Career Development Plan: Definition, Guide and Example

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A career development plan allows you and your employer to plan for the future. It helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses so that you can perform to a higher standard. Understanding your areas for improvement with the support of your employer is important because it increases your job satisfaction and enhances your future employability. In this article, we discuss what a career development plan is, why it's important and how to write one with a template and example.

What is a career development plan?

A career development plan is a strategic method employers use to help their employees develop their knowledge and skills. Its goal is to equip you with the necessary resources to perform your job effectively. Usually, employers take on this initiative to boost the job satisfaction of select employees. This is a great opportunity for you to share your career ambitions and realign your duties with your personal development goals.

You can think of the plan as an honest and transparent conversation with your supervisor. The discussion allows you to identify the strengths you can employ at work and the weaknesses you need to improve. Implementing this plan with the support of your employer benefits both parties. Not only does it help them improve productivity, but it also gives you the chance to request projects that interest you most.

Related: How to Write a Self-Appraisal

Why is a career plan important?

A career plan is important because it breaks down larger goals into actionable steps that both you and your employer can work towards. It's a great tool to target your personal development and to address your employer's productivity goals. Here are a few reasons that describe the importance of a career plan:

Prevents complacency

A career plan ensures you keep moving forward. It gives you a goal to work towards, such as a promotion or learning a new skill. This restores your excitement at work. Rather than falling into a pattern of complacency, it helps you stay alert and recognise problems before they arise. By accepting this opportunity, you can work with your employer to identify projects that interest you.

Leads to personal fulfilment

A career plan gives you a sense of ownership over your career, therefore, it can lead to personal fulfilment. When you feel you're working towards your career ambitions, and not just your employer's KPIs, it can empower you to perform at your full potential. A career plan reveals the value your duties can bring to your own aspirations, therefore, it can give you a renewed sense of direction.

Encourages accountability

When your employer brings up a career plan for your personal development, it should encourage you to take responsibility for your weaknesses. In this situation, their intention isn't to criticise your performance, but to support your growth. Thus, take the opportunity seriously. Be transparent about any difficulties you have at work and ask them for additional guidance or training.

Related: How to Create KPIs to Boost Performance

How to create a career plan

The following is a step-by-step guide detailing how you can collaborate with your supervisor to create an effective career plan:

1. Understand your current responsibilities

Before you create a career plan, understand the scope of your current position. At this stage, you want to identify your short-term goals, your organisational objectives and how you can combine the two to achieve success. Reflecting on these points helps you determine your strengths, and therefore, the most suitable direction for you to move forward in. Consider the following question to build a better mental picture of your current position:

  • What are my past experiences?

  • What do I enjoy doing?

  • What kinds of natural skills and talents do I have?

  • What am I doing when I feel most excited or motivated at work?

  • Do I prefer leading a group, working with peers or working alone?

  • What energises me? What drains my energy?

  • Do I have a specific calling in life?

  • What about my career motivates me to get up and go to work in the morning?

2. Determine your career ambitions

Now that you have a deeper understanding of your current situation, discern the direction you want to take your career in. Your career aspirations should reflect your strengths and interests. This way, you're more likely to feel motivated and fulfilled, even when you encounter challenges. Think about the following steps to narrow down your career ambitions:

  • Brainstorm ideas. Set aside your fears and be honest about what you would like to achieve. For example, do you see yourself being your own boss or being a CEO of a major corporation in the next few years?

  • Develop specific goals. Now that you have identified your overarching goal, breaking it down into a few simple steps to help you get there. Consider the promotions you need to secure, the skills you need to learn and the experience you need to accumulate.

  • Think about your five to 10-year plan. Create a rough timeline with important milestones that you want to achieve. This can help you have a better vision for your future and can support your decision-making.

3. Reflect on any areas for improvement

A gap analysis allows you to compare your current situation with your destination. It identifies areas you need to improve upon in order to achieve your career aspirations. Here are a few things to consider when conducting a gap analysis:

  • Review job descriptions. Read through job descriptions of your dream job. Identify keywords that illustrate the ideal candidate for the role. This method is an effective way to check whether you align with the skills and experience needed to perform the job to a high standard.

  • Identify good role-models. Speak to mentors and industry leaders about the successes and challenges they encountered along the way. Use their feedback to learn from their mistakes and model the behaviours that helped them accomplish their aspirations.

  • Determine your weaknesses. After doing some research and meeting with seasoned professionals, you would have a better understanding of your weaknesses. Try to find patterns in your behaviour to prioritise the skills and knowledge that you need your urgent attention. Identify training programs that can help you upgrade your skills.

4. Develop a career plan

After reflecting on your career ambitions, strengths and weaknesses, create a concrete career plan that you can execute in your everyday work life. The following is a list of tips on putting together an actionable plan:

  • Set small task-oriented goals. Create a list of tasks that align with your goals. Make sure each line item is measurable and seeks to address your weaknesses. The more you practise a particular skill or behaviour, the more likely you're to get better at it.

  • Think SMART. SMART stands for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Create goals that align with the criteria to remain on target and accountable. The more specific you're with your goals, the more likely you're to accomplish them.

  • Create task deadlines. Some professionals find deadlines motivating, while others think of them as stressful. No matter how you feel about them, creating deadlines for your goals is an excellent technique to avoid complacency.

Related: How to Write SMART Goals For Your Career (With Examples)

5. Consult your supervisor for their advice

Share your career plan with your supervisor to get their advice on any growth opportunities you might have overlooked. Be open to their feedback as it can help you deliver better results at work. The more cooperative you're towards your employer, the more likely they're to present you with greater opportunities for growth.

Career plan example

Here's a career plan example that uses the template introduced earlier:

Joanna Chung Project Manager
12 July 2021

Self-Assessment

  • Currently manages three co-workers and would like to move into a leadership role with greater responsibility

  • Currently has the longest-lasting client portfolio and would like to continue this accomplishment into the future

Development Goals

  • Earn a promotion to be a 'Lead Project Manager'

  • Increase client portfolio by 15%

  • Improve project delivery timeline by 15%

Strengths

  • Strong communication skills that are crucial to maintaining long-term relationships with clients

  • Excellent organisation skills that minimise delays in project delivery

  • Dynamic team player who collaborates with colleagues in a respectful and thoughtful manner

Weaknesses

  • Needs to manage emotions better as can get stressed quite quickly

  • Needs to dedicate more time to mentoring junior co-workers so that they can take on more responsibility

Strategies

  • Find a management mentor

  • Accept increased responsibilities in my current job

  • Complete a project management seminar

  • Complete at least two leadership courses

  • Learn specific coaching techniques

Action Plan

  • In one month: ask to lead the team on a small project

  • In two months: secure a mentor

  • In three months: enrol in project management courses

  • In one year: ask for lead project management promotion

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