Having a career plan is crucial for directing your career on the right path aligned with your job skills which also ensures career advancement. Although this might seem like a piece of cake, it’s instead a challenging thing to do. Nonetheless, setting measurable and specific goals go a long way in your professional development and helps you get there sooner.

A suitable career development plan allows you to feel motivated and encouraged to do work more effectively even if you haven’t found your passion yet. It helps you make a concrete plan that gets you to your end goal. Before developing a career plan, let’s define a career development plan.

What is a career development plan?

Simply put, a career development plan is a roadmap or a curated list of short and long-term goals people set for themselves for their current or future jobs. It also includes a variety of experiences that they must have to achieve these goals.

A typical outline of a career development plan looks like this:

  • The starting point: The point you are at in your career at present.
  • The destination: The point you want to be in.
  • The gap: The challenges you should overcome to get there.
  • The route: The measure you must take to avoid these challenges on the go.

Why is a career development plan essential?

When there’s a plan, there’s a way. Creating a career development plan for yourself impacts you positively. It aids in motivating you by boosting your morale, increasing your productivity, giving you career satisfaction, and the responsiveness to meet your organizational goals.

It also helps you create an actionable plan that leads to your dream job. Therefore, if you haven’t found the position of your dreams, a career development plan is where you can begin.

How to build an effective career development plan?

1. Reflect on yourself

Set aside some time to reflect on your personal and professional goals. It’s important to identify yourself and your position at present. This allows you to reflect on your skills, strengths, and weaknesses.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I enjoy the most?
  • What do my past experiences teach me?
  • What are my skills and talents?
  • Which skills or talents should I hone?
  • What motivates me?
  • What drains my energy?
  • What is my calling in life?
  • Do I have enough skills and training to reach my goals?

Write down your answers and take the time to think of your next steps.

2. Set short-term and long-term goals

Brainstorm. Think of yourself five years from now on. Where do you see yourself if nothing holds you back? This includes your end goal, for example, being the head of a department.

Set specific goals more concisely. It helps you establish what you like to do in small increments. This includes where you would like to be in 1 year. Break it down into small achievable goals to make it easier for you to visualize your day-to-day or week-on-week tasks.

Create a long-term plan. Do you want to stick to your current organization? Or do you see yourself working elsewhere? If yes, which role would you like to challenge yourself to pick? Or perhaps you could make a career transition altogether. Ensure that your goals are aligned with what motivates you the most.

Once you create both short-term and long-term goals, you are halfway there. This already gives you a better understanding of your skillset and the options you’ve got.

3. Organize a timeline

Do an analysis that determines where you are and what you aim to be. Research your career goal by taking the goals you outline in the short-term and long-term plans. Ensure that your descriptions match your skillset and experience. It must also align with your ultimate ambition in life.

Also, consult with someone senior or a professional about what you aspire to be. Talk to a mentor or a supervisor; it could also be your colleagues at work to understand whether you have a gap or need to add something to your list.

Rate your skills and qualification by creating a simple rating scale from 1-5. If you have found something lower than 4, you will need to invest more time and energy into developing that.
Determine the patterns of where there are gaps or lack of understanding in your plan; you will likely begin to notice which skills and experiences are your strongholds and which aren’t.

You must also see if you know something before you take up responsibility. Suppose your work is related to specific software; you will need to learn the software before taking up responsibilities related to it. Create a list of skills you need to develop for your next step.

4. Develop your skills

Focus on the list of skills you lack but are absolutely necessary. Group common skills together and look for the ones that don’t have a particular sequence. Now group them as short-term and long-term skills to be developed.
There could be a long-term education plan such as a master’s degree or a short-term three months course plan. Go ahead and focus on your short-term goals, sign up for a course, or learn from a supervisor who will allow you to work on the software to enhance your skills.

Organize a timeline for yourself, and put short-term goals first and long-term later. You could also use the SMART goals template to help you set tangible & achievable goals.

Once you’ve got a timeline, set a deadline for each goal. Be accountable for yourself and reward yourself when you complete a task before the deadline. This will further motivate you to do better.

5. Measure progress and re-evaluate

Your career development plan is a trial and error method; not everything works out well all the time and goes as planned. The planning doesn’t end, and so it needs to be iterated once in a while. To do this, you must keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Consider having milestones and update your goals accordingly.

While you keep yourself accountable, check in with the list at least twice a year for your long-term goals and once a month for your short-term goals. See if you’ve made progress and if you haven’t, update your goals accordingly. There could be so many unexpected hurdles that could knock your plan off, but remember that it’s okay to divert or take a break.

Now that you know how to create a career development plan, stay on top of it, and your chances of reaching your career goal are higher than if you don’t have a plan in place.