A career plan offers a simple but effective way to map out your career aspirations, outline your personal goals and make actionable plans to achieve them.
In this post, we’ll explain exactly what a career plan is, and how you can start creating yours today. This will ensure that you are consistently upskilling, which can help you to stay adaptable throughout your chosen career.
What is a career plan?
A career plan, also known as a professional development plan, is an evaluation of your current skill set and an outline of your future goals. It includes an assessment of what skills you need to develop and actions you need to take to advance along your chosen career path.
This kind of review can be done at any point in your career, so if you are still a student, don’t worry! It doesn’t matter what your current skill set looks like, it’s more important that you are taking time to develop an action-based plan to reach your objectives in the future.
Why is planning your career important?
Professional development is an ongoing process, and not linear, so it’s helpful to have a reference to look back on when you are struggling or feeling demotivated. You might also go through different stages in your life, and your priorities may change, which is very normal.
This type of plan is not set in stone but provides a comprehensive framework to help guide your career decisions and keep you focused. If you develop one of these together with your manager, it can also help you develop a more constructive relationship, and provide a framework to add more value to your role.
Discussing your career trajectory in-house is a win-win for both parties, as you can build on the skills required for your role, and contribute towards your long-term goals at the same time. Not surprisingly, research shows that investing in employee skills development leads to greater staff retention.
Tips for mapping out your professional growth
There are many ways to approach career planning but the most critical element is finding a way that works for you, and/or your employer. You can be as elaborate as you like, but be sure to cover the following essential points, which are based on Indeed’s recommendations for putting together a professional development plan:
Step 1: Assess your current situation
What are your core competencies? What do you enjoy? If you’re a student, include skills that you’ve developed while taking part in extra-mural activities, or by completing projects and internships. If you have worked in a role for a long time, what are the core skills that you have developed? In addition, what are some of the highlights of the work you do?
Step 2: Write down your goals
In this step, it’s time to think about what you want. What are your greatest career aspirations? While you might not know exactly how you are going to achieve your goals, letting yourself dream big can help you to see where you want to go. If your career aspirations are very simple, that’s also okay!
Step 3: Make plans to bridge the gap
Once you’ve assessed your current situation, and seen where you want to go, you can start to bridge any gaps by determining what skills you need to achieve your goals. For example, if you are wanting to work more in a team, you could look at taking on more group projects in your role or making an effort to improve your interpersonal skills.
Step 4: Look at your resources
Once you’ve established what skills you need to develop, you can then look for resources to assist you. This could involve doing independent study and reading books, or even attending networking events, webinars or talks.
Another very practical way of finding resources is to speak to your manager, mentor or HR about in-house assistance. You might be able to negotiate the demands of your role and take on more experiential learning, or you could secure financial assistance for a relevant online or in-person course.
Step 5: Write an action plan
The final step is putting everything together into an action plan. It’s important to set realistic timelines for each step and to regularly take time to review your goals and monitor your progress. Staying accountable is critical, which is why you should seek guidance and support when putting together your career plan.
How to upskill in your career with SACAP Global micro-credentials
By putting together a professional development plan, you’ve already taken the first step to upskill and advance in your chosen career.
If part of your professional development plan is upskilling, browse our variety of online short courses and micro-credentials, which can help you future-proof your skill set by building a comprehensive set of interpersonal, management and leadership skills.