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A career development plan is an important tool for helping your realize your career goals and enjoy the work life you want. Everyone wants a satisfying work life that makes them happy, but not everyone is willing to put in the effort to evaluate their career and make the changes needed in order to experience fulfillment. With a career development action plan, you can gain a clear idea of your long-term career goals, what your short-term goals should be, and how you can go about achieving both.

Steps to Create a Career Development Plan

A career development plan requires some reflection on your past achievements and failures, as well as a solid framework. Here are the six steps you can follow to create a career development plan that will help you reach your desired career goals.

How to Create a Career Development Plan

Step 1: Assess Your Current Situation

Where are you in your career? If you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in your current field, you probably have a pretty good idea about how well you’re doing so far. If you’re only a few years into your current career, you might not be entirely sure of your overall progress. Either way, it’s wise to reflect on your present situation and evaluate the actions that led you here.

If you regularly review your career goals, you might already have a benchmark to measure your performance against. Think about whether you reached the goals and deadlines you set last time around. Which goals did you fail to meet and why? Evaluate the obstructions and make a note of them. Did you have any major achievements? What helped you succeed? Record them as your advantages and strengths.

Even if you are meeting your goals, it’s important to reflect on whether they make you feel happy and content.

If this is the first opportunity where you’ve taken time to review your career development, start with your present job and reflect on your performance:

  • Are you performing well in your current role or do you still feel unsure of where you stand?
  • Do you find your work challenging yet exhilarating?
  • Do you feel there is scope for professional growth in your field?

Answer these questions to begin mapping your career path.

You could be unhappy with your current career for several reasons. Maybe it’s not the career you initially set out to pursue, or perhaps your passion lies elsewhere. In those scenarios, map out a career path with your wanted career in mind.

If you’re unsure of what you truly love, you will need to dig a little deeper. Think of what led you to your current career. Was it the work, the pay or both? If it was the work, examine why it no longer gives you pleasure. Is it because your job description has changed or that you wish to broaden the scope of your work?

If it’s the pay, it’s time for you to think about your likes, dislikes, and hobbies to determine what kind of work truly makes you happy. This requires some serious contemplation, so don’t rush it. An ideal career choice is one where your talent, skills, and demand intersect. Once you’ve figured out your primary interests, write them down. They could be broad, such as marketing, or specific, such as search engine optimization. If possible, also write down a specific industry you want to specialize in, such as automotive.

The more specific your interests, the better. Another way to think about a new career path is to look at your current skillset and consider careers that connect to it. For instance, if you’re working in the legal field, you could take a job writing website copy for legal firms.

Another way to think about a new career path is to look at your current skillset and consider careers that connect to it.

Step 2: Identify Long-Term Career Goals

Remember the popular interview question, “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” That’s the one you’re trying to address in step two. If you don’t want to think that far ahead, that’s okay, but you should at least have an idea of where you wish to be in five years. Your goals can broad in nature, such as writing a book related to your field, or they could be highly specific in terms of your job role, such as becoming the sales manager of your company. Generally, the more specific your goal, the easier it is to measure and reach.

Don’t let your long-term goals limit you. They should merely be guiding points in helping you reach your destination. They should be dynamic, flexible, and challenging. You can always add more goals and aspirations, but try not to stray too much, which could lead you to not fulfill a goal.

When deciding on your long-term career goals, it’s important to consider job trends and growth in your field. As you may be aware, with the increasing role of technology, jobs in tech and IT are the most in demand. Glassdoor lists 10 IT jobs as the best jobs to have in America out of 25 jobs. The report is based on the job openings, salaries and career opportunities in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, jobs in IT are expected to grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Jobs in IT are expected to grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024.

There are also careers experiencing a steady decline in demand. It is important to consider the trends before you decide on your career goals. Take a look at which careers will be in demand in the next decade, and consider how you can connect your skills and experience to those careers.

According to the Talent Shortage report by ManpowerGroup, some of the hardest roles to fill are technicians, sales representatives, accounting, engineering, and IT. If you’re looking to pivot your career, it might help to see if your skills would be useful in a role that’s difficult to fill. Don’t be afraid of a complete skillset overhaul. There are various ways you can acquire new knowledge and skills, thanks to online courses. For instance, we offer several programs that can help you quickly obtain a degree in a new field.

If you’re planning to switch careers, your long-term or five-year career goal could be to land a steady job in the field and gain some valuable experience. You may have some companies in mind. Record the names of these companies, as they will guide you to develop your short-term goals.

Step 3: Identify Short-Term Goals to Help You Realize Long-Term Goals

Once you’ve written down your long-term goals, it’s time to evaluate the short-term goals that will help you reach them. Think of short-term goals as building blocks to help you inch closer to your main goals.

Let’s say that your long-term goal is to write a book related to your field. To achieve the goal, you will need to:

  • Develop a certain amount of expertise in your field
  • Research the topics that would be relevant to your readers
  • Identify what problems your book is most likely to solve
  • Make some notable achievements in your field if you want readers to take you seriously

All of the above are your short-term goals. You can then break them down into actionable tasks to achieve them.

If your long-term goal is to become the sales manager of your company, you will need to score a certain number of clients, which would be the short-term goal you need to achieve. You need to develop a framework for gaining more clients and scoring that promotion.

If your long-term goal is gaining valuable experience in a new career, you need to figure out what activities will lead you there.

If your long-term goal is gaining valuable experience in a new career, you need to figure out what activities will lead you there. Maybe you want to obtain a degree. You could also become an intern or do some pro bono work for nonprofits and small businesses to gain experience. There are many possibilities. If you want to work at a particular company, review its employment guidelines and experience required. Use the information you gain as your short-term goals.

Step 4: Write Down Activities and Resources to Help You Reach Your Goals

Now that you have your short-term and long-term goals in place, it’s time to determine what tasks you need to complete in order reach them. Think about your strengths and additional skills you will need to reach your goals.

It is best to be systematic and record each of your goals in different columns. Beside each goal, write down activities, skills, and resources that will contribute to it. For instance, if you want to write a book and the goal is to research topics relevant to your audience, you need to start reading various sources relevant to your field. This could include scouring web forums, interacting with readers online and offline, running surveys, and speaking with your colleagues and peers regarding the subject.

Consider the resources you will need. You will need access to the internet, various forums, industry events, as well as knowledge of creating and running surveys, and a good amount of time. Figure out if you have the time and money to bear the cost of the resources. Think about how you can gain the knowledge you need, whether it’s through online courses, on-the-job training or seminars. Be honest with yourself about your current skillset and if it can contribute in any way toward your goals.

Step 5: Make a Note of Possible Barriers to Progress

Once you know the activities and resources important to your success, it’s time to review possible hurdles you might face. Consider hurdles in advance, so they don’t stand in your way once you’re ready to implement your plans. There are many things that could prevent you from achieving your short-term goals, such as lack of time.

If you’re already working a full-time job, it might be difficult to find time to join a new course or acquire a new degree. In such cases, it’s best to think about how you can delegate tasks to your team members and free some time for yourself. Consider enrolling in a flexible online course that allows you to quickly complete your degree, such as the degrees offered at Vista College.

Think of all the barriers to your success and devise possible solutions for navigating through each one. Evaluate your past performance and learn from your biggest struggles and failures. Brainstorm about how they could have been avoided and what you can do differently in the future.

Step 6: Set Milestones to Help You Measure Your Progress

The next part in your career development plan is setting appropriate deadlines and milestones. This step is actually where most people falter in the planning process. The key to setting effective milestones is to strike a balance.

Overestimate how much you can do, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and frustrated. Underestimate what you can do, and you’ll waste precious time and resources. Be sure to examine your past performances and write down an honest estimate of how much you think you can do in a given period of time.

If you think you’ve been slacking too much at work, kick it up a notch and assign yourself more challenging deadlines. If you think you work too much, slow down a bit and consider how productive your approach has been.

Beside the activities column, write down deadlines. You may need to break down activities into smaller chunks to plan more effectively. Remember to plan as specifically as possible and eliminate any barriers you foresee. For instance, make sure you have a solid internet connection. Or if you’re contacting sales leads, make sure you have access to the required systems and contacts.

The more specifically you plan your tasks and assign milestones, the more difficult it will be to become distracted. Staying focused is the key to accomplishing more!

Step 7: Review Your Career Development Plan on a Regular Basis

Once you’ve recorded your milestones and deadlines, it’s time to spring into action. Your career development plan doesn’t end here. If you want to make a mark in your field, you need to constantly review and update your goals with your changing needs and aspirations. You also need to keep pace with innovations in your field and ensure your career is developing in accordance with them. Plan to review your career development plan on a quarterly, bi-annually and yearly basis.

If you want to make a mark in your field, you need to constantly review and update your goals with your changing needs and aspirations.

Of course, it goes without saying that you must do a monthly review of the milestones you set in the previous step to ensure you’re on the right track.

How to Put Your Career Development Plan Into Action

Now that you know how to make a career development plan, be sure you can put it into action. Every career is unique and has different requirements to succeed, but there are some basic caveats that will help you develop your career, no matter what the field.

Let’s explore how you can put your career development plan into action:

  • Review your goals often. This cannot be stressed enough: The more you review your goals and assess your performance, the better the chance of improving. Set measurable goals and make yourself accountable for meeting them. If you consistently find yourself lacking in a particular area, you might want to change something to experience results.
  • Explore education and training opportunities. If you want to continuously improve, learning should be a lifelong activity and not end when you leave college. If you want to change careers, it’s a great time to obtain a degree. At Vista College, we offer several programs online to help you quickly earn a degree in a desired field. Education isn’t only for people changing careers. It can also be beneficial if you want to boost your current job by completing certificate courses to add to your knowledge.
  • Cultivate a relationship with a mentor. Mentors can give direction to your career and help you navigate the ups and downs of your job. Having been there themselves, they are reliable sources and can help you reach new heights in your career. Before you go around asking influential people to mentor you, think about what you can give back to them and how you can add value. Make sure it’s a two-way exchange. Consider offering something small, such as proofreading their documents.
  • Interact often with clients/customers. This gives you an edge over professionals who are simply not listening close enough to the demands of their audience. No matter what your profession, keep in touch with your target audience, and gauge their feedback from time to time. Listening to your customers might also open new opportunities for you.
  • Read as much as you can. Reading keeps you informed of current happenings in your industry and broadens your horizons. If you think you don’t have enough time to read, make the time! Consider audiobooks and e-readers to read quickly and soak up as much knowledge as you can.

Remember that a solid career development plan can provide ideas and steer your career in the right direction.

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