Why Networkers Should Have a Career Development Plan
If you don’t have a written career development plan, why not? Do you see little value? Or do you see the value, but just haven’t gotten around to it?
Today’s post gives you some reasons to take the plunge and create a plan. If you’re already convinced and you want to get started, check this earlier post for a 10-minute effort to get off the fence and make a plan.
By the way, a brief personal note to my friend Frank with the silly sense of humor: if you’re reading this, no, I’m not asking you to make any confessions. :-0
Personally, I’ve had a development plan only when the company I worked for made me have one. They worked well. Sure, at other times, I’ve thought about my career, thought about my goals, learned new things, and even jotted some details down. But the only times I’ve had a written plan and reviewed it regularly was when it was foisted upon me.
Looking back, I wish I had been more diligent with that part of life. So, this post is hopefully a bit motivational, both for me and for you! The rest of the post lists some thoughts on why we all might benefit from a written development plan.
Try it, You’ll Like it.
It’s easy enough to try out the process and see if you like it. And if you missed it somehow, check this earlier post that suggests how to make your first plan in 10 minutes.
If you want to give it a try, make sure to do the three main parts of the process:
- Write the plan down somewhere that you can find it again
- Review the plan regularly (monthly or quarterly)
- Be accountable to one other person about your reviews
Getting started with a simple plan is far more important than trying to create a masterful document to start. Get started, and I think you’ll want to continue to use it and add to it. Give it a try, with the 10 minute starter plan.
Does Your Career Control You, or Do You Control Your Career?
We all go through different cycles where we spend little time planning for our career, then we spend a lot, and back to doing little or nothing. If you are on one of those sparse cycles, one of your important acts will be to do some thinking about your career goals. Basically, what do you want to be when you grow up? In two years? In five? For your career?
The lack of clear career goals can be one of the biggest obstacles to keeping your energy and interest high when learning something new or studying for a certification. Ever sit back in frustration and wonder why you were spending your time working hard to learn something new? A written career development plan means that you’ve at some point taken the time to think about and write down some goals. It will improve your view of where you’re headed, and may be the difference between slowing down or pushing through a rough spot.
Writing Goals on Paper is Mondo Better than Not
Most every self-help book that talks about achievement tells us to write down our goals. Writing them down forces you to think, helps you put a stake in the ground, and gives you something to work towards. And it also gives you a place from which to pivot to something else, when you decide you no longer like the goals you have written down earlier. Also, all your learning activities can and should be chosen with the filter of “does this activity help me reach my goals”. Enough said.
Overcome the Unreasonable Expectation Problem
Each of us tends to overestimate how much we can accomplish in the short term, and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long term.
The common misconception of overestimating expectations for the short term causes problems for learning over the long term. Have you ever started a new learning goal with little thought, expecting to finish it quickly – and then gotten sidetracked when it was taking way longer than expected? Many of us do, myself included. As a result, we have more false starts than we’d like to have.
Case in point, just look at all the New Years resolutions that never continue into February.
A written development plan, along with the continuing review and changes to the plan, help you focus on the big benefits of a sustained long-term commitment to your plan. We can all get discouraged at a perceived lack of progress in the short term; the plan can help you make it past the disillusionment and keep pursuing your goals.
Accountability and Review are as Important as the Plan
Creating a plan is important, but if you then leave it untouched for a year or two, you miss a great opportunity. To make your development plan more effective, review your plan regularly, and have some accountability to someone else in your life to make sure you review the plan.
Regular review of your plan helps you move from planning to achieving. First, reviews should show where you are succeeding, so you can keep doing it! At the same time, it’ll help you notice when you’ve gotten off track, when you’ve set unrealistic goals, when you’ve just gotten a little lazy, or if life’s circumstances mean that you just need to adjust your plan’s dates and then keep pushing forward.
In short, the review helps you adjust your goals, plans, and make a conscious choice to move your career in another direction, rather than letting your career just happen to you. Each review should end with ideas like “keep doing X, restart doing Y again, and stop doing Z”.
Adding accountability to your plan may be as important as the plan itself. Basically that means you need to get someone who cares about you to be willing to talk/email briefly about the results of each plan review. That could be your boss, spouse, friend, anyone who cares.
The accountability feature helps in many ways. You’ll do your reviews more often if you know that someone will be asking you about it if you’re late with the review. This person will want to celebrate successes, which keeps you motivated. Plus this same person may be able to give good advice about how to overcome problems that you uncover in the review. Finally, it always helps to discuss your options with someone when considering a pivot to change your career goals.
Historical Perspective Helps Your Long Term Motivation
Often times, I hear from people that they get frustrated working through the long road to learn something new. Many factors can be a drain on your motivation, so it’s important to find ways to maintain motivation, particularly for the long term. A written development plan can be an important tool for long-term motivation because it gives you a long-term historical look at your plans, activity, and successes.
A written development plan, with the associated reviews, gives you a history of your plans and accomplishments. The review process can be motivating, no matter whether you’ve been succeeding in executing your plan or not. You can also look back at the history of your older plans to see the long-term picture. It’s important to occasionally reflect on how much you have learned over the long term, how much effort you have put into learning, and the fact that you have made progress.
Where to Go from Here
Don’t have a plan yet? Didn’t stop earlier to make one? Do it now! Really. It’ll take you 10 minutes.
Next Post: Setting career goals, which then drive the rest of the career plan.