Career development planning
Why is this the key
to your successful job search?

Career development planning is an absolutely essential element in any successful job search campaign.

Why? Because in completing your career management plans you will develop total focus on your real career objectives.

career development planning

The biggest mistake most people make in their job search is that, rather than focusing on career development planning, they usually get started on their resume as a first step.

In other words they put together their personal marketing plan before they actually know what they are promoting, and to which market.

What's wrong with that you ask?'s a bit like standing at your front door ready to start on a holiday, but you haven't actually thought about where you are going.

So.....the recommended first step in preparing your job search strategy is to actually do some career development out where you want to go in your career

Do you really need to do this?

Not sure that you want to go to all this trouble of preparing a career management plan? Want some proof that you need to do it? Try answering these questions:

  • What precisely are your career objectives for the next 3 to 5 years?
  • What do you want to achieve in your career, and in life generally in the next 3 to 5 years?
  • Where does work fit into your life? What do you want work to do for you?
  • Who is the audience for your resume? What are the key selling points you'll include in this document?

These are important questions.....and finding answers may not come easily to you.

Unless you prefer to experience your career and life by accident you owe it to yourself to think......really think about what you'd like your future to be. This is basically what career development planning is about.

When you've done this you can be pretty sure that you have considered all the angles in how you choose your career direction.

What is career development planning?

Basically, career development planning is a form of strategic planning and goal setting.

It involves, in part, setting realistic and meaningful goals, or career objectives for the next 3-5 years of your working life.

Most successful organisations wouldn't dream of not having a corporate or strategic plan to provide a necessary focus for its operation.

Yet strangely very few people, professionals included, actually would have a similar strategic plan for their own life and career.

Consider this:

Most people would spend more time planning just one holiday, celebration or family event than they would spend on anything at all to do with whole of life and career development planning.

Does it make any sense at all to you that most people experience their careers by accident?

Given that most of us will spend a quarter to a third of our lives at work, why would you take any job that comes along.....and the risk that it might not suit you? put up with a job or a boss that you hate?

It's all about making choices

Are you doing what you're doing at work by choice, or by accident? Do you enjoy what you do in your work? Are you being paid what you deserve?

Here's some great news - you have the power to choose to do something different.

Many people struggle with making choices. But, follow the ideas here for preparing your own career development plan and you'll take the hard work out of deciding what to do.

What's more, by taking a step by step approach to deciding your future you'll find that you'll have a lot more confidence in how you choose your future career direction.

To sum up.....having a career development plan with written career objectives is THE key to making the right career move for you.

The other major benefit is.......your job search is likely to be significantly more successful if you have a career management plan and know what you're looking for.

So, what is a career development plan?

A career development plan, sometimes known as a career management plan, is a plan for the future direction of your working life that would normally outline:

Click on the links above to jump ahead to what interests you most!

A. Your overarching vision
What you'd like to achieve in your working life.

You haven't got such a vision? Don't be concerned. The answer to why you are here on earth is a very deep personal and philosophical question.

Finding the answers to this, for most people, is a life long search for meaning in life. It is perhaps the most difficult aspect of preparing a career development plan.

Very few people, estimated to be less than 3% of the workforce, are thought to have a clarity about what they want to be, and why. And for those people that do have that type of clarity .... often this becomes clear to them relatively early in their lives.

For most of us this sense of purpose becomes clear to us as a result of our experiences in life and in our career.

The process of career development planning however compels you to really focus on your overall purpose - your career objectives, and more broadly.... what you'd like to be doing in your life.

Is it important to like your job?

Job satisfaction for the vast majority of people comes from the work they do - and not from the pay they receive, or their working conditions, job benefits etc.

Job satisfaction comes from:

  • Being involved in work that is meaningful to you
  • Having the opportunity to use your skills and knowledge in a productive way, and where you can see the results of your efforts
  • Working in a job or occupation that is related in some way to your most important life values and beliefs
  • Perhaps working for an organisation which has similar values and beliefs

I've personally heard stories from highly paid executives and professionals who have changed their career direction to a line of work that gives them more satisfaction.

These people say that if the work isn't rewarding, the money they are paid quickly looses its appeal.

One of the pearls of wisdom that you'll hear in relation to preparing a career development plan is.....pick something that you truly love to do, and are passionate about.

Are you in a career or job which you love? If not, you can decide to change your situation.

Don't have an overall vision for your career direction? - don't panic.

It isn't absolutely essential to the career development planning process to have might just need more life and career experience before it becomes clear to you.

But, should you take just any experience or opportunity that comes along? I'm strongly suggesting that before making a career change carefully evaluate that this is the right decision for you.

So what can you do in putting together your career management plan? At the very least you can decide on a career objective that provides you with a direction for the next 3-5 years.

B. Preparing short, medium and longer term career objectives

Putting together a career development plan will help you in how to choose a career direction, and to establish your career objectives.

The benefit of having a career development plan which includes the setting of your career goals with written career objectives is that you're taking charge of what the next steps in your working life will be....... rather than experiencing your career by accident.

Life is too short to just settle for any old job opportunity that comes along, or make a career change on a whim.

You're going to spend at least a third of your waking hours (if not more) at work. Make what you do count, and make sure it's enjoyable.

Career development planning is finding out what you are suited to do, and what are capable of doing. It also involves thinking about what you'd like to do, and what you'd prefer to be doing.

Next - you firm up those preferences by setting some career goals that are related to your career objectives.

Then comes the planning - how to achieve your career objectives and goals. Finally, the fun bit...... implementing your plan to get the job you really want!

How do I choose a career direction
or decide what my ideal job is?

Simple.....It's a matching process. You match your personality, values, beliefs, life needs, skills and abilities to work that is rewarding to you.

There are really two parts here:

  1. Heightening your self awareness about who you are, what's important to you in career, and in life, and.....being clear about the capabilities you have to offer future employers
  2. As a result of heightened self awareness you can begin to research the career and employment options available to you

C. Develop your action and self-marketing plan

Now that you know where you are heading in your career and life it's time to develop your strategy for achieving your goals.

This relates to where and how you will look for your next career opportunity.....looking in the right places for advertised employment, AND being proactive in your job search by networking.

It is also about preparing your marketing material - your resume and covering letter.

The challenge in preparing your personal marketing plan will be to master the art of self-promotion. This is usually an area of considerable challenge for many people in established careers.

Embarking on job search involves taking time out to become highly self aware, in particular, assessing your career change readiness by doing a form of career change test. This process is basically about identifying what you have to offer your future employer in terms of your key skills.

Career development planning
How self aware are you?

Try these questions:

  • What are your strongest personality traits or characteristics?
  • How well suited are you, in terms of your personality, to your current career path or job?
  • What are your 5 strongest career/life values? How well are these being fulfilled in your current career path or job? How have your values changed in the past 5 years? How are your values likely to change in the next 3-5 years?


  • Describe your top 5 areas of interest in life, and also professionally. How well do these relate to your chosen career path, or current employment?
  • What are your top 5 professional or technical skills? Are these sufficiently well developed, or in demand to enable you to go to the next step in your career?
  • If you consider that you need to either develop your skills base, or acquire new ones, do you have these documented in a career development plan?


  • Related to your professional skills - what are your 5 strongest areas of professional knowledge. Does this need to be extended or expanded through further training or education?
  • What are your top 5 transferable skills - that is, skills you have which are used in most occupations. For example.... your communication skills, planning, organising, time management, the ability to work in a team etc


  • What 3 examples would you give to a prospective employer that would demonstrate you have significant ability to make a contribution to their organisation
  • What two or three career options would you pursue if you suddenly found, for reasons beyond your control, that you had to change jobs.

Stuck for ideas - take a look at some of the options you have

Have any trouble with answers to the questions?

Then it's likely:

  • You are seriously under-prepared to get involved in job search
  • You'd certainly benefit from doing some career development planning

How do you get started on career development planning?

The great thing about the web is that there are plenty of resources available to assist you. Here are links to some of my favourite sites that have career development planning activities.

They are web sites developed by the governments of the countries concerned.

These sites target either people leaving school, college or university. Typically they are of most benefit at the start of, or early in their careers.

O*Net Online - U.S.A.

Canadian job, careers and education resources - Canada

National Careers Service - United Kingdom

My Future - career information and exploration - Australia

In most countries the larger job boards like SEEK and Monster also tend to have basic career planning related resources attached to their website.

Career development planning help
For people in mid-career, managers and executives

If you're mid career, and/or in a management or executive position you'll find the above sites helpful only to a certain degree.

They will assist you with basic self assessment, but fall short on helping you with a strategy to transition your career.

If you're confused about your future career objectives, unsure or lack confidence in promoting yourself and your capabilities, you might seriously consider working with a careers counsellor or job search coach.

Some people, men I particular I'd suggest, will react to this suggestion with embarrassment because they think asking for this type of professional help is a sign of weakness.

But think about this for a moment. If you're someone in mid career and haven't been in the employment market for a while, it's likely that you're out of touch with the market place....and with what it takes to successfully make a career change.

Perhaps look at it this way. In deciding to work with a job search coach you're working with someone who is a specialist in developing career management skills in other people.

Even though you are in your career, it doesn't necessarily mean that you are a specialist in the representing yourself in the employment market place.

What does a job search coach or careers adviser do?

A job search coach or careers adviser will certainly help you to develop a fresh and objective perspective on where you are now in career and in life.

They will provide you with the tools to assess and evaluate things like your skills, knowledge, values, beliefs, and.... what your employment and lifestyle preferences are.

Armed with this information, you'll be supported and directed by your job search coach to identify potential career options that you would both excel at, and enjoy.

Once you've clarified your options you'll be guided in how to set realistic and meaningful career objectives.

Finally you'll work with your job search coach to develop strategies to convert those career objectives into real opportunities.

Prefer to help yourself? Save money?

The least expensive way for you to engage in career development planning is to access some of the terrific self help resources designed for this purpose widely available from a variety of sources.

These resources are simply excellent in my opinion - job search links and resources.

Career Development Planning - Summary

This is a robust process which will assist you, step by step, to identify where you want to be in your career and life within the next 3 to 5 years.

It's far better to take the time now to carefully, and fully consider what you want for your future, before starting on a misdirected, scatter gun approach to your job search.

As Yogi Berra once said:

You gotta be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there!

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Related Links

Use this framework to create your career development plan and make decisions about your future
Questions you can ask yourself to decide about career changes
Look at these options when choosing your next career direction
Why set career goals? - and key questions to help you do this
Use the most effective resume style to support your change of career direction