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Here’s Is Why A Development Plan is One of the BEST Tools for Your Career

Man Writing At A Desk With Laptop

Careers often have a life of their own, often despite our best efforts. My career has had a lot of twists and terms. I lived in 3 different states for my first job. I moved cross country for my second. I moved into a different facet of my industry for my third. None of which was mapped out in any of the development plans I had written. Looking back at my old development plans revealed that where I thought I’d end up and where I am today don’t perfectly align. So then, why both planning your career if it’s just going to change anyway? 

Well, looking back at those same development plans, I found that the skills that I wanted to develop and the type of work I wanted to pursue have been consistent. There have been consistent themes of leadership, collaboration, and innovation throughout my career. This has allowed me to be grounded despite the challenges and changes that have come along the way. It also creates a path for growth in core areas instead of just reacting to whatever got thrown at me. That’s why I wanted to share the development model that I have used to grow in my career. 


Confused Looking Lady with Question Mark in Background

A great place to get ideas to help you better understand your current state is personality evaluations. I have personally completed Insights Discovery as well as Myers-Briggs. Shoutout out to all my INTJ’s. These personality tests, evaluations, however, you want to look at them are of course, not a conclusive representation of our entire personals. But, they are a jumping-off point for understanding the language in defining both your strengths and opportunity areas. 

Feedback is an amazing opportunity to help us understand how we are perceived by the people around us. The value of meaningful feedback cannot be overstated. The challenge is to find a source that will provide you will trustworthy and actionable feedback. If you are early in your career and still haven’t found those resources as yet, you can still get meaningful input. 

Ask the coworkers that you work with most frequently to tell you what they think are your strengths and opportunities then look for common responses. Always give enough time to ensure that you’re getting thoughtful responses and not just spur of the moment answers. Also, critical remember not to challenge the feedback you are receiving, just express thanks for that person taking the time and effort to help you.

Development Plan 

Man Looking at Board With Plans and Papers Hung Up

The What 

Most companies have some form of an employee assessment tool. They typically outline your objectives and measures how well you have performed against them over a specified period. This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase your capability and value to the company. Foundational within every career development plan is to deliver outstanding results. However, you are rarely able to dictate what your objectives will include. That’s where HOW you complete those objectives becomes critical. 

The How

Using your self-assessment will give you the ability to find out the areas where you are strong that can be used to leverage your most successful outcomes. Always work to amplify your strengths. Lead from where you are strong. However, be aware of where your weaknesses lie and ensure that they do not derail you. Don’t ignore them because they are uncomfortable. Understand how you are showing up, leverage your strengths, but also be competent enough in your weakness that they won’t do any damage. 

Feedback on Your Work and Next Steps 

Man Writing at Desk with Notepad and Laptop

Getting feedback on your work is a key step in evaluating your performance. Never request feedback without delivering strong results and communicating those results to your key stakeholders over time. You never want to be surprised, however, you do want to be open to meaningful insights into areas you may not have considered before. 

The WHAT of your feedback should be clear. You are asking to be assessed SMART goals where it is clear whether or not you have been successful. Your success and the perception of your success will come from HOW you were able to accomplish your objectives. Were you able to successfully execute the items in your development plan? Did you convey the impression that you set out to do? What have you learned to move to your next steps? 

Your NEXT STEP is a time for analysis and self-reflection. This is where you consider your objectives, your results and the feedback you have been given. What is your assessment of your performance, was it above and beyond or did you only give the bare minimum? What drove your level of performance, are you excited by what you are doing or not? Did your feedback resonate with what you know to be true, is it advice that you’ll grow from implementing? These are all important points to consider before funneling back into your self-assessment and restarting the process. This is the time to reflect on what you’ve done determine if you want to keep doing it. 

I’ve found that having a career development plan has elevated the work that I do on a day to day basis. It’s more than just the individual tasks that I complete. It’s the work that I need to grow and become a better employee, leader and at times a better person. It’s the work to drive results for my organization but also to drive my sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The security and validation that comes from your intentional effort is a powerful tool to stay grounded and stretch beyond your capabilities. 

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