What is a Career Development Plan?

A career development plan is a short, medium and long-term list of goals that an individual has relating to their existing role or the role that they want to have next.

This list will include activities, experiences and roles that will support their journey to achieving the short, medium and long-term goals.

Why would a person wish to or need to have a career development plan?

Many people are in roles that they have fallen into. They may love the role, or they may be indifferent to it. Some even dislike the roles that they have. The reality is, if you don’t have a map of where you are going, you can end up anywhere. That’s great if you are an adventurer, but not so great if your career passion is photography and you are working as a printer.

I left school in 1979 with every intention of becoming an apprentice draughtsman. I joined a company for £17 per week in their drawing office where all I did was make tea and fetch drawings from large drawers for 4 months. Then, a job I’d earlier applied for contacted me with the results of my application a few months back. I was offered an office junior role in back office sales for £50.00 per week. For context, that’s today’s equivalent of circa £400 per week for what it can buy as a 17-year-old. I took it. I clearly didn’t want to be a draughtsman badly enough!

Considering what was going on back then and the value of the money, it wasn’t a hard decision. Today, however, we live in a totally different world. The non-linear aspect of careers, the opportunities available to so many and the technology that provides the flexibility, means that our options are greater and wider, which means that a career plan and a career development plan are of key importance.

Aspirations are important for a person to thrive because having a sense of purpose is key – having something to aim for, having a level to reach. That requires a plan. In order to build that plan, a person will need to be honest with themselves with where they currently are with their development.

  • What are their strengths? What specific skills does the person have? Qualifications. Experience?
  • What are the person’s weaknesses (development areas)?
  • To what type of opportunities are their strengths suited?
  • What happens if they do nothing?
  • What is going on in their industry that could negatively impact their future?

We all have dreams of the career that we want or the work that we have fun doing. Like in my example, something can get in the way and take you off course. Therefore, we react to situations rather than plan. The next thing you know, you have been working in an area to which you didn’t aspire, even if you also enjoy it. Therefore, a basic career development plan for an employee will….

Stop the person from being stuck in a rut.

That feeling of not being challenged in your role, that feeling of being bored. Above all, if you have a plan, you will know that everything that you are doing serves a personal development purpose. You will be taking ownership of your own personal development.

Develop the areas where the person isn’t strong.

We all have weaknesses in our skillset. These areas are only a weakness if they are left unchecked. Any plan should include activity to develop those areas, turning them into additional strengths. This results in increased learning and adding to personal capabilities.

A career path to follow.

If we know where we are going, we will know where we will end up. We will know the destination before we set off. Nothing that you do will be by accident and we will not be taken off course too often.

Goal – A positive result to achieve.

That sense of achievement that comes with setting goals, taking action to achieve the results that the person is working towards. This means that every day has a purpose. Every working day ends with the person doing something that is contributing toward a planned success.

A good focus on skill development also contributes to career development. If the organisation that a person works for sees the all-around improvement from an individual, they would be most likely to progress with career opportunities within that organisation. If I am an employer, I would much prefer to promote from within and backfill that vacancy, as it rewards hard work, recognises achievement and rewards aspiration. It also identifies and communicates a career path within the business, reduces risk and improves employee engagement.

Honest self-assessment will help with this process. Completing a personal SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) that will remain as a reference point, can be a person’s guide and prevent them from getting stuck in a rut in the future.

To create your career development plan:

Establish your goal – What do you want to achieve? What does success look like? When do you want to achieve it by? What help is needed? What additional resources are required?

Identify your development needs (SWOT) Obstacles, barriers.

Identify learning opportunities as a result of your SWOT – what skills do you need to add? What experience is required? What training is required?

Build your action plan – what specifically are you going to do? Make this action plan SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result oriented with a Timescale.

Execute the actions- ensure that every day you try to learn something that you didn’t know yesterday.

Review. Always reviewing to improve the plan and update

To discuss this further, contact today


Career Development Plan Template

Share This

Share this post with your friends!