While the responsibility of career development should be shared between you and your employer, not all businesses will put a formal plan in place, even if they do invest in your progression. So if you want to move forward in your career, it’s often sensible to develop your own career plan. 

To create a personal career development plan, simply follow the four steps we’ve outlined below! Just bear in mind that planning is the straightforward part - actually sticking to your plan is much more complicated! We can’t predict the future, so it’s impossible to know what obstacles we may have to face, but your career plan can be pretty fluid. Don’t get set on following the plan to the letter - the main thing is that you meet your career goals!

Why is Career Development Important?

You may assume that your own career progression just benefits you. But career development can also help your employer. If you’re able to move up within the company, this means the business won’t need to hire a senior staff member externally. As an external manager would need to learn about the business and its quirks, it could take them months to get up to speed. Not to mention the risk of this individual not fitting in well with the company culture. 

Generally speaking, most organisations like to promote internally, as less resources are needed. It also incentivises employees to work harder and be more productive, and promotes equality in the workplace.

From the point of view of the employee, career development within a company can mean a better position with more responsibility, a higher salary, or any number of other benefits. Alternatively, it can act as a launching pad for a career elsewhere. 

What is a Career Development Plan?

A career development plan is essentially a roadmap for your career. While the early steps can be relatively detailed, it is likely to just include goals later down the line. Most career development plans include your starting point, your eventual destination, the gap between the two, and the steps you’ll need to take to reach your destination. 

Each development plan should be tailored to the individual - it’s about your personal journey to fulfil your aspirations. And as mentioned above, the steps can’t be set in stone, as life can be unexpected! 

How to Create a Personal Career Development Plan

Drawing up a career development plan shouldn’t take too long, and may even be beneficial for your mental health! Many people find it helpful to have something to work towards, and a solid plan written down. Your plan doesn't have to be high tech either - a simple sheet of paper and some coloured pens will do just fine!

1. Consider Your Current Position

The first step with any career plan is to note down your starting point. You may not have started working yet, and intend to plan the next decade of your life, or perhaps you’ve already come a long way. The main point of this stage is to reflect on your skillset and things about work you enjoy. So you can think about questions like:

  • What previous experience do I have?
  • Where do my talents lie?
  • What have I enjoyed most about my job(s)?
  • What is my preferred working style?

You should also write down where you think you fall on the career ladder - are you halfway to where you want to be, or have you only just started? Note your current job title too - it can be fulfilling to look back at this plan at a later date, and seeing how far you’ve come.

smiling woman holding folders thinking about career progression

2. Think About What You Want to Achieve 

After you've considered your starting point, you can then contemplate your final destination. Don’t overthink it - try and set aside your worries about qualifications or any other factors standing in your way. This is your opportunity to dream big - if your goal hasn’t changed since you were a kid, and you still want to become an astronaut, note it down! 

Just make sure you also consider everything that goes into the job too. That way, even if you don’t end up in outer space, you may still work within the field of astrophysics! Or perhaps it’s the exploration element that appeals to you, and you end up as a deep sea diver, mapping uncharted territory.

Once you have an end goal, you can break this down into smaller time periods. Where do you want to be in two years? How about ten? Think about whether you want to be working in the same company, or even the same industry. And remember to refer back to your questions about your previous experience and skill set. 

3. Plan a Path to Reach Your Goals

So you have your starting and end points. Now it’s time to plan the journey. The simplest way to start this is by looking at job listings for your dream job. Take note of the skills and experience needed, and then start mapping out your path to achieve these things. This could be anything from learning about specific software to volunteering somewhere to get relevant experience.

You should additionally think about whether you will need further training or education in order to reach your goals. It’s a good idea to discuss these with your current employer, in case they can offer the training, or will fund any further education.

The best way to go about this planning stage is to build a timeline. Start with short term goals that are easily achievable, and then move onto the long term goals, such as getting a degree. Give yourself deadlines too - though try to be realistic, and avoid being overly ambitious! 

4. Track Your Progress and Reevaluate 

Some people like to put their career development plan up on their wall, in a prominent position. That way, they can easily track their progress. And as you’ll probably need to update your smaller targets regularly, it’s a good idea to keep the plan close to hand! For instance, your career may take a surprising turn, and you find yourself working in a role you hadn’t expected to love so much. You may even decide to change your final career destination. 

No matter the path you do end up taking, if you’re happy with where you end up, that’s the most important thing. So try not to fixate on the smaller details, and be prepared to reevaluate your development plan. And above all, endeavour to remain positive - you don’t know what could be around the corner!

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