Knowing what you want to do and exactly what needs to be done to achieve it is a powerful thing. Writing a career development plan may seem tedious, but once you’re aware of your goals and have a solid time frame in mind of how long it will take to reach them, it will allow you to focus your mind on the important things. This gives you the chance to ignore the paths that you don’t really need to take in your career, potentially cutting years out of the time taken to reach the stage you want to be at.
How do I start?
The first step to writing a career development plan is sitting down and realising what it is that you really want to do. Now is the time to ignore the things you don’t want to do that much – there’s no point in working towards a goal that you’re going to hate when you achieve. If you want to become the marketing director of the company of your dreams, but don’t really want to carry on with your accounting career, cut your losses as early as possible. You’ll thank yourself for it in 10 years.
Now that you know what it is that you’re looking to do with your career, get involved in the community and speak to your peers. Ask them exactly what it was that got them to where they are today; after all, nobody knows what it takes to get somewhere more than the people who have already done it.
Be sure to listen intently to the decisions they made and what they feel was most influential in their ascension of the career ladder.
As with all advice, take this with a grain of salt, but always remember that the more people you speak to, the more accurate advice gets. Internet communities and networking conferences are ideal for both garnering information and acquiring contacts.
Ok, I’ve done the research. What now?
Once you’ve got the hard part out of the way, take a look at where you are currently and review the available options to someone in your current position. Do you need to take a new course to change field, or does your experience bleed over? Take a week out to familiarise yourself with all of the qualities that you’ll need to have and start working towards them. If you (personally) need better maths knowledge, mastery of the English language, or any other skill, be proactive and start moving closer to where you need to be right away.
When writing your plan, follow the SMART principles; keep your goals specific, measurable, agreed, realistic and time-bound. Having goals that are actually achievable, and can be measured over time prevents you from losing motivation. Having constant reminders of how far you’ve come and the distance you still need to go will help too. Write down any potential barriers and how to deal with them ahead of time, so when they do come up you’re fully prepared.