Do you have a career development plan? I am not talking about the bottom section of your last performance review. You’ve written a few vague goals outlining what you would like to achieve over the next year. We both know that those objectives hardly get remembered until it’s review time once again. Your company will not be invested in your career development if you don’t drive the process yourself. Here are five reasons why you need to craft your own career development plan and stick with it:
1. A career development plan will keep you from getting stuck in a rut
The days of being promoted at work solely based on tenure are long gone. If you have grown comfortable performing only the tasks you were trained to do when you were hired, then you might as well make up your mind to be overworked and underpaid for the rest of your life. What’s worse is that the system is rigged so that you will eventually be made redundant, and someone with higher entry-level skills will be paid less to do your job even faster. Without a clear career plan, you will be taking the slow and painful route to failure.
Don’t believe me? Look around you. Try to find one or two people in your organization who have done the same thing for years and generally accepted as being on the “going nowhere” track. You may find it difficult to immediately identify someone, but look closely. He might be the ever-faithful driver/building superintendent/superman who has never quite learned how to curb his temper. It seems unfair that he has been overlooked by management, and never given the opportunity to develop. He is loyal, but also more bitter and morose than ever. You may also recognize your candidate in the perky but unproductive receptionist. She smiles as she buffs her nails and talks on the phone all day. She may not seem worried now, but will her two boyfriends take care of her bills forever?
There are all types of people who get stuck in a rut at work. The one thing they all have in common is that they’ve taken their professional development for granted. Don’t be one of those people.
2. A career development plan will help you take responsibility for your weaknesses
Whether or not you’d like to admit it, everyone around you knows exactly how well or how poorly you’re doing at work. All the little foibles you have quietly and conveniently minimized in your own mind, are well-known by your colleagues. Maybe you’re slightly late for work, two or more times per week. You’ve gotten into the habit of abusing your lunch hour, asking a friend to cover for you. Maybe you occasionally nod off at your desk or in meetings. Perhaps you’re a manager who knows less about your work than your staff. Thankfully, your subordinate buddies help you compile month-end reports because you actually don’t have a clue.
Sure you get away with it now, but you’re not fooling anyone. No matter how sweet and well-liked you are, not addressing those little quirks now will mean career suicide later on. You could cross the wrong person, and they might throw you under the bus in retaliation. The management might change. The company could start cracking down on inefficiency. Without notice, you could be exposed for the slacker you are. You’re probably getting defensive, and thinking: there are things I can improve on, but I’m a not a slacker. Why play this hazardous cat and mouse game with yourself? If you are not consistently getting better and better at what you do, sooner or later, you will lose.
3. A career development plan will help define your future career path
Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living. I say that the unplanned career is not worth having. According to the book “The Go-Giver” which I just read this week, there are three universal reasons why we work: Survive, save, serve. Survival and saving have to do with meeting your basic needs and having some time and money left over to enjoy life. Service has to do with making a meaningful contribution to the world around you. Most people get stuck on the first two stages, but never figure out a way to reach a place of purpose in their work.
When you don’t develop the habit of establishing and achieving clear goals, you also miss out on the opportunity to steer your career along the path of significance. Would you like to wake up one day and realize that you plodded through your days in a job you hated, instead of making a difference? Of course you don’t. Crafting a career development plan will give you the opportunity to gradually assess not only the tasks you do well, but also identify the things that bring joy and meaning to your work.
4. A career development plan will help you to take charge of your own advancement
Carving out the time, and drumming up the discipline it takes to craft a career development plan for yourself will force you to be accountable. Instead of blaming external forces for every negative turn that occurs at work, you will begin to take responsibility for your own actions and reactions.
Creating a career development plan will put the power back into your own hands. Instead of excusing yourself for being late because of traffic, you will be able to recognize that you have stayed up too late flipping through channels on TV, and neglected to pick out your clothes or organize your kids for the day ahead. Instead of being passed over for a promotion because you didn’t have the requisite skills, you get the computer training you need by taking afternoon classes, to position yourself for the promotion you want.
5. A career development plan will give you the confidence you need to succeed.
A career development plan will give you ownership over all aspects of your career. You will begin to know your strengths and weaknesses inside out. You will decide on meaningful targets and set a realistic plans to meet them. You will know what you want to accomplish, and how far you’ve already come. You will find yourself going to work each day with a sense of purpose. New motivation for your work will seem to grow out of nowhere.
When performance review time rolls around, you will no longer have to struggle to list your strengths or outline your achievements. You will be able to confidently prepare for assessment and promotion meetings. You will be able to update your résumé with ease, and not choke up at the thought of going on a job interview. Creating and maintaining a career development plan will place you firmly on your path to success.
In upcoming posts, I will give you the tools you need to take charge of your own professional advancement by creating your personal career development plan.
Please feel free to share your thoughts, experiences and feedback with me in the comments section below: