, be in a new industry, serve in a management role, have more work-life balance, or something else? Think about what career paths align with your goals. With this vision in mind, start to build out your short and long-term goals starting with the where you want to be in the next year. This includes any skills and certifications you may need to acquire along the way.
Make sure that your goals are SMART, meaning that they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. Studies show that people who set SMART goals, write them down, and share them with a friend are more likely to achieve their goals than somebody who does not. For each goal, you should also list what action steps need to be taken along the way and any resources you may need to complete these steps. As pessimistic as it may sound, you are likely to encounter barriers in your career. Try to think of any barriers you may encounter and list a few possible ways to overcome each, so that you will be more prepared in the event that you do encounter obstacles.
Step Three: Plan and Act
Once you have written down your goals, steps, resources, and barriers, you can begin using your career development plan. Continue to evaluate how close you are to your long-term goals as you begin this journey. Be sure to also continuously reflect on whether or not you are living by and up to your values and passions.
Some goals will require you to choose between divergent paths at some point. Fully consider these choices, seeing each as different opportunities. Make a pros and cons list and weigh each consideration against your values and professional goals. Continue to reflect on how your choices have shaped your career to date.
You will need to refine your career development plan as you progress, especially if your values and priorities change. Use your plan to help you evaluate opportunities, such as to jobs, continued education, and promotions, as those opportunities arise. By facilitating self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses (SWOT analysis), you are setting clear priorities and a vision. A career development plan will guide you through any decisions and changes you encounter throughout your career, while pushing you to achieve your most vital professional goals.
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Brown, Denise. Careertrend. “What Is A Career Action Plan?” https://careertrend.com/career-action-plan-2849.html
MIT Career Advising & Professional Development. Make A Career Plan. https://capd.mit.edu/explore-careers/career-first-steps/make-career-plan
Rosenberg McKay, Dawn. January 17, 2019. The Balance Careers. “Writing A Career Action Plan.” https://www.thebalancecareers.com/writing-a-career-action-plan-525464
Stahl, Ashley. August 29, 2018. Forbes. “3 Steps To Develop Your Career Plan.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleystahl/2018/08/29/3-steps-to-develop-your-career-plan/#5716fb524910