Many professionals wait for human resource’s required annual growth plan to think about their career path. If that’s you, think about the benefits of spearheading your own professional development. The best career growth plan is one you create with your personal goals, desires, and talents in mind. When you sit down to map out your career growth plan for the next five, ten, or 20 years, consider the following pieces of advice.
1. Actively Reflect
Take inventory of your present situation and future plans with a proactive mindset. Instead of contemplating your plan in thought alone, give your ideas physical space by writing them down. Break out the white board or spreadsheet and guide your concerns, frustrations, hopes, and inspirations through to their logical conclusion.
Here’s what that might look like. You’re a designer in the tech industry dissatisfied with your current position. Your big Silicon Valley firm treats you like a cog in the machine. It shows in everything from your uninteresting workspace to constant mandatory meetings.
You write out your growth plan and a detailed picture of the employer you want to work for. You take that brainstorming to a local career recruiter. The recruiter finds you a position with a smaller but more supportive tech business in San Jose where your creative skills are appreciated and pushed forward. Your active reflection turns an ongoing complaint and wish into a real life career improvement.
These active reflection questions from the European career project Develop can start you thinking about your growth plan:
- How well does my current career path fit with my ambition?
- What opportunities are available at my current place of employment?
- What talents and skills do I have that support my career ambitions?
- How can I hone the skills I already have?
- How can my current social network support my career goals?
- How does my current position support my career goals?
2. Enlist Support
You might imagine career planning is a long road you march down alone. But finding the right people to support you on your journey can accelerate progress. Make a list of everyone with the expertise to help you succeed.
You might find support in your current organization. Ask your supervisor about professional development or mentoring opportunities available to you. Sometimes you grow beyond your current professional role. In that case, a career recruiter can help you find a new role within your industry. If you’re looking to change industries, approaching a recruiter with your career growth plan worked out can help them find opportunities matching both your history and your new goals.
3. Set Goals Intentionally
Goals written out one after the other is a professional “to-do” list. Goals planned out to intentionally close the gap between your current state and what you want to become: that’s career growth at its best. Marketing strategist Dorie Clark encourages her readers to break career development goals into “learning, connecting, and creating” categories. She writes, “Your development as a leader is a long-term investment that requires not just time and effort, but careful planning. If you make your professional resolutions with a clear understanding of how you’ll advance your learning, connecting, and creating goals, you’ll be well ahead of the pack by this time next year.”
Learning goals. Consider the benefits of going for that hire degree. Decide if you’re finally going to learn a new language to improve your international client relationships. Make a plan to master new technology to streamline your workday.
Connecting goals. Take a look at your contacts. Set goals to connect or reconnect with people who will broaden your circle. Take steps to network within and outside your organization.
Creating goals. Plan to share what you know. Write and publish an article or sign up to make a special presentation about your area of expertise. Committing to create “sharpens your own understanding and prompts you to think more deeply about the issues,” says Dorie Clark.
4. Practice Gratitude
As you accomplish the tasks on your plan, give thanks! Express gratitude for opportunities presented and challenges overcome. Entrepreneur Sujan Patel says, “Without acknowledging your accomplishments, without properly paying them respect, you’re likely to miss the fact that they ever really happened.” You are more likely to continue setting and meeting career growth goals if you take the time to savor your moments of professional success.
The right time to create a career development plan is the present. Don’t wait until the new year or a dip in career enjoyment to mark out your professional path. The sooner you know where you want to go, the faster you can reach your vocational bliss.