Peer Mentor Network

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Professional Boot Camp - Career Development Plans

You have a Career Development Plan, don't you? No...having vague ideas swirling around in your head doesn't cut the mustard. Shame on you! Career Development Plans are intended to help you accomplish your goals and give your career a more defined sense of direction; a road map, if you will.

An example of the process I follow is depicted and described below:

Start by identifying the job you want to have in 20+ years. This should be a far reaching goal. Dream a little bit. You certainly don’t want to under estimate your potential.

Next, think about the jobs that are typically required to get from where you’re at today to your long-term goal. If you come up with a long list, create separate categories for mid-term goals (10-20 years) and short-term goals (0-10 years). This will give you a clear outline of your career path.

Next, you’ll need to generate a list of skill sets that are required to reach each of those positions. If you’re not sure what those are, interview the person who is currently holding that job and ask him or her which skills are critical. Don’t limit yourself to skills you need to gain. Give yourself credit for the skills you already have that are necessary for your next promotion.

Lastly, identify the specific actions you must take to obtain each of the skill sets you’ve listed. These should be attainable, realistic performance objectives that you can accomplish in a relatively short time period. You’ll feel a greater sense of achievement if you can “check the box” more frequently.

I would also recommend creating a schedule that you intend on following. If your goal is to make Manager in 3 years and Director in 10 years, write that down. Set up quarterly meetings with your manager and/or mentors on Outlook to review your entire Career Development Plan. It will be a dynamic document so expect to make adjustments often. Don’t assume that everyone knows what your plans are. Talking to your manager about your Career Development Plan will communicate that you take your job seriously. Exemplify motivation and passion in what you do and the impression that you are a high potential employee adding value to the company will be constantly reinforced.

Please share your own approaches to Career Development Plans!


  • After reading this post, I had an interesting conversation with hops. Though we all have career goals and dreams, I wonder if it is possible to dream too big. When do your career goals become too much of a dream and too unrealistic? Is it smart to dream big fully knowing that the goal is out of reach? Are you just setting yourself up for failure? While I think it is important to have a career development plan, I have a hard time thinking big and a hard time thinking 20 years down the line. Maybe it is a fear of setting up goals that I can't accomplish. I guess that it is better to set up some sort of plan, even if the goals are far out of reach, rather than having no plan at all. Right???

    By Anonymous Leah, at Thursday, May 04, 2006  

  • How do you know your goals are too far-reaching or unrealistic until you've tried and failed? Knowing how to capitalize on opportunities is fundamental to success and fear of failure will keep you from seizing those opportunities.

    Let's follow a logical progression here. You take risks, and if you succeed then that's the best case scenario. If you fail then you have an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, modify your behavior, and make better informed decisions as a result.

    Think about a bad relationship you've had in the past. You take a risk on someone and things don't work out in the end. I'm no Dr. Phil, but my guess is that those relationships are a necessary part of the learning process which makes you stronger and smarter today.

    This "shoot for the stars, land on the moon" theme could be a post by itself. I'll add that to the list. Have a great weekend everyone.

    By Blogger hops, at Friday, May 05, 2006  

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    By Blogger Dan, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006  

  • There is some good information in the post about how to lay out your Development Plan. I wish I could say I'm going to use it right now, but I think it’ll be a little while before I lay out a long term plan. Before Hops says “shame on you,” I am in a rotation program for a year and will decide what I want to specialize in at the end of it. Which brings me to the reason for my comment; I’d like to hear what you guys think about how dynamic your plan should be.

    Ideally, I’d like to lay out a 15-20 year plan with an end goal that can be fairly consistent if my career path changes. Director or something similar to that is vague enough. If I look at where I want to be in 5 years though, I need to be more specific. Once I come up with that, I need a pretty detailed list of training and skills I would like to accomplish over the next 3-5 years. So what if I decide I don’t like what I'm working on and would like to try something new? I have to learn a whole new set of skills and it’s going to push that 5 year goal back a few years or change it all together. Or what if I decide to leave and go to a startup?

    At that point, what did I make a development plan for in the first place? I'm not suggesting to not make a specific development plan. I’ve just been thinking about how to come up with a plan where I can realize my long term goal in the time I’ve set, while not limiting myself in the short term. If I completely stick to my plan I might end up unsatisfied with what I'm doing at the present. If I change the plan too much, that seems to go against the whole point of having a plan.

    I suppose there might not be a way around this, but I wanted to hear what other people thought. This might also be a little different for me because engineering requires really specific skills for your job role. Also, what’s your experience with your plans? How much have you been able to stick to your plan?

    I also wanted to mention that I firmly believe in dreaming big. I’ve never heard anyone successful say that they just kind of fell into it. I haven’t heard the “shoot for the moon” quote before, but that sums it up pretty well.

    By Blogger Dan, at Tuesday, May 09, 2006  

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