People Management 5. Career Development Plans

What Is a Career Development Plan?

A career development plan is a written listing of the short- and long-term goals that a worker has pertaining to current and future jobs, and a planned sequence of formal and informal experiences to assist the worker in achieving those goals. The goals should be linked to the person’s potential.

Career development plans are usually optional. But they should be recommended to all employees, so that their long-term career expectations are realistic.

Purpose of a Career Development Plan

Ultimately, the purpose of a career development plan is to assist a worker in achieving career goals. In doing so, an organization also increases the likelihood of retaining the employee, because the manager has helped the worker consider how to achieve career goals within the organization, rather than by leaving it.

The career development plan also helps workers set realistic expectations of career growth, by suggesting time frames for certain milestones to happen (like promotions) and identifying areas that a worker needs to develop before becoming eligible for the next career milestone. Note, too, that career development plans are just that; they do not represent commitments to the worker.

Format of a Career Development Plan

Include the following in the Career Development Plan, probably in the order suggested:

  1. Long-term goals, which state what the worker hopes to be doing in the long-term, usually 5 to 10 years out.  Although this might often focus on a particular job role, long-term goals might also  reflect personal goals, such as a desire to live in the same community as now (or not) or to be working part-time.
  2. Short-term goals, which state what the worker hopes to be doing within 1 to 2 years.  This usually focuses on the next step in the career ladder (such as a promotion or a shift to a job with greater potential) but other issues might have relevance to the worker in the short-term.
  3. Development experiences in the short term (one year) for the worker:
  4. Summary statement, which summarizes the general approach recommended for career development in the short- and long-run, indicating which types of activities are stressed in support of short-term goals and which ones for long-term goals.
    1. Education and training, which identifies specific courses and learning opportunities in which the learner should participate.  Some education and training opportunities might be part of training provided by the employer but some might be outside of the employer and might require an investment of time or money, or both, by the worker.  Indicate whether the learning opportunities support short- or long-term goals, or both.
    2. Job assignments, which identify responsibilities that workers can add to their current job to make them more aware of the types of issues they would encounter in a future job named in the career plan or that would prepare them to assume such a job.
    3. Developmental activities refer to experiences outside of the current position that might prepare a worker for a desired position, such as temporary assignments within the employer and volunteer positions that can provide opportunities to build skills (especially ones in professional organizations). Indicate whether the developmental opportunities support short- or long-term goals, or both.

Example of a Career Development Plan

(Note that this sample includes all of the content but not necessarily the sub-headings suggested in the previous section.)

Jan’s long-term goal is to become an information designer.Jan also hopes to continue her formal education in technical communication and receive a master’s degree.

Because of a commitment to her spouse,

Jan is committed to furthering the career in this location.In the short-term, Jan hopes to receive a promotion to Technical Communicator II.

Development Activities:

Jan has been informed that a promotion to Technical Communicator II is likely to take 18 to 24 months. To become eligible for Technical Communicator II, Jan needs to build to level 4 expertise in BC Series 300 products and to become a more independent worker.

To develop these skills and expertise, it is recommended that Jan:

  • Attend the BC Series 300 Level 4 Training and Skills for New Professions training during the next year.
  • Within the next year, I will also give Jan an assignment to write a new manual. This will be Jan’s first opportunity to write a manual from scratch and should provide opportunities to work independently, with less concern for matching the style of a previous author.

Process for Preparing a Career Development Plan

  1. Meet with the worker to identify long-term career interests. Specifically, ask the worker to state goals for the short term (one year) and long-term (two to five years). Also ask about the worker’s current job and level of interest in receiving any special types of assignments, participating in any training courses, or contributing in new ways to the department. Record the information.

When asking the worker about short- and long-term goals, politely inquire about family and community goals, because these might affect work. For example, the manager might ask the worker whether relocation is an option.

  1. After the meeting, consider resources within your organization that can help the worker achieve his or her goals. Also consider helpful resources outside of the organization. The manager might consult a human resources development specialist for assistance in identifying resources.

Note that many managers use their own career development as a reference point for guiding the development of others. What worked for the manager might not work for the worker, however.

  1. Prepare the plan.
  2. Meet in person with the worker to present the proposed plan and, based on feedback, revise it.
  3. File the career development plan in the worker’s personnel file.
  4. At the end of a year, meet with the worker to assess progress against the plan, review changes in career goals, and revise the plan.

To separate the performance plan and the career development plan in the workers’ minds, consider preparing these two plans in different months.

© Copyright 1998, 2001, 2010, 2011, 2012. Saul Carliner. All rights reserved.  If sharing or excerpting, should be properly cited.


About idmodelsandprocesses

Exploring, reporting, teaching, and advising on learning and communication for the workplace and consumers.
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