Last week, we started our career growth and development series with an issue on professional development goals. This week, we’re taking a look at how to assess your goals to make a concrete plan of action. Whether your goals involve advancement in your current field, a career change, or entering the workforce for the first time, you can follow the same broad steps to figure out your path forward.
A career development plan helps you connect your daily actions to your big-picture professional goals. Often, human resources or people operations professionals use this tool to help employees identify growth opportunities at work, but anyone working toward personal or professional goals can benefit from a clear plan, whether they’re operating independently or with support from their employer.
Career development plans are all about taking stock of where you are, identifying where you want to go, and outlining your path to get there. As a formal document, they often include sections for your short-term and long-term goals, a skills audit, resources available to you, and action items.
Start building your plan with our free career development plan template. To access the template, click the link, sign into your Google account and click the ‘Make a copy’ button. This will create your own editable, private template!
Here are the broad steps you’ll take to map out your plan:
- Think about your current position. Where are you in your career right now? What do you like, dislike, or simply wish were different about it?
- Consider your goals. What does your dream job look like? What do you want to do more or less of? What title, responsibilities, or projects do you want to work on?
- Analyze your skills. Identify the skills you already have and the ones you’ll need to develop through reskilling or upskilling in order to achieve your goals. If you’re not sure of the skills you’ll need, look at job listings for your dream job to see what they require. For more support on this step, revisit our issue on identifying key job skills.
- Explore resources. Look around you: what resources are available to you that can help you move toward your goals? Consider seeking a mentor for help, asking your employer what they offer, or simply looking online.
- Write your action plan. Now that you’ve taken stock of your goals, resources, and skills, create a plan that focuses on the concrete steps you can take to start working toward your ultimate goal.
As you implement your plan and progress toward your goals, try to remain flexible in your approach. Remember: your plan should work with and for you. If your plan isn’t working for you, you can shift your action items, seek support from others, and brainstorm new strategies. You can even change your goals! Growth is a learning process, and it won’t always be linear.
Where to begin
One career development resource that’s available to you anywhere with an internet connection? Online learning. Check out some popular career development courses on Coursera:
- Explore a new career path with the Career Discovery Specialization from the University System of Georgia.
- Create your flexible career plan with Macquarie University’s Adapting: Career Development Specialization.
- Develop transferable, in-demand job skills with the Career Success Specialization from the University of California, Irvine.
That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll talk about mentors and the steps you can take to find one. Until then, let us know what your first action items are in the comments—we’d love to cheer you on.
P.S. Did you know you and a friend can get your first month of Coursera Plus for only $1 through our referral program? If your action plan involves learning new skills or if you’re workshopping your goals and want to explore courses across several career areas, join the 77% of surveyed learners on Coursera who have reported career benefits including new jobs, promotions, and expanded skill sets.
With Coursera Plus, you get unlimited access to over 7,000+ world-class courses, hands-on projects, and job-ready certificate programs from universities and companies like Yale, Google, Microsoft, and more (including all three of our recommendations above).