How to Create a Goal-Oriented Career Development Plan (Template + Tips)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

With a career development plan, you can organize your career goals and identify your individual pathway toward success.

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A career development plan, also called a professional development plan, is a document outlining your career goals and the path you can take to reach them. It’s traditionally been a tool that a human resources department or people operations team uses to help employees recognize and pursue growth opportunities within their company. However you may find it helpful to create a career development plan independently as you consider what you hope to accomplish with your career.

In this article, we’ll go through the basics of a career development plan, offer some guidance on creating one, and discuss how you might find support as you work toward your career development goals. You’ll also find a template to help you get started.

Career development plan overview

Having a plan as you work toward your goals can help you connect your daily actions to your big-picture aims, set realistic growth expectations, and recognize milestones. Being clear and intentional about what you’re working toward can motivate you along the way.

In writing your career development plan, you’ll name your goals, assess the skills you already have, and determine the skills you’ll need to develop as you move forward. 

Career development plans often include sections for:

  • A summary statement

  • Short-term goals

  • Long-term goals

  • Current skills

  • Developing skills

  • Resources

  • Action items, such as continued education or trainings, professional development opportunities, or potential work projects

Learn more: How to Motivate Yourself: 10 Tips for Self Improvement

Creating your career development plan

As you work on your career plan, remember that your career path is going to be unique to your skills, development process, and goals, and your plan should reflect your singularity.

By the time you finish writing your career development plan, you should be able to confidently assess your starting state, your goal state, and ways you can start bridging the two. Here are some steps you can take to create your plan:

1. Think about your current position. Where are you in your career? What do you enjoy about your job?

2. Consider your goals. What does your dream career look like? What do you want to do more of, and what do you want to delegate to other people?

3. Analyze your skills. Consider both the skills you already confidently possess, and the skills you’ll need to develop in order to reach your goals. Read job postings for roles similar to your goal career if you need ideas.

4. Brainstorm your resources. Who can you turn to for support? What growth resources can you access? Does your employer offer any career development programs?

5. Write an action plan. You know the skills you need to develop and your resources—consider both as you prepare to take action. What steps can you take to progress toward your goals? Creating a timeline for your action plan can help you stay on target.

6. Work toward your goals. Start making progress on your action items. Try new approaches, make revisions, and seek guidance and support as needed.

7. Track your milestones. Working toward your goals and building new skills is hard work. Don’t forget to celebrate your wins!

Career development plan template

To get started, try filling out this career development plan template. Adjust the sections and format to fit your needs, and return to your document over time to add or edit sections as you make progress.

In the Adapting: Career Development Specialization from Macquarie University, you’ll evaluate your approach to self-guided change and design a career path that fits your values, interests, and goals.

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Finding support for your career development

Your career goals may feel personal, but that doesn’t mean you have to pursue them on your own. In fact, your interest in career development planning is good for your employer—companies that partner with employees on career growth tend to improve employee retention and decrease turnover. So if you’re comfortable letting them in on your plans, you can foster a mutually productive relationship by seeking support within your organization.

Some people within your company who may support your career development might be:

  • Your manager may be willing to assign you projects or offer opportunities that can directly support your goals.

  • Your HR or People Ops representative may have additional tools available to support your growth.

  • Cross-functional colleagues whose role or work style you admire may be willing to let you assist on upcoming projects if your goals relate to their line of work.

If you aren’t comfortable sharing your goals with anyone within your organization or if your goals don’t pertain to the work you’re currently doing, you can also seek support elsewhere. For example:

  • Mentors and people you admire from previous jobs or school may be willing to share insights they’ve learned along the way to help guide you toward progress.

  • New connections you meet through networking events or informational interviews may be open to staying in touch as you make progress on your goals.

  • A career coach can help you assess your career path and come up with ways to move toward progress.

Next steps

As you work toward new career goals, consider earning a Professional Certificate from top companies like Google, Meta, and IBM on Coursera. Gain job-ready skills in areas such as UX design, social media marketing, and cybersecurity in approximately six or seven months.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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