Creating a Career Development Plan

Career development is about taking what’s essentially a job and establishing how to turn it into something meaningful, something with growth that will enrich you personally and professionally. This means determining what you hope to get out of your employment situation and how to proactively go about getting it. It’s about setting both short and long term goals, building a foundation one brick at a time.

  • Career and educational planning.
  • Ask yourself who you are and what matters most to you.
  • Find things about your job that encourage you— or any potential employment — and, with a clear understanding of that job, the best ways to utilize current responsibilities as a piggyback to bigger and greater things.
  • Cultivate yourself by your own invention through initiative, positivity and leadership.

While long term plans are sound fundamentals, short term preparation can demonstrate what can be done if you put your mind to it. Here’s a 90 day career development plan that can help you identify, promote and encourage yourself and others to push you in new directions.

The First 30 Days

If this is a new job, hopefully you established during the interview process what you hoped to get out of your new position besides the paycheck. It’s always a good idea to let potential employers see that you’re ambitious, hard working and looking for a career and not simply a job.

If this isn’t a new job, hopefully you’ve been putting your best foot forward all along. There are far too many of us who show up, get the work done and go home. It’s what we’re paid to do, but it also projects an image that you’re a good worker bee, not a leader with growth potential. Worker bees have their place, and it’s not in management running projects.

Your first goal will be to establish yourself as an asset. If that means turning over a new leaf, turn it over. Go into work every day, every week and every month with a determination to leave your mark. The first and most critical step in any career development objective is being recognized as an asset with great potential.

While you’re establishing your new status as go-getter, research what’s going on within the organization.

  • Who’s who and what are they doing?
  • What projects are on the drawing table and which ones could be vital in your planning and execution?
  • Understanding the company mission, what would be the best way for you to play a part in its success?
  • What programs, educational opportunities, forums, etc., is the organization offering that can aid in achieving your professional objectives?

Take extensive notes, jotting down ideas and inspirations. Look for motivational resources like characteristics, habits and attributes of highly successful people. There are plenty of books and information on the web on this subject that can benefit your personal effectiveness. Use them to track your own plans.

Once you believe you’re ready, it’s time to approach your supervisor or manager, a source in human resources or anyone with strong connections. If your performance is up to par, they’ll already have an idea of your value and potential. It will be easier for them to accept that you have goals that you’d like to achieve over the next 6 to 18 months.

Begin a dialogue about what types of positions could end up in the pipeline, what projects you can contribute to and pin point the training or certification you’ll need to prepare for the openings. Cultivate these new relationships without being overbearing. Look to them for counsel and recommendations. Be prepared to get involved in any activities that will put you help build your reputation.

The Second 30 Days

It’s time to kick stage two of your career development plan into gear. At this point, you should have:

  1. Prepared a strong plan
  2. Developed a thorough log of activities to focus on over the coming months
    • Training
    • Certifications
    • Classes
    • Peer networking
  3. Met with the right people that can help you achieve your career goals
  4. Established yourself as an asset

Continue developing relationships with hiring managers and well regarded peers that offer the possibility to sponsor you. Larger organizations may have a career counselor in human resources ready to work with you on your goals. Build connections, including mentorships, outside of those with hiring managers. Their advisement can be critical to ensuring your plans are moving in a positive direction.

Ideally, you want to enhance the prospect that when opportunity knows, the right individuals will think of you. This means far more than glad-handing. You need to be on the front lines, highly visible, working hard, attending meetings and company offered seminars and keeping a high profile.

You want individuals in the right places to advocate on your behalf should a new position, business opportunity or team project opens up. You need to keep your ear to the grindstone so that you’ll be up to speed on these developments as well. Do not be afraid to openly ask about any opportunity that crops up.

Job shadowing may be helpful here. That’s a process where you explore and study career opportunity by spending time with someone already in that field. You not only get a chance to see the day-to-day responsibilities and activities of the job, you have the opportunity to ask questions and meet all the right people. It’s not necessarily a convenient opportunity for anyone already expected to fulfill their current job responsibilities, but it’s ideal for college graduates or students looking at career exploration.

The Final 30 Days

By this point, you should have a firm comprehension of what courses you will need for any certification or training. A lot of organizations are willing to pay for this education with the understanding you’ll use the knowledge to build the company. They may even offer you the time from work to attend classes.

You should also be attending as many company sponsored seminars and events as you can without interfering with your duties. This will definitely help you network and learn about the happenings throughout the business. Keep an eye on the company calendar, getting a go-ahead to sign up for anything you believe will be beneficial.

Document all your experiences and share them with the right people. Be earnest about seeing if supervisors and managers are happy with your performance and where there’s room for improvement. You especially want feedback on the progress of the development actions that you’ve discussed in detail previously. This should be on as frequent a basis as you can manage.

Keep a close eye out for chances to work closely on any project that will demonstrate both your capabilities and willingness to prove you’re a team player. It may seem a cliché and a burden, but there is truly nothing more appreciated among the hierarchy than an employee dedicated to improving the brand. You will be remembered and thought of when the time is right!

Throughout this last stage, continue to seek out learning opportunities. Find objectives, goals and ideas that can be added to the plan. These first 90 days will be the stepping stone to where you want to be within the next year and a half.

Be prepared to take one step at a time. If you’re looking to become a project manager, don’t let that give you reason to pass up the chance to become an assistant project manager, or even the chance to be on the team. If necessary, should a new project pop up, offer your services in some capacity.

A Few Notes

There are many aspects of the career development cycle.

  • Abilities
  • Skill
  • Interest
  • Goals
  • Personal style
  • Family
  • Values

Family is indeed an important component of growing within a company. An individual looking to improve their life with family in mind is considered a safe bet for reliability. Personal style is also critical as it will determine if you fit into the corporate structure. No one’s asking you to stop being yourself, but you should be aware of your environment and how individuals that are where you want to be conduct themselves.


It may seem like a lot of work in a short period of time, but aggression and enthusiasm is a huge aspect of career development. It also plays a massive part in success.

  • Develop your plan
  • Ascertain what needs to be done to execute the plan
  • Connect with those who offer the greatest chance to see the execution through
  • Let colleagues and managers know you’re looking for career advancement
  • Keep a positive spirit as the path to success will always be paved with obstacles

Always be proactive about your career goals. Be ready to collaborate, using your talent and demeanor to exert influence in the process. Have a solid comprehension of the skills, education and any other requirements that will be necessary to hold the wanted position.

A successful career doesn’t happen without forethought. Getting up every day with a determination to do your best is the first true path to successful career development. Take the right steps and achieve your career goals.