11 Simple Steps to Create a Great Career Plan Template... Or, Download a Sample Career Development Plan

A good career plan template is key to your effective career development. These eleven simple steps will show you how...

1. Review gap analysis sheet

Before you start on your career plan template go through your gap analysis sheet and review what you have written down. Find a quiet spot to do this so you can give it your 100% attention. Go through each item and take a look at the gap. Ask yourself if what you have written down is accurate or whether you need to collect some more information. Are there any missing items that will be important to the change you are about to undertake?

2. List the gaps you have to close

Now identify all the gaps you have to close. Remember, you are not trying to prioritize the gaps here so make sure you don't miss any of them even if they appear to be big gaps. You will come to that later.

If necessary, write down all the gaps on a separate piece of paper or right click here to download a free career development plan template.

Note: You will need ADOBE ACROBAT READER 5 (or higher) to download this template and the one below.

3. Identify action step for each gap

By now you should have a fair idea of what you have to do to close each gap on your career plan template. This should be based on research you have done to accurately identify the action steps. Remember, do not base this on just your thoughts. Use data that you have collected and write down the action steps in your career plan template. Keep your statements high level and write them using action oriented words. E.g. Shadow Human Resources Manager to get a better idea about the role.

Next step is to prioritize your gaps using a payoff matrix...more on this below...

4. Post each gap to payoff matrix

A payoff matrix as the name suggests is a tool that you can use to assess the amount of payoff from each action. You can then use this information to prioritize your actions...

... or, right click here for a free career development payoff matrix template To use this tool, take each of your gaps and write them on a small sticky or Post-it note. Remember, only one gap per note. Once you have done this, look at each gap and what you have to do to close each gap (completed in step 3 above).

Reflect on: 1) how easy or difficult it will be to close that gap; and 2) what sort of impact closing the gap will have on your career. Once you have established this you will be able to place the single Post-it note on one of the quadrants of the payoff matrix.

For example, a gap that is easy to close and will have a big impact on your career goes in the top left hand quadrant or "gem". So, place the Post-it note in that quadrant.

Follow this instruction until you have gone through your career plan template and placed all the notes on the payoff matrix. You are now ready to see the big picture...

5. Review the completed payoff matrix

You have now formed a holistic picture of the task ahead of you, the effort each task will require and some idea about the impact that task will have on your career.

This is a great tool that I have repeatedly used in many different business situations but one which can be easily applied to career development. It removes clutter and confusion from your mind and eases the decision making process.

You are now ready to rock and roll as they say...

6. Get some early wins

I am big believer in getting early wins even if they are small. They give you something to believe in and help you build momentum. You should do the same as you create your career development plan.

Pick out a few that are easy to do - from the "quick hit" quadrant or from your career plan template and do them. Get a taste for success.

Once you have closed that gap you can move on...to the ones that need more planning and follow up.

7. Develop a detailed action plan and Red/Yellow/Green status

You are now ready to create a detailed action plan using the sample career plan template or adapt it to develop your own. The important thing is to use something where you can document what you are going to do and use it to track progress.

Your detailed career plan template or action plan should have at a minimum the following columns:

  • Gap - list all the gaps in your action plan that you intend on doing something about
  • Action required to close gap - using action words write down what you have to do to close each gap. It can be a single action step or several depending on the size and complexity of the task. Also remember to keep your objectives SMART
  • Resources/Support - this is where you write down resources you will use to help you complete the task. E.g. you may use the resources of a career counselor or a local library. Also document any support you may be calling on such as your manager for further advice and direction.
  • Responsibility and timing - usually you will be putting your name against each action step and the date by when you expect to complete the task. This will serve you as a good guide in planning your daily, weekly or monthly career development activities.
  • Status (R/Y/G) - by completing this column on your career plan template you will be able to keep track of how you are progressing. Set a regular time when you will be reviewing your action plan and take a quick look at the status column. It will tell you if you are on track or behind. Green means - completed; Yellow means - incomplete or plan in place to achieve objective; and Red means - not achieved/no plan in place.

Follow these instructions and complete each section of the career plan template.

8. Carry out the steps in your career plan template

Now that your action plan template is ready and filled in it is time to start holding yourself to the tasks. Start taking ACTION!

Action produces results!!

9. Set a review date for you to review progress

The idea behind creating a well thought out career plan template and using it is to keep you on track. Yes, you can write them down on the back of a paper napkin or remember it in your head but there is nothing more effective than writing it down and holding yourself accountable for it.

Set a review date in your diary or calendar. Pull out the career plan template, review it and update it. Look at how you are progressing. Are you on track or behind. If you are behind what steps should be taking to get back on track? Should you be asking for help or support on those items that you are having difficulty with? What else needs to be added or changed on the action plan as you learn new things or make new discoveries? Remember, this should be a living document so use it like that.

The frequency of your review will depend on the nature of the tasks, their duration and also the size and complexity of the career change you are undertaking. It can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly. The important thing is to set a review frequency in place and then follow it.

If you want to keep it real simple then consider bundling up the goals in other parts of your life using the 3-step simple goal setting process.

10. Repeat the cycle

Career development is an ongoing process. Very rarely do we get to some place and decide that we will go no further - otherwise you would not be reading this!

So, now that you have a good process in place why not repeat it (the above steps) on a regular basis to see how things are going.

Do you have any new gaps? Are there some new skills and experiences that you should try and get? What else could you do that might make your work more fulfilling? These are some of the questions to ask yourself as you repeat the cycle.

11. Celebrate wins

Finally, celebrate wins!

You have come a long way in your career and as you develop yourself. Make time to celebrate it in some way that will bring joy to you. You may overlook this but it is an important part of keeping you feeling good, motivated and going.

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