Complete Guide to Career Development Planning

A career development plan provides a guide to advancing your career. It helps make important professional decisions, like what skills you need to develop or how to ask for a promotion.

This article outlines what you need to know about career development planning.

What is career development planning?

Career development is a broad term that refers to all of the planning and decision-making you need to do to progress your career. This could include earning a degree or certificate or asking for a raise. You can also use this planning to find and pursue a new career. It’s important to recognize that achieving career goals often requires active planning and input.

How to create a career development plan

Here are the steps for creating a career development plan:

1. Understand your career goals

The first step in career development planning is figuring out your concrete career goals. Answer some questions about yourself to help you understand your personality, character traits, and core values:

  • What are my passions in life?
  • What is my dream job?
  • Which skills am I best at, and which skills do I love the most?
  • What are my greatest strengths and weaknesses?

2. Write out your plan

After thinking broadly about your goals, develop a detailed career plan that outlines where you would like to be professionally five years from now, then 10, and how to get there.

Once you have identified long-term goals, create short-term goals to be your first steps and challenges to overcome. For example, you might need to learn how to use a specific piece of software, and you might have to overcome a lack of time or resources to attain this knowledge.

For each short-term goal, list two or three actions that will help you achieve it. For example, to learn how to use the software, you could enroll in a course, practice with a colleague or ask your manager to assign you projects that require you to use the software.

3. Find out more information and research online

When you’ve written your plan, find out more information and research online to refine your career plan further.

Schedule a meeting with your supervisor and outline some of your short-term goals, especially goals where your supervisor can help you. For example, your manager might know about scholarships to pay for professional development courses.

Present your plan to mentors, close colleagues or others that can provide useful feedback. Senior figures in your sector or mentors can help make sure that you have identified the best degree or certification to achieve your goals. They may also help you identify a degree better suited to getting your dream job. Your company’s human resources department may also provide feedback and support.

4. Execute your plan

Next, you must follow through and execute your plan. Create a timeline for each action you identified to hold yourself accountable. For example, you could enroll in a professional development course that begins in September, and plan to ask your human resources department several months earlier whether your company can help pay your tuition. 

5. Network for success

Networking can be key to advancing your professional development plan. Ask your friends and colleagues at if they have contacts who might be helpful or offer to swap contacts. Make plans to meet up with your mentors, get in touch with existing contacts and attend networking events. Talk to people you haven’t met before at work and social events. Ask your manager to introduce you to contacts at your company who could help you learn relevant skills.

Online professional network platforms can also be effective, but it is also important to meet people in person. You may also volunteer in a field that is related to yours.

6. Evaluate your progress on a regular basis

Periodically check on how much progress you’ve made. You might return to your written plan every six months, for example, and make sure you have taken on each of the tasks you planned for that timeframe. Re-evaluating your plan regularly will help you stay on track.

Your goals and needs could change over time, in which case you may need to revise your plan. For example, if you fall behind in courses you are taking to get a degree, you could update your timeline to make your plan more achievable. You should not be afraid to revise your plan if your dreams change or you encounter a setback. Incorporating these kinds of issues into your plan will ultimately help you to meet your professional development goals.