Not sure what’s next for you at work? Creating a career development plan will help put you on the path to establishing and meeting your professional goals.
Whether you’re content or dissatisfied in your current job, your career development is something you need to be in control of — not something that’s just happening to you. So it’s important to look ahead, even if you feel there’s not a lot you would change about your current situation in the short term. Here are six tips for devising a career development plan that will put you in the driver’s seat as you navigate your next professional move.
1. Think about your destination — and the journey
When it comes to career development, you need to think about both the short term and the long term. Where do you want to be in one, two, five, 10 years? While your long-term goal may be harder to visualize, you should be able to clearly define your vision for the next few years. Don’t let obstacles stand in your way if they could be overcome by working hard or taking classes. For instance, if you work primarily in print design right now but hope to become a UX designer, that’s likely a goal you can achieve — but you need a solid plan.
2. Research the positions that appeal to you
Are you romanticizing making a move into, say, copywriting? Before you start pursuing your dream job, make sure you really understand what that job entails. Talk to a person currently working in that position to find out about their responsibilities and the various skills required of someone in such a role. Check out job listings for that position to see what qualifications companies are seeking. Finally, talk to a mentor, a career coach or your manager to get another perspective on the position and whether or not they think it would be a good fit for you.
3. Conduct a skills assessment/gap analysis
Before you develop a timeline for achieving your end goal, you’ll need to assess your current skill set and determine where it does — and does not — align with the job you want. If you have most of the skills you’ll need, you may be able to start a job search or talk to your manager about a promotion soon. But if you need to build additional skills on the job or attend classes, you’ll want to add that to your career development plan.
4. Make plans to obtain the skills and experience you need
If you want to be a strong candidate when making a job transition or seeking a promotion, you’ll likely need a mix of training and real-world experience. Now is the time to research training options and ask your manager for responsibilities that will move you along the path you’ve mapped out. For example, if you’re a designer who aspires to work as an interactive creative director, you may need additional business classes, technical training or experience working face-to-face with clients and managing employees.
5. Set target dates for each milestone
If you need to take a series of classes, create a timeline for completing each one based on where and when they’re offered. If you need to ask for more responsibility at your current job before you can move to the next level (see No. 4 above), identify the right time to meet with your manager, whether it’s your next performance review or a standalone meeting. Together, you can establish target dates for stepping up your responsibilities.
6. Hold yourself accountable
Creating a plan is wasted time if you’re not committed to sticking to it. Build in accountability by putting check-in dates on your calendar so you can assess your progress and make adjustments to your career development plan — or even your goals — if necessary.
And don’t get discouraged if you get off course. It’s better to stretch your timeline and keep working toward your goal than to let it fall by the wayside because you’ve failed to accomplish something in the time you initially allotted. And it’s OK if your plans change. The important thing is that you’ve taken control of your career development and started looking ahead.
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