Career Development Planning: How To Take Control Of Your Career

February 28, 2024 by Verified First

Career Development Planning: How To Take Control Of Your Career

You likely have career goals and aspirations you’re working towards in your professional life — or you know someone who does. Whether that’s becoming CEO one day, working for a startup, or simply trying out a new industry – no matter what you have in mind, you need a plan to help get you there. If you’re looking to take control of your career, you should consider career development planning. 

A career development plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can think of it more like a roadmap for the future of your career and professional development. Keep reading to explore how to create a career development plan and why it may be beneficial for you — and those around you! Plus, get expert tips from Ha-Keem Abdel-Khaliq, Vice President of Global Human Resources at Molex, on building career paths and plans, and encouraging those around you to do the same. 

What is Career Development Planning? 

Career development planning is essentially outlining your career goals and identifying potential paths to get there. A career development plan can be an actionable plan or document that you use to create a roadmap for your career. 

You can think of career development planning like driving a car. People tend to hop in their career cars and just start driving, hoping that it works out. But that can be risky. You need a destination, directions, and maybe a couple of snacks for the trip. It’s the same with your career. A career development plan can help you figure out your destination, how you are going to get there, potential obstacles you’ll encounter, how to get over them, and more. 

Each career development plan is different, but a typical career development plan will include:

  • The starting point: This is where you are in your career right now. 
  • The destination: This is where you want to go in your career.
  • The roadblocks: The potential obstacles you will have to overcome to reach your goal. 
  • The route: How to surpass those roadblocks and to get to your destination.

Benefits of Career Development Planning 

While career development planning can feel intimidating, it can also be the key to achieving synergy and success in your professional life. There are a lot of reasons why people put off career development and taking ownership of their careers. Here are some common reasons people put themselves in the backseat of their career: 

  • Limiting your choices feels scary. When you are starting your career, everything is possible, so how do you decide where to go? People want to give themselves options and be able to change their minds. Career development planning forces us to narrow our focus and make choices, which is out of our comfort zone. 
  • You’ve developed a personal relationship with your company. Personal relationships are typically something that a person invests energy into and expects that investment back. Some people develop a personal relationship with their company, causing them to view certain actions and choices as disloyal or untrustworthy. Employee-company relationships are contractual, and understanding this can help you remove barriers to achieving your career goals. 

So, what is the importance of taking control of your career and how can you benefit from career development planning? Let’s go back to the car analogy. If you get into your car without a plan, you won’t know how you ended up in a ditch. Taking ownership of your career car allows you to direct and know when to push yourself harder, when to take breaks, when you need help driving the car, and more. It also allows you to be more intentional and motivated in pursuing what fulfills you. 

Let’s explore the key advantages of career development planning: 

Provides a Roadmap for Future Success

Without a plan, it’s easier to fall into the trap of “going with the flow”. While adaptability is a great skill, when it comes to your career, passiveness can cause you to make random decisions that do not always move you toward your goals. By taking the time to create a career development plan, you’ll know exactly what your goals are and therefore be more in tune with how to accomplish them.  

Identifies Strengths, Weaknesses, and Skill Gaps

You may or may not already know your strengths, and you probably have a lot. But unfortunately, everyone has weaknesses and skill gaps, too. Career development planning identifies these weaknesses and creates opportunities to help you achieve your goals. By identifying your strengths and weaknesses, you can fill potential skill gaps that may be blockers to your end destination. 

Inspires Dedication and Motivation

When you are working toward a goal that fulfills you, you will be more dedicated and motivated to achieve that goal. This applies to your career development plan, too! Without a plan, it can be easier to get discouraged and give up. But when you’ve established a career development plan you are happy with, you will be more inspired to push yourself professionally to achieve your goals. 

Builds Trust and Confidence 

It feels good to cross things off a to-do list, reach objectives, and achieve goals. The harder you work and the closer you get to achieving your goals, the more confident and happy you will feel. Plus, as you reach milestones on your journey, you will build more trust in yourself allowing you to achieve objectives quicker. 

How to Create an Effective Career Development Plan

There are a few crucial aspects of effective career development planning, but the most important thing to remember is that you are in complete control. Your career path is going to be unique to your skills, learning process, and goals, and therefore your plan should reflect that. 

Ultimately, since it is your career development plan, the process is up to you. Here are six steps you should consider when starting your career development planning: 

Step 1: Evaluate Your Current Position

The first step in career development planning, and building your career development plan, is to identify and evaluate where you are in your career right now. This allows you to reflect on yourself, your current role, and your skill set. Consider asking yourself the following questions: 

  • What are my previous experiences?
  • What do I enjoy about my current role?
  • What makes me feel most excited and motivated at work?
  • What do I dislike?
  • What drains my energy?
  • Do I like leading people, being with a group, or working independently?

Step 2: Determine Your Goals 

After you’ve taken some time to evaluate your current position, it’s time to determine your professional goals. Thinking about what you want to accomplish will start to give your plan direction. As you start to jot down your goals, it may be beneficial to separate them into short-term and long-term categories. Short-term goals can help you establish where you want to be in a few years, while long-term goals can be more indicative of the next five to ten years. 

Expert Tip: Set measurable, realistic goals. Consider following the SMART framework. A SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. 

Step 3: Assess Your Skillset

Now that you have a better understanding of the direction you want to go, take some time to assess your current skill set. This includes not only identifying the areas that you feel confident in but also determining the skills you need to develop in order to reach your destination. Consider these weaknesses as opportunities to remove potential roadblocks from your journey. 

To help you assess your skillset, it can be beneficial to read job postings related to your current and future positions for inspiration. Make sure to be honest and transparent with yourself where you are proficient, and where you require more learning and experience. 

Expert Tip: Consider conducting a personal SWOT analysis to evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to help build your career development plan. 

Step 4: Explore and Identify Your Resources

Everyone requires help sometimes. Taking advantage of the resources available to you on your career journey is crucial to achieving success. There are a few ways to go about finding and identifying your resources:

  1. Determine if your current company offers a career development program
  2. Explore mentorship opportunities at your company, third-party organizations, LinkedIn groups, and more
  3. Participate in career development workshops or classes, either in-person or online
  4. Determine who you can turn to for support

Expert Tip: Identify and build a trusted network of people who know you, can give you honest feedback, and can tell when you are off-center. Not only can these people give you advice and keep you grounded along the way, but they are also the people who can identify and refer opportunities to you.   

Step 5: Develop Your Action Plan

You’ve identified your goals, the skills and resources you need to get there, and potential roadblocks you might encounter. Now it’s time to write down an actionable plan to make progress on these goals. Here’s how to take the information you’ve collected to create actionable steps:

  1. Create small, task-oriented goals. For example, if you identified that you need to learn how to use new software, a task-oriented goal to achieve this could be signing up for an education course about the product. 
  2. Identify a timeline. Organizing your plan like a timeline according to the trajectory of your goals can help keep you organized and focused. Start with your short-term goals that you can achieve relatively quickly, and then move into your longer-term goals. 

Expert Tip: Find ways to keep yourself accountable. Consider setting regular check-ins with mentors or leaders, transparent tracking measures, and meaningful stakes into your action plan. 

Step 6: Measure Your Progress 

Your career development plan does not end once you’ve created it. It’s not easy to work towards your professional goals, which is why you will want to keep track of your milestones and progress along the way. Don’t forget to take some time to celebrate your wins throughout the journey. 

Your career development plan is not set in stone. It should be a living document that you refer back to and adjust when necessary. As your goals evolve and circumstances change, your plan may require modifications. It’s best practice to set time to refer back to your career development plan every six months or so. 

Expert Tip: Celebrate your wins! Working towards goals and building new skills is no small feat. Take the time to celebrate your wins and accomplishments throughout the journey. Treat yourself to a nice meal or plan some time off. This can help you stay motivated and inspired to continue working hard. 

Advancing Your HR Career

Individual employees aren’t the only ones who benefit from career development planning. While employees do see more career satisfaction, improved skills, and goal progress, the entire organization benefits, too. Organizations that support effective career development planning see improved engagement, retention, and overall culture

Verified First hosts a monthly podcast-style webinar series with HR and Talent Acquisition leaders from some of America's most notable companies. HR at the Table not only explores the most pressing issues in HR and TA right now but also offers ample opportunities for career growth and development. All of our on-demand webinars are available to watch and redeem one SHRM or HRCI credit!

Start accomplishing your career goals today!

About Verified First
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