Career Planning: Key Steps To Consider In Creating A Career Development Plan

career planning

Are you ready to take control of your career path? A well-thought, strategic career development plan will help you target new opportunities, track your progress, and establish realistic and achievable goals.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate or a young professional beginning to explore different job possibilities, taking the necessary steps in designing your career development plan can open unlimited opportunities in the future.


What is a career development plan?

A career development plan focuses on helping you reach long-term career goals. You can identify skill gaps and improvement areas and set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based) goals. When you have a plan, you can:

  • Focus on the right tasks and activities to achieve the ideal job or title in the future.
  • Create a self-reflection and assess one’s current skills and knowledge.
  • Plan realistic goals while reflecting on your interests, aspirations, and values.
  • Update the plan and include the changes in the job market or personal circumstances.

An effective career development plan consists of short-term and long-term objectives and creates a timeline for execution.

Career development plan for new graduates

Life after graduation is the most exciting part. It’s time to face the real world. Check out these tips to get you started.

career planning

1. Perform a thorough self-assessment

Choosing a career after graduation is one of the most significant decisions in your life. While there’s no rule against pivoting in your career, starting right makes a difference.

Your new career path will help you learn more. If you think learning will stop after graduation, you’re wrong. Learning goes on and on in life, and you’ll never stop learning.

In the early stages, you should maximize learning opportunities to further hone your knowledge and skills.

Assess yourself and what you really want. Make sure your decision will both help you instill confidence and, at the same time, make you happy. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • What’s my passion?
  • What job do I like to do and earn the money I need?
  • What excites me most about projects?

2. Decide where you want to be five years from now

Set short and long-term goals. Decide where you want to be for six to 12 months. About five years from now, the future is difficult to predict in today’s environment.

Your likes or dislikes change over time. It’s a good idea to reflect on what you strongly feel about your career.

Create a list of your likes and dislikes and what you want to be someday. It will be your source of motivation whenever you face challenges.

3. Assess skills and knowledge in career planning

Explore your capabilities, knowledge, and skills. Decide where you’re good at, what skills make you stand out, and what you’re passionate about.

Reflect on your current skills, abilities, and talents, and compare them to your career path requirements.

Create a list of your strengths, weaknesses, and development needs.
You may need to ask for an outside opinion from a former mentor, a workmate, or a friend. It’s an opportunity to reflect on yourself and know what others think about you.

4. Set realistic goals

Setting goals gives you a sense of clarity and direction, helps you stay focused, and allows you to measure progress.

Here are some tips for practical career goals:

  • Create short-term objectives: Break them into smaller, more manageable tasks. Each goal should outline specific steps that need to be taken to keep moving forward on the path toward reaching the long-term goal.
  • Set long-term goals: With passions and interests identified, begin setting long-term goals that align with your aspirations. These goals should be ambitious yet achievable. They push you out of your comfort zone, but it is still attainable within a specific time frame, such as five years from now.
  • Celebrate milestones: Take note of any milestones achieved along the way—no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. You’ll be motivated to keep going until you reach your goals.

Career development plan for professionals

Some people do not get it right the first time, but it doesn’t mean it’s too late to change career paths. Others seek to change careers for various reasons.

Most often, the common reasons include:

  • Your career goals are changing
  • You want to earn more
  • You want to try something different
  • You are interested in a new job
  • You want more flexible hours
  • You want to grow professionally

You have the liberty to change your career but ensure that you go through the right process — from filing a resignation to working on a smooth transition of paperwork with your current employer.

career planning

Here are a few reasons to help you think if switching careers is best for you:

  • If you no longer feel fulfilled or motivated by your job, consider changing career paths.
    When you feel your work has become mundane and uninspiring, it could be a sign that you want to explore new possibilities elsewhere.
  • When you start to notice that the salary for your current job does not adequately reflect the value of your work, it’s not enough to support your lifestyle. It might be time for a career change.
  • If you struggle to keep up with technological advances in the industry or lack the necessary skills for advancement, changing careers could help you stay ahead of the competition.
  • There are better opportunities elsewhere that align more closely with your passions and interests – if this is true, then it could be beneficial for you to make the switch.

Switching careers can be a challenging process, but it’s also an opportunity for self-growth. Here are some tips to help you develop a successful career development plan when changing your career path.

career planning

1. Reassess skills, knowledge, and interests

Evaluate your existing skills, knowledge, and interests. Consider your current strengths and what new skills or knowledge you must acquire to pursue the desired position.

Make sure that these skill sets overlap with the job requirements of your desired position to increase your chances of getting hired.

For example, if you want to switch from accounting to marketing, take additional marketing courses such as digital marketing or social media marketing and develop other related skills such as design and copywriting.

2. Know what you really want

Before embarking on a career change journey, you must know precisely why you want to switch and what kind of job you would like to pursue afterward.

Consider the type of work environment and company values that motivate you and help you achieve satisfaction in your chosen profession. If you need to travel alone just to get away from everything to help you think, why not?

Create a list of characteristics that describe your ideal job and review them regularly before filing a resignation or submitting a job application.

3. Be realistic about the cost of changing careers

When changing careers, it is essential to mentally prepare yourself for this transition and financially plan for any costs associated with the new one.

These costs could be:

  • Tuition fees for courses
  • Certifications that may be required
  • Additional training expenses
  • Other costs that may arise along the way should account for these when planning how long this transition might take.

4. Review your finances

Before planning a new career path, review your current finances to check if you are stable enough to support this decision.

Do you have enough savings in case of financial uncertainties within this process or during periods between jobs if needed?

With this knowledge, getting back on track will be easier for you who feel stuck financially due to your current situation. If you are financially challenged, delaying your career plan and prioritizing other commitments like paying off credit card debt or saving up funds for your MBA program is best.

5. Set SMART goals

Setting SMART goals will help clarify each step needed while creating clarity around which direction you want to take. Think of:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable or Achievable
  • Realistic, and
  • Time-bound

This approach will help break down each goal from large abstract ideas into more concrete steps so that progress can begin immediately despite some challenges.

Say you want to achieve project manager certifications by the end of the year. Break down this goal into chunks to make it easier to accomplish, like attending an online course or face-to-face workshop every Saturday for four hours.

Without SMART goals, you might end up delaying your plan, or worse, you can easily get distracted or sidetracked by new opportunities that aren’t aligned with what you are trying to achieve.

Final thoughts — ready to land your dream job?

A career development plan is essential to furthering your professional ambitions, regardless of your career stage.

For fresh graduates, a carefully formulated career development plan could provide direction and propel them into the job market.

Similarly, this step-by-step approach is invaluable for those looking to switch careers as they reassess their skills and discover new opportunities. Considering other elements, like self-reflection and networking, is essential when completing a career plan.

As always, we would love to hear from you — what advice would you pass on to someone following their own career development path?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.