Maximizing Career Growth: A Step-by-Step Development Plan

The wave of resignations extends to this day, so it is safe to say that the Great Resignation hasn’t reached its end. Since the pandemic, millions of people left their jobs and broke all resignation records set in the past. While this has subsided slightly in the last few months, the workforce holds its stance. Employees know their worth and are in high demand, so they are quite picky when it comes to where they work - or what they work for.

As a result, employers have started offering better benefits packages and developing progression plans that allow their employees to grow in the company. This helps them retain the best talent and save a fortune on replacements. Replacing an already trained employee costs 200% of their annual salary.

Still, this is not only their responsibility, is it? If you want career growth, you can’t expect your employer to take care of everything from training and professional development to raises and better positions. The workforce is stronger, but also more competitive than ever. Research shows that 76% of employees are in a constant search for opportunities that allow them to expand their careers, so your peers will definitely work hard to climb the career ladder. This is why, if you want to thrive in your chosen career, you need a strong development plan.

What is a career development plan

Also called a professional development plan, this is an action plan you’ll set into motion to maximize career growth. Simply put, it’s a document where you outline the following: • Your current progress and skills • Identified strengths and weaknesses • Your career goals for the future • Identified achievable milestones • The path you plan to take to reach the goals • Detailed actionable steps to take • Methods to monitor and track your progress

For this plan to work, it needs to be realistic and of course, you need to follow it. While these plans allow certain flexibility, they aren’t worth anything if you don’t follow them.

Career development vs. career progression

Much like corporate plans, a career development plan is created to provide directions for growth in one’s career. Many correlate this with progression plans developed by organizations, and while the two share many of the same goals, they are actually quite different. The career development plan encompasses overall professional growth and is typically a collaborative effort between employers and employees. i.e. employees are actively involved in the process. A progression plan, on the other hand, is developed by the employer who is looking to help their workers achieve more in the workplace.

So, while employers are focused on giving you steps for advancements to keep you engaged and onboard, your development plan will help you achieve overall professional growth that you can use in your career in general, not just in that specific workplace.

Creating your development plan - and implementing it

While career development plans can vary greatly, most of them include the main sections: • Short and long-term goals • Current skills and developing skills • Resources for growth • Action items (opportunities for professional development, potential work projects, training, and more)

To help you create your own plan, we made a step-by-step guide on how to approach this.

Step 1: Assess your current position/ skills/ strengths

Before you start working on anything, you need to know what you have at your disposal. The development plan should outline your current position in the selected career, the skills you possess now, as well as the strengths you can use for career growth.

Step 2: Identify your career goals

The next step is to identify what you want to achieve for career growth. In reality, career growth is different for everyone. Some want to land a better job in their field or work in a company that demands more than they can offer at the moment. Others want to progress in their workplace, get a higher salary, or impress the managers. The third group of people want to stay where they are because they are comfortable, but make sure that they can keep their position in the future.

So, during this step, figure out what you want to achieve. When you know your main career goal, you can proceed to create short-term and long-term career goals.

Step 3: Identify the skills and actions you need to take

When you know what your career goal is, you can easily determine what you need to do to get there. Maybe you need to work on your leadership skills for a higher managerial position. Maybe you need a higher-level degree to land a position that requires such certifications.

Now it is time to look at the job descriptions you are aiming for and think: what do I lack right now that would prevent me from landing this position?

Step 4: Create a plan to acquire the skills

It’s not just about knowing what you want - it’s about knowing how to achieve it, too. Create a plan to acquire the skills you have set your mind on.

While in most cases, career growth depends on education and experience, these aren’t the only things to focus on. An action plan includes everything else. Your job is to break down your larger goals into more actionable, related tasks that you can complete step-by-step to achieve a bigger goal. Here are some ideas on what to include in your action plan.

Work on your resume

A lot of the time, the reason why you can’t land your dream job is because your resume is not impressive enough. Recruiters spend seconds deciding whether or not they’ll consider a candidate for a position based on their resume. So, it needs to be flawless.

The best strategy for sending out resumes is to tailor them for the position you want to get - and the company you want to work at. To make this simpler and ensure that your resume looks professional, you can customize free resume templates at Rezi.

Start by improving your current resume. This can also help you determine what you need to work on to progress in your career.

Pursue formal education

If you want to get a better chance at advancing in your career, you need a base - and proper training. Thankfully, the opportunities to learn more in any profession are many today.

For starters, you can enroll in a program specifically designed for professionals in your field. Such a program will give you the foundation you need to become a professional.

When you have the base, the foundation, you can pursue additional certifications. These can bolster your credibility when you are attempting to land clients - or a new/better job.

Finally, you can pursue an advanced degree, one that would help you get those high positions on the career ladder.

Gain practical experience

Practical experience will help you develop your skills further, as well as work on soft skills like communication or teamwork. These can also help you improve your creativity, not to mention give you something extra to include in your resume to impress the recruiters.

Since there are diverse roles in every industry, you might not know what exactly you want to pursue right away. That is okay. You can use the beginnings to test the waters and develop expertise in different industries. When you find something you like, focus on that sector.

Keep building your network

The network is one of your best assets when you’re trying to progress in any industry. Keep working on it - look for associations to join, conferences to attend, engage with peers in the industry, join online groups - anything you can think of. You never know who can take you to a major project or recommend you for a great role - and it only takes one such project to change the trajectory of your career.

Ask for guidance and mentorship

In the workforce, you’ll meet many people who might have more experience or expertise than you. Even if you were the best student, some things are only taught by experiencing them - or hearing about them from others.

Whenever the opportunity comes your way, seek advice and mentoring. People in higher and better roles than yours can give you insights that will help you climb that career ladder much faster.

Step 6: Develop a timeline

Here is where you need to be very realistic. If you aim too high, it will be very hard to meet your own expectations and the goals you have for career growth. Essentially, the goal of most professionals is to get a more strategic role and a higher-paid position. Aim for the best and keep working your way up to top roles in your industry. But, remain realistic and develop an achievable timeline.

Career growth is easier with a plan in place!

A development plan is a piece of paper (or a digital file) that highlights your strengths, shares your goals, and gives you ways to achieve them. Without you pushing to meet those goals or following the plan, this is only that - a piece of paper. So, start by creating your development plan. This will give you clarity and a path to follow. But then, do the necessary to fulfill those goals, then look at your plan, and say - I made it!

Nadica Metuleva

Nadica Metuleva is a senior content writer with experience in the freelance market for over 8 years now. Her specialty is blog posts, listicles, and articles. Over the years, Nadica has deepened her understanding of SEO strategies and developed a passion for storytelling. She holds a Master's Degree in English Literature and Teaching and speaks 4 languages.