The modern world has brought unprecedented levels of opportunity to the workplace.
In a corporate climate in which ambition is celebrated, personal development has become a priority; never have the rungs of the career ladder been easier to grasp.
In this upwardly mobile environment, professionals need to keep their finger firmly on the pulse of personal skillsets and goals, and a career development plan is the way to do this.
Your career development plan
A career development plan enables you to plot medium and long-term career targets, which are then aligned with career goals. Maintained as a working document, it should be to hand and afford an easy comparison of your experiences, needs and priorities against your overall objectives.
The targets that constitute the spine of the plan should be tempered by:
- Realistic expectations
Climbing the career ladder calls for sustained time investment, so loosen your time-scale to emotionally budget for delays.
Even if the potential to move into a higher role is on your immediate horizon, success can drift closer or further away depending on the tides of businesses’ hiring patterns. This dynamic needs to be respected; it is important to not get demotivated by circumstances beyond your control.
- Align actions to attainable goals
When focusing on a new role, whether in your current company or with another, consider what skills and experience you need to make you the natural choice for employers when opportunity presents itself.
Build mini-goals according to these requirements; maybe you need to develop specific IT or managerial skills that can be obtained in-house. If not, look for other means to develop your skillset.
- Skills audit
Developing your skills and experience sets should begin with a personal SWOT analysis to establish your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This will give more clarity on your abilities and allow you to identify ways to shore-up existing strengths.
Focus on your ability to evidence a skill; you may think you’re a great team player but can you identify ways to document to make your claim credible under intense interview scrutiny?
When choosing how to develop your skills, ensure that your goals are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based), and prioritise these goals according to their importance. You should then be able to break down your goals into parameters that can fit into your daily routine. As such, you increase your chances of success, obtaining further motivation and measurable progression.
Remember to celebrate your successes and allow them to be recognised – LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Posting your achievements regularly will get onlookers associating your name with positivity and progress which is a very motivating spirit to exude.
Don’t be afraid to reach out
Let your line manager know that you are actively seeking work experience to get ahead, and you may receive more help than you’d expect. Most corporates will hold opportunities for formal or informal work-based training that can give you structured experience with professional feedback.
Secondment is another potentially highly effective route to take, whereby you may be able to move temporarily to another role or department within your company. Varying in length, secondments are often employed to cover short-term vacancies, and can come up at short notice.
You can also improve your skillset in your own time via voluntary work, although this may have to be discussed and agreed with your line manager.
Keep your CV current
A basic requirement is to ensure that your résumé is updated with any new skills, achievements or experience that you acquire.
Similarly essential but often overlooked is the need to tailor your CV to new job applications. This does not mean simply deleting work experience that muddies the professional portrait you are trying to paint. Instead, take time to make a complete CV overhaul for each new application, so that the content and tone work harmonise to present you as an ideal candidate.
Allow ambition to spice up your career objectives, and ensure you highlight flexible or transferable skills that would be relevant to the position you’re going for.
A career plan depends on being aware of the bigger picture of an overall goal, with a top-down perspective informing how your intentions will play out on a day to day basis.
Of course, some individuals may not want to leave their current job (it does happen), but that does not make constantly assessing your skills, goals and achievements any less relevant.
Ultimately, a life-long learning approach and a drive to keep your professional outlook flexible will set you in good stead to handle any changes of direction in your career.
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