A career development plan is a way to set future goals for progression in a chosen career. The plan might be something an employee creates on his or her own, or he might do it with the assistance of a career counselor, or even a present employer. Creating a list of goals, along with strategies for achieving those goals and a desired completion date, can be a step in the right direction when trying to improve a career.
One might begin a career development plan before college, or more commonly, when wanting to change careers in mid-life, or get promoted to a higher position. To begin, imagine the desired end result. Consider if the goal involves learning skills for a specific trade, advancing into management, or even starting a private business? Keep in mind, however, that career development plans are not set in stone, and may be altered at any point. They are only meant to be guidelines.
Once the ultimate goals are in mind, it is time to break it down into smaller steps that will need to be taken. A realistic assessment of one's current skills, abilities, and education is very important at this juncture. This will indicate existing qualifications, along with the areas that need to be improved upon. When creating a list of steps to reach the goals, keep in mind that they can be formal or informal.
Formal steps might be a list of classes that need to be taken, exams to pass, or certifications that need to be attained. Informal steps might be researching the chosen career or meeting with people for networking purposes. Any step that seems necessary to take to help achieve the final goal should be included in a career development plan. It is a good idea to include a general date by which the goals should be completed. This will not only help provide better motivation, but will also help keep track of important test dates or application deadlines.
A career development plan can be as long or short as is necessary. One might want to complete the goal within one year, or in as much as five years. Setting small, realistic goals that can be easily completed along the way will help provide a sense of accomplishment, while simultaneously encouraging more work toward the next step.