The world is becoming less accommodating for people who are content with ‘stumbling upon’ or ‘serendipitously discovering’ opportunities. Competition levels in the business world are being raised, and the margins that separate relevance from oblivion are tending towards being razor-thin. In such a setting as this, you will need to be as close to perfect for the opportunities that come your way (or simply pass on the highway) as you can. This preparedness can only be achieved by planning.
A career development plan is perhaps the simplest tool you can devise to make your transition through a career path more organized. It signifies an intention on your part to set life-goals and pursue them- a desire to be more than just mediocre. So, if you are keen on writing one for yourself, you should be commended. But beyond this, you will have to ensure that your plan is realistic and time bound, if you do not want to wind up in the depressing position of having to pick up the pieces from a failed long-term project you created yourself.
Here are some steps you should take in order to reach the career goals you have dreamt up for yourself
Identify Your Career Interests and Primary Motivation
What do you want to become? Why do you want to take that career path? The answers you give to these questions will form the basis upon which your career development plan is drawn up. It’s a no-brainer- if you set out on a journey without a destination in mind you’ll end up as a wanderer. Sadly, this is what a lot of people do. They do not really have a clearly defined idea about where they want to be in the next five or ten years, beyond the vague statements about wanting to hammer or “make it”. To become a university professor, you will have to work towards it- get educated, perhaps earn a Ph.D. Deciding on an ultimate aim and clearly defining it will help in no small way to give you a sense of certainty about where you want to go with your career.
Passion is also important. Identifying your principal motivation can help you decide what direction you want to head in, and how you want to proceed. Whether you are driven by the desire to be of value to your family and community or to be self-reliant, you should note this as an inspiration. You will need to remind yourself of this when the tough times come. Because they will.
Ascertain Your Current Position and Explain How You Intend to Get to Where You Want to Be
Do the skills you possess at the moment suffice for you to achieve your career goal? How do you intend to acquire those skills? Write down the steps you think can be taken to help you get closer to your ultimate goal. If you have a job, try to evaluate your current role at your workplace. How does it help you reach your goal? Identify specific tasks which aid your transition to the destination you want, and plan to devote more time to them. You may have to go for training programs, establish relationships with people who have gotten to the place you want to be in your career and people who aspire to the same or similar kind of place in your chosen career as you, and study material relevant to the field you are interested in. Whatever it is you are reaching for, be sure that you pen them down as plans you intend to execute.
Note the Obstacles to Achieving Your Goals and Proffer Solutions
It isn’t realistic to disregard the possibility of barriers coming in the way of a smooth execution of a career plan. These impediments may be personal weaknesses ranging from procrastination to a lack of educational qualification. These problems could be dealt with by outlining practical measures we could take to curb them (deliberately deciding to attend to duties on time or getting the training required to get oneself on the road to your ultimate aim). The obstacles could be external, such as a general economic difficulty (for example, a recession) which reduces the chances of one having a straightforward career transition. In this case, measures could be taken to help one stay the course and preserve one’s current position, while gearing up for rare windows for advancement which open up from time to time. These measures can be written against the challenges they are meant to address in your career development plan.
Milestones and Deadlines
There’s no use creating a plan like this one if you won’t set deadlines for the achievement of your goals. The point of defining milestones is to break up the whole process of reaching the career target into manageable chunks. It is easier and more realistic to work towards a long term goal by hitting short term targets. If you aspire to becoming a senior project manager, you should get at it by getting the education and certifications you would need to begin at the entry level of your profession. Getting a B.Sc, can be regarded as a milestone; so can each position attained on the way to the desired position. Binding these milestones to a timeline makes progress measurable. You should be able to tell where you want to be in two years or ten, what achievements would lead up to it, and define a time limit within which those boxes of achievement are to be ticked.
Our plans are not always set in stone, resisting the change that the world around us brings about in us. We should be open to the likelihood that our plans will have to be revised, whether because our perceptions have evolved, or the circumstances have forced us to make a detour. Being aware of this possibility from the onset should help us take a soft landing when the environment turns against us, or adjust the original plan to suit the prevailing reality. Just make sure that you are ready to make changes to the plan if or when conditions dictate that it is absolutely necessary.