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Setting out a career development plan

29 Apr 2021
Harry Young

What is your career ambition?

  • Fly a rocket to the moon?
  • Work for a formula one team?
  • Write speeches for the occupant of Number 10 Downing Street?
  • Become CEO of your company?

Whatever your career goal is, you need a plan to get there. The people in those current roles will almost certainly have set out a plan many years before and will have been laser-focused on sticking to the milestones they set themselves.

So how do you get the job you have always wanted? Unfortunately, unless you are at the end of your plan, it is unlikely someone will offer you that job tomorrow. There is a process you need to go through to achieve the right skills and acquire the right abilities to take on the role.

And the planning starts today.

Here are four key areas you need to consider to make your career development goals come true.

Where are you now?

So this is a critical step, but sometimes a little uncomfortable. You need to be very honest with yourself and assess the skills and qualification you have right now.

It would help if you also thought about where you want to get to. Ask yourself;

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What inspires me about my job?
  • What do I not like about my current role?
  • Do I like managing people, or do I prefer working alone?
  • Where do my real skills lie?
  • Is there something I really want to do?

Take the time to write down the answers to these questions. Spend some time on them, and don't just dismiss them as they are the framework for the next step.

Where do you want to be?

And that next step is identifying your end goal? Where is it, and what do you want to be doing in the next five to ten years?

For some, it might not even be a specific title or a defined role. We know that jobs are changing and the skills you might need will change. But do some desk research and work out what jobs exist that align with your knowledge base and interests.

Think about what is holding you back right now. Do you lack confidence? Are you in a job cycle going in a different direction? Are you being paid too much to change course? Do you have family considerations to think about?

Once you have settled on a course, though, it is time to set out some specific goals and get them down on paper (or your phone). It can often be helpful to set these out in smaller steps.

  • What do I want to be doing in 2 years?
  • What are the stepping stones I need to hit to get to my 10-year goal?
  • Is this going to be with your current company?
  • Or are you looking to transition to a different industry completely?

Once you have assessed your current situation, agreed on where you want to get to, and by when, you need to start setting out a plan of action.

Also Read:

What do you need?

To reach your end goal, you are going to need the right qualifications and skills. Don't dismiss the softer skills that employers are keen to see. In any management or leadership role, it is crucial you can inspire your team and communicate a vision.

Check out the job boards

Spend a bit of time looking at the job adverts for the roles you would eventually like to apply for. What is essential in terms of qualification and skills? What competencies are they looking for in the right people?

Start Snooping

Spend a bit of time searching on LinkedIn for people in the jobs you are aiming for. What skills and experience do they have? What has their career path looked like to date, and have they got some extracurricular expertise that is helping? Perhaps they sit on a local board or volunteer for a charity.

Learn from experience

If you have the chance, try and enlist the support of a mentor or a more experienced colleague to provide some advice and guidance. Stepping up can be challenging. There will be scenarios you won't have thought about and have no idea how to handle.

Get their thoughts on good courses to take part in, the right events to attend and perhaps the right qualifications to future-proof your job.

Set out a plan

The final step in this process is actually to get all this information down in a coherent plan.

Set out objectives and a clear timeline

As with any good plan, you need to set yourself some objectives. It will be helpful to agree on some short, medium-term and long-term goals, so it doesn't seem like such a mammoth task.

Map out a few events you want to attend, get that book you have meant to buy, sign up for some free courses that might help your skills, identify a couple of key people you want to chat to about the job.

Next, look at some medium-term objectives. For instance, agree on the next level of job you will need to secure to meet your goals.

Make sure each of the objectives you agree on is set out on a timeline and are achievable.

Having it presented with milestones and defined goals make it real and give you something to aim for. (Help to know it is all part of a bigger plan when you are having a rubbish day at work).

Review and Re-evaluate

As with every plan, however, there will be some bumps in the road. Not everything is going to go to plan. You might not get the first job your go for. You will almost certainly fail at some point along the way. But make sure you take account of the small wins, the new contact made, the new skill developed, the book completed.

Use the deadlines as a guide and try where possible to stick to them as rigidly as you can.

Regularly take stock and review what you have achieved and the progress you have made, and check if your end goal is still relevant.

Nobody knows how work might change and what jobs will look like in the future. In our most recent blog, we talked about how 40% of the skills people have in their current role will be obsolete in three years, so you have to be ready to adapt.

But setting out a plan will give you confidence in the direction you are going and ensure you are ready to adapt and change as the market does to help achieve what you want to over the next five to ten years.

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