The Career Development Plan Part 1

 In 200-301 V1 CCC No Category on Purpose, Career

This series came about because of a survey that showed a large percentage of networkers didn’t have a written career development plan. This post finally brings us to where the rubber meets the road: creating the development plan!

I’ve broken the process of creating your plan into two posts, simple due to the length. Today’s post walks through the first few steps. If you follow along with this post, you’ll have your development plan started, with activities written down, and just a few steps remaining. Part 2 will then spell out the finishing touches of the plan, with some suggestions on how to fit the plan into a quarterly schedule that helps you review and revise your plan.

As with all the posts in this series, you need to spend time to do something to get the real benefits of today’s post. So jump in – make a plan!

Step 0: No Written Goals Yet? Don’t Make a Development Plan!

The previous post talked about goal setting. Basically, it made some suggestions about setting goals, like getting away for some time, making goals, writing them down, picking a few, and acting on them. That post also asked you to start forming a habit of making progress now, even if it is small progress, with those couple of goals.

Until you do the above, or something like it, a development plan is probably a waste of time. Truly, if you’ve not done your goal setting yet, go back and read the earlier post, and do those things first. Then come back here.

From here forward in this post, I’ll assume you’ve completed the goal setting as discussed in the previous post.


Brief Aside: #NetRole

If you’re still working on your goals, don’t forget to search Twitter for posts with #Netrole listed. That’s my attempt to get current networkers to tweet something about what they do for their jobs, to help those of us new to networking figure out what some reasonable career goals might be. And if you’re working as a networker, help out and take a minute to Tweet! Check out this post for more details.

For you networking newbies, just search twitter for #netrole to get some ideas about what people do in their networking jobs!


Step 1: Pick one Goal and Create the Written Plan Document

The first step should be easy: choose one goal from your list of goals that you listed earlier, and then create your development plan document. Then you can fill in the details.

You can use any tool you like to create your development plan document, but a simple Word doc works fine. The content of your development plan should take 99% of your focus; the formatting is relatively unimportant. No matter the format or tool, start with that one major goal, and then make a place in your document to list the following:



  • Specific activities to help you reach that goal
  • Goal dates for each activity
  • Current status of each activity
  • Once your plan includes activities related to more than one long-term goal, also note the long-term goal tied to each activity

For instance, you can literally just make a Word doc. Then put the file somewhere where you won’t lose it – any place where keep your personal files, anyplace that you won’t forget. Here’s an example of a Word doc table with these base features:

Goal: Move from my current 1st level support job to network engineering

By end of Quarter: Task Status Long-term Goal
1Q15 – Do Tasks from original goal planning- Form good goal setting and visualization habits- Create a written development plan Career as networker
2Q15 – Read/review 2/3 of Book X Career as networker
3Q15 – Read review last 1/3 of Book X- Study Book X- Do Labs for X exam- First Attempt at exam X Career as networker


If you want to look for other tools beyond a simple doc, feel free. Personally, I care more about the content of the plan. However, I’ve used Trello and Toodledo for tracking and managing tasks with some success. I haven’t tried them for development planning purposes, but they might be great for planning out the specifics of what to do each week. I especially like having due dates and reminders.


Step 2: Brainstorm Possible Actions to Help You Reach Your Goal

The goal setting process focused on the big goals, and on getting you started making good habits. But the goal setting process doesn’t tell you all the specific actions to take to reach some goal. Now it’s time to brainstorm about tactics: what things you need to do to achieve your goal. Keeping a focus on that one goal only, what things come to mind?

When brainstorming, use these rules:

  • Write your ideas on scratch paper
  • Don’t worry about dates yet
  • If unsure, that’s ok – write down what came to mind anyway

You may not know all the activities you should be doing, but making this list gives you a good starting place.

Next, do some research! Take your list beyond what you can think of off the top of your head. For instance, if your goal is to be a networker, with a focus on voice technologies, then:

  • Ask people already doing those jobs.
  • Ask co-workers.
  • Read online forums.
  • Read blog posts from those who already seem to be doing that job.
  • Read about different companies’ voice training and certifications.

Basically, figure out all the possible ways to build the knowledge and skills you need, and then add those as possibilities to the list. And keep brainstorming until you start to feel pretty good about your list.


Step 3: Pick Which Activities to Do, and Which Not to Do

Your list of activities should now have lots of useful things to do. However, your list may:

  • Take more time than you have to do all actions
  • Take more cash than you have to do all actions
  • List actions that you are unsure about how useful they may or may not be

Basically, the list at step 2 lists all possible actions that come to mind; now it’s time to pick which ones to actually do, and which ones not to do. So, break your list into two lists, but RECORD BOTH LISTS IN THE PLAN. It’s your plan, right? You can include anything you like, and change it over time. So today, make choices, but remember those you discard today, because you may change your mind later.

For instance, make two headings in your development plan doc, like these:

Actions I Will Do (as of 2/24/15):

Actions I Will NOT Do (as of 2/24/15):

Then put the two parts of your list under the appropriate heading.


Step 4: Put the Will Do Items in Calendar Order

Finally, put your list of planned actions in the order you will do them.

This list may be detailed or sparse, depending on how detailed you made your list of actions. For instance, if your first goal is “pass certification X”, with no further detail, list that first. However, you may have five listed five major tasks related to passing certification X, like read this book, watch these videos, use these practice tests, take this class, and so on. So, if you have more detail, use sublists, as in this example:

  1. Get certification X
    1. Read this book (title here)
    2. Watch these videos (title here)
    3. Take this class (name and date here)
  2. Improve communication skills
    1. Set up blog site
    2. Write 2 blog posts/month about cert X
    3. Join public speaking club (e.g., Toastmasters)
  3. Next major activity…

(Using certifications as an example, the level of detail in the above list is about the right level in my opinion. Remember, I’m driving towards a artery review of your plan. Having sparser info, like listing only “Get certification X” is not detailed enough for quarterly review. However, a list like “Read Book X Chapter 1”, “Read Book X Chapter 2”, is useful for planning what you do this week, but not for a long-term development plan. But you’ll find a rhythm and get better at choosing a depth the more you actually write and review your plan.)

Are you uncertain about the order? Write something down in order anyway. You can always change it. In fact, writing it down sometimes helps your brain figure out what you prefer.


Take a Breath: Visualize That Goal!

Have you made a habit of visualizing that major goal twice a day? Think of that career goal that you’re likely imagining along with this post. What do you see? Work that is interesting and fulfilling? A balance between work and home? Good (maybe great) income? Job security? Possibilities for more success? (Did you reach high when setting those goals?)

Working through the details of a development plan can actually be a little de-motivating, because it requires us to focus on the time, effort, and expense needed to reach a goal. So, now’s a good time for you to get re-motivated. Stop and dream about that goal for a moment. And remember to make a good habit of keeping your eyes on the prize, and do that daily!


Next Post: Part 2 Completes Your Plan

If you follow the steps in this post (Part 1), you should end with a list of big tasks written and in sequential order. Part 2, the next post, works through how to make a plan that works well for quarterly review. It also discusses some particulars of networking development: how kinds of tasks to put in your plan, how to break down certification prep, and some suggestions to get the best return on your investment in your own development.


Goal Setting for Networking Career Development
The Career Development Plan Part 2
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Hi Wendell,
Finally! I wish I had these years ago. Great work. I am sharing with our Net Academy instructors.
Peter G.

Abdul-Jabbar Bozdar

Hello CiscoChampion,

I just completed this part of my career development plan but for next six months only. I also looked into #NetRole and loved all of the titles networkers are enjoying. I visualised myself designing WAN w/ DMVPN failover, coaching others about networking, and I think this is what I want to do for coming several years. This is comfortable; this is enjoyable. Moving to next part of the devplan… 🙂


Thank you! This was refreshing. I am just starting my journey of switching my field from architecture (designer) to networking. It’s scary but your posts really help me to realize that “dreams” are achievable with right strategy & clarity

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