career development plan
career development plan

5 Steps to Create a Successful Career Development Plan

There’s no better alternative than coming up with a career development plan to accomplish life-long goals.

But what does that mean?

Not everyone has been taught how to map out goals and the micro-steps to achieve them—and how having this type of structure will help you stay motivated and on track at work.

If the idea of a career development plan sounds great but a little overwhelming, no sweat—this post will serve as an outline to help you with the planning process, maximize efficiency and productivity, and advance your career. Ready to tap into your true potential? Let’s do this.


What is a career development plan?

Think of it as a roadmap that has propelling power to boost your career. Your plan will show you how far you’ve come and how much further you can go.

Through a career development plan, you can take proper steps to identify and resolve your weak points. And by resolving these problems, your career potential automatically becomes far more influential.


Building your career development plan: focus points

Figure out the starting point

You start by going back to the roots. What influenced you to get to where you are today? How did you get here? What was your very first step?

The goal is to find out the answers to all these questions. This allows you to tie your achievements to a single significant event, which is also known as the “genesis point.”


Know your destination

To create the perfect outline of a roadmap, you need to figure out your destination as well. Where do you want to go? What do you want to achieve? Destination, alongside your origin, will help you craft your journey.


Bridge the gap 

Not all journeys are in a constant state of movement and progress. Sometimes, you need to step away and re-evaluate or prioritize some much-needed rest. Take time to reflect on why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Whatever the reason, a gap is common in career plans. Instead of treating it as a setback, figure out how to use it as a strength. That’s the hidden trick.


Decide your route

Finally, you decide on a specific route that’s best suited for your profession. It’s the last and the most important focal point of a career development plan.

Use all of the information you’ve gathered up to this point. After a thorough evaluation of your origin, destination, and gap, you decide on the ideal path for yourself. This is where you break down specific steps and milestones. Two people could share the same destination, but take different paths to get there—meaning there’s not only one route to a certain career. You need to decide which milestones along the way—jobs, skills, experiences, training—make the most sense for YOU to achieve your goals with maximum impact.


Why do you need a career development plan?

Okay, so now you know the basics. But, why do you need a career development plan in the first place? Because planning and structure in your early career can pay off big in the long-run. Having a plan can help you…


Stay focused from the get-go

Maybe you’re taking your college finals right now, and you’re working late hours at McDonald’s. You’re working to get a headstart on paying off those student loans or to pay for day-to-day living expenses. 

However, whether you know it or not, your career progression has already begun. You’re already conscious of your financial situation, so you can use that consciousness to set goals and make intentional choices.

Having a career development plan will help you to get the most out of these efforts. By creating a proper outline, you’ll understand when and how to start your next endeavor. And, of course, you’ll gain more clarity about when to move on from certain jobs or roles that no longer add value to your ultimate goals.


Map out your career advancement

Experience is super important no matter what profession you’re in. Afterall, 91% of employers say they prefer a candidate who has experience

And that’s why you need a career development plan to map out all the possible opportunities. It will help you to divide your time accordingly and strategically.

By utilizing that data, you can go for entry-level positions that offer you the most experience and skill-building opportunities. You can, later on, use that to your advantage and bargain your way to higher-paying job offers. Or to earn a promotion with your current position.


Be strategic about career diversion

Here’s the thing about career roadmaps. They are seldom straightforward and steadfast in a single direction. You’ll continue to experience bumps and turns on every corner of the way.

You may want to pivot to a completely different professional industry or career. It’s not uncommon at all, and it’s not necessarily a bad idea. In fact, the average person will change careers seven times during their working life.

Keeping a proper chart, i.e., a roadmap of your career, will help you with this transition. Be strategic about your focus areas and eventually this may lead you down a different road than you expected.


Prevent surprises

A career development plan tracks your performance level by recording your achievements and failures along the way.

If you’re doing reasonably well with your career, your promotion is realistic and the result of your hard work. Unfortunately, the same natural consequences are true for consistent failures as well (i.e., stalling out in your career).

But this is why your plan is crucial. Since you’re tuned into your progress—or lack thereof—you can see the good and the bad coming. This self-awareness will help you take the proper steps to elevate your performance level. And that will keep surprises away.


5 Steps to create a successful career development plan

Even without any extra help, you can come up with a successful career development plan in five easy steps. Let’s have a look into what they are and how to prepare for them accordingly.


Step 1: Where are you now?

As mentioned before, identifying the point of genesis is the first step to a successful career. Because it symbolizes the exact moment that led you to your career path.

After identifying your starting point, you need to pinpoint where you currently stand. For that, ask yourself these questions.

  • What skills make you stand out?
  • What roles do you have?
  • What are your current responsibilities?

The answer to these questions will give you insight into where you stand career-wise. It will also help you pinpoint your weak areas that need improvement and further development.


Step 2: Identify your dream career

Write down your ideal destination. Where do you dream of going in life? What type of career lights you up?

And most importantly, do you see yourself achieving that dream in a couple of years? If not, how long will it take? Can you afford to wait that long?

Ask a lot of questions. Because every single one of your answers is super important in figuring out the next step. What you discover will help you determine whether an objective or goal is worth your time.

And if not, you can consider other detours you can take along that same road.

Having as much information as possible will help you proactively tackle the obstacles in your way. For example, let’s say you want to take a job that’s in a different city. But you can’t afford to live on your own yet.

So what can you do? Perhaps you choose to live with a relative in that city. Or get a reliable roommate. Are you ready to commit to a major move?

If not, drop this objective or put it on the back burner. Focus on the ones that you feel more certain of and have the capability of completing.

Prioritizing your most important goals and objectives (and letting go of the ones that no longer serve you) will help you stay on track. You’ll avoid wasting energy on the wrong things.


Step 3: Do a gap analysis

Next up, it’s time to do an actual evaluation of your current responsibilities and skills. For that, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What skills, certifications, and education level do you currently have?
  • What skills, certifications, and education level do you need to complete to reach your dream career?

See where I’m going with this? Finding out what you lack will help you to focus on achieving these skills and qualifications. And that’s what a gap analysis is all about.

Decide on your destination, discover the required qualifications, and then make a list of the qualifications you lack.

Now, ask yourself some crucial questions. Can your current position help you reach these goals? If not, could you make a professional move that more closely aligns with your long-term goals? Or, even better, make a career move that will not only give you relevant experience but will also help you build skills. Think tuition reimbursement or company-wide professional development opportunities. The key is to be strategic.


Step 4: Create an action plan

Finally, it’s time to create the action plan itself. It’s an accumulation of all the information you have collected so far. And with that information, you can create the perfect strategies to improve your career.

Here’s what you should focus on while creating an action plan:

  • Always set small achievable goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
  • Consider specialized courses for the skills you need.
  • Come up with a proper timeline—and stick to it.
  • Apply for jobs that are aligned with your dream position. Or at least, one that is related and helps you build relevant skills.
  • Work smart and not hard. Keep the big picture in mind and don’t waste energy on trivial things.
  • Leave room for recreational activities. Mental health comes first.


Step 5: Measure your progress

Lastly, track your progress after a few months of following the action plan. Evaluate what’s working, what’s not, and what you can do to improve your outcomes.

Have you been achieving your milestones according to schedule? Keep yourself accountable for every action, and even take note of your failures.

Everyone has setbacks and you may not see desired results. It’s entirely possible that your preferences may change over time. Or, you may find validation and renewed purpose.

That’s the great part about having a plan. When you can see what’s gone well and what hasn’t, it allows you to re-evaluate what’s most important and adapt accordingly. 


Resources to help build a career you love

The good news? You don’t have to get started all on your own. There are countless professional development resources available that can help you design the right path for you (thank you, internet). I’ve rounded up a few of our favorites from TVI:


Ask good questions to find direction

What Should I Do With My Life? These 8 Questions Will Tell You.
I Feel Lost—How to Change Direction and Change Your Life
You Don’t Need to Feel Passion Right Away to Build a Career You Love
8 Signs of a Successful Career That Have Nothing to Do With Money or Status


Learn how to advance your career

Why You’re Not Landing Job Interviews (and How to Apply for Jobs Online)
Feeling Stuck? How to Make the Most of Your Twenties
Everything You Need to Know About Starting a New Job
Follow Your Parents Career Advice at Your Own Peril


Master skills that matter

Soft Skills List: The 7 Most Important Ones to Master
10 Simple Ways to Be More Detail Oriented (and How It Will Change Your Life)
10 Reasons Why You Must Start Creating Content Now
The Best Online Courses to Take to Get a Job


You got this

Once you get a taste of success, there’s no going back. And for career-driven people, that’s even more true.

Hopefully, this short guide on building a career development plan helped you to answer important questions, know yourself better, and create specific and achievable steps toward your ultimate career goal.

Because that feeling when you take charge of your future? It’s pretty unbeatable.