Career Development Plan: Create Your Own In 7 Steps

What Is a Career Development Plan?

Do you envision yourself in a specific position someday in the future? The next department head? A great Marketing Manager? Or even the CEO someday? These thoughts will remain wishful thinking unless you sit down, collect your thoughts, and start career development planning. Devising a specific and thorough career development plan is the best way to get going.

Woman thinking about her career plan
How do you envision yourself someday in the future?

First of all, let’s define a career development plan:

Career development o plan is a process that creates the professional life of a person. It helps professionals to customize their strategies to achieve their career goals. It is a crucial part of human development and influences the person’s whole lifetime, starting when the individual realizes that it’s time to start having a job. It’s the management of the person’s education, work, and leisure activities to achieve a desired professional and personal future.

Career development can be an effect on the relationship between the employee and the company. The company wants to improve productivity, so making the employee develops as a professional will help reach this goal. The organization will appreciate employees are managing their own careers and will support them to grow on their selected career paths.

Career Development Plan Steps

A career development plan starts from where you are now. It creates a step by step plan which ends with where you want to be at a particular time in your life. It helps clarify your goals and directs you along your career path towards your desired objectives. It’s a plan to list what kind of education or professional experience you need to reach your professional and personal goals.

Before you start sharpening your pencil and writing down a career development plan, you must do research and some critical thinking on reaching your goals. You need to go through some preliminary steps to help you draft the best possible path for a successful career in the shortest time possible. Here are seven things to work on for a career development plan.

A career development plan is divided into a few steps:

  1. Determine your field of interest.
  2. Identify your goals.
  3. Assess your position.
  4. Set SMART goals (what you’re going to do before and after reaching your goals).
  5. Identify your obstacles.
  6. Write down your plan.
  7. Evaluate from time to time and value the little milestones.

1) Determine Your Field of Interest

It might seem strange to jump straight to your interests while devising a career development plan, but it helps. It helps you in clearing your head of all the lingering confusion and makes it easier for you to find ways to develop as a professional with a clear vision of what kind of work you love.

Young Female Sculptor is working in her
Determine your field of interest before you develop a career plan

The details depend on whether you want to make it specific or keep it broad. After all, it never helps to be too stern with what your primary career interest is. For instance, if you wish to become a PR professional, you can name the firms you want to work for and be flexible about it.

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You can also list the reasons you love a certain kind of work and prefer it over another. It will help you in better sorting things out in your head and eliminate any confusion that remains. It is one of the essential purposes of writing down a career development plan. The right plan can help you take charge of your career trajectory.

2) Identify Your Goals

Determining what your overall goals are, gives direction and purpose to your career development planning. Making the right goals for the right reasons certainly gives you the desired results if followed with the right steps.

It is different from determining your field of interest, so try not to get confused. Goals are where you want to end up with the work you choose. And, defining the area of interest is about looking within for answers in the affirmative.

Businessman climbing stairs to reach target at top in his career
Identify your goals and be specific about it

Let’s see how to go about the former.

Make your goals as specific as possible. Narrow down your career goals to the kind of position you see yourself in, in an industry that suits your talent and experience. Particular goals make planning more specialized towards what you are aiming to achieve.

Set both long-term and short-term goals. The latter is quicker to achieve and gives a feeling of accomplishment, motivating the individual to move onto the next step. Asking yourself where you see yourself in 2 years, lets you define the first step of the career development plan. But asking yourself where you see yourself in 10 years, helps you create a direction in career development planning. It is through incremental changes (or steps) that a big difference is brought about.

Establish a goal that motivates you. Ask yourself why you want to accomplish these goals and why they are essential to you. It is easier to follow a career development plan which holds meaning to you and holds your interest.

Use SMART goals – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-related goals.

3) Assess Your Current Position

Review where you currently stand in your career. You need to figure out where you are relative to your goals. Ask yourself, are you in the right position leading you towards your objectives? Are you targeting a directory position? Are you planning to find a remote job? Do you have all the knowledge and skills to reach your goals?

business woman looking up ready to climb the success staircase
Assess your current position relative to your goals

It is exceedingly important as the entire effort of writing down and following a plan becomes obsolete if the progress isn’t steady and in the right direction.

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Tally all your experiences, skills, and knowledge areas and determine their relevance towards your goals and career development.

Do a gap analysis to see the differences in the qualifications between where you are right now and your next step, or short-term goals shortly, as mentioned in your career development plan.

Have a look at what your strengths and weaknesses are in your work history and also relate them to your chosen career.

4) Set the Timeline for Your SMART Goals

Just establishing SMART goals often results in overlooking them, so to eliminate chances of happening, you will have to add the before and after of all the short-term goals you’ve laid out for yourself.

Smart goal setting concept in career development plan
Set SMART goals

Setting realistic timetables is also a great way to motivate yourself to start investing more time and effort to accomplish the SMART goals mentioned in your career development plan.

Now you can go about it in the following way, you can choose to mention the required steps that you think you have to accomplish these short-term goals. It will give you the direction you need to move on, and help you navigate your way to that goal.

Don’t you want to reach these little summits and get clueless about what the fuss was about?

So, when deciding on your short-term goals, make sure they are like milestones to your larger goal. If your short-term goals aren’t related to your primary goal, the effort loses its importance.

The combination of steps on how to accomplish your short-term goals, the time by which you wish to achieve them, and the benefits of completing these short-term hurdles will make accomplishing them a lot easier if listed in a specific way for you.

5) Identify Your Main Barriers

Now, this part about your career development plan is the hardest to outline clearly.

Collapsing ladder
Identify the barriers to fix them

You can choose to divide this part into two distinctive parts. The first part can be devoted to the barriers within you, i.e., your characteristics or habits that might come in your way. The second part can be devoted to the external obstacles you might face to achieve your short-term and long-term goals.

To make it a lot more detailed and planned, outline the ways to tackle both internal and external barriers.

With internal obstacles, you can follow routines that can help you eliminate them or, at the very least, dilute them to the extent that they don’t pose a threat to your career progress.

With external barriers, you can make separate plans to tackle those one-by-one after doing some research, which will also help you clarify your problem statements.

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6) Write Down Your Career Development Plan

Your career development planning result is a concrete plan that describes the steps you need to take to reach your goal.

Woman writing her career development plan at home office
Write down all the steps necessary for your career plan

After some intense research of what you want and what you currently possess, you can create a workable plan. Consult with a mentor or manager to get a professional opinion on your career development plan.

Present the steps in the form of a timetable, indicating how and when to take each action.

Give plenty of breathing room to your plan by adding backup options and flexible dates and goals. You can’t expect everything to go exactly as planned, so keep it elastic and be open to changes brought about by unforeseen elements.

Check up on your plan every six months to stay on track. It will let you revise the process if necessary, and keep you focused on what to do.

7) Evaluate From Time to Time and Value the Little Milestones

Your career development plan is not like some scripture that believers follow. You can make changes and have your cheat days and rest hours.

A kid riding his bike when the training wheels come off
Little milestones are your stepping stone to success

You don’t have to be on a relentless pursuit of your goals. Whenever you accomplish a little milestone, give yourself a short time off, and value your short-term accomplishment.

After all, you have to be fresh throughout your journey to success. It is the only way you can both enjoy it and increase your productivity with every passing day.

Why Is a Career Development Plan Necessary?

Writing down a career development plan helps you visually understand how to get from point A to point B. After all, it is quite motivating to look at your plan time-to-time and see where you stand on your career ladder. It is also necessary to look back on how much ground you have covered to get where you are today.

The career development planning process is beneficial to any individual looking to reach a certain point in their professional life. Creating a career development plan will allow you to have a straightforward guide on how and when to get there.

When done with proper attention, a career plan keeps the focus and drive towards one’s goals. Sparing only a small portion of your time on career development planning can reap significant returns in your future.

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