How to create a career development plan

May 5, 2021

Why you need a career development plan

Creating a robust career plan should be the first step in directing your professional journey. To do it effectively, you’ll need to pinpoint the specific skills you need for career advancement in your field. Do this right, and you could land yourself your dream role. 

A well-thought-out career development plan guides you towards your career goals and ensures that you are equipped with the skills you need to achieve them. By identifying these skills and setting clear milestones, you can navigate your career path with greater confidence and clarity.


Although it may seem straightforward, crafting a career plan can be a difficult task. The key to overcoming this challenge lies in establishing specific and measurable career objectives. Such goal-setting allows you to clarify your aspirations in professional development, and outline the steps necessary to achieve them.

In sectors such as energy and infrastructure, a well-defined career plan is even more important. These industries are among the most competitive and dynamic, so it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your current professional standing, and what it takes to gain a competitive advantage.

A thorough career plan in these fields doesn’t just guide you. It positions you strategically for growth and success in an ever-evolving job market.

Here are the reasons why a career development plan is important:

  •   Helps define your future career path 
  •   Helps you take charge of your own advancement 
  •   Helps you identify areas that need improvement 
  •   Offers the confidence necessary to advance to the next level

Read on to see how you can create a practical career development action plan.

  1. What is a career development plan
  2. Identify your current position and career options
  3. Identify your career goals
  4. Do a gap analysis
  5. Creating your career development plan
  6. Measure your progress and be ready to evaluate
  7. Summary 

What is a career development plan?

A career development plan is a strategic roadmap designed to help you achieve your professional goals and aspirations. It outlines specific objectives, actions, and timelines aimed at advancing your career trajectory. 

Typically, a career development plan involves self-assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement, as well as setting clear, measurable goals aligned with long-term career ambitions. It may include steps such as acquiring new skills, seeking mentorship or additional education, networking, and pursuing opportunities for advancement within your current organisation or in the broader job market. 

Identify your current position and career options 

The initial step in creating a career development plan is to assess your current professional standing. This assessment should involve an evaluation of your past experiences, strengths, specific skills, and core values. Reflecting on your success metrics helps you understand how your current projects and responsibilities align with your career aspirations.

Next, you must identify your current job position to help streamline your choices. This prevents the feeling of being overwhelmed as you progress in your career. Factors to consider include your standing in your field, as well as any academic goals or ambitions you have. It’s also beneficial to take into consideration side projects that can help you grow. 

These elements are vital in establishing a foundation for your potential, and guiding the trajectory of your career progress.

Identify your career goals

Energy worker at work

Source: Pexels/Kateryna Babaieva

The point of a career development plan is to design a strategy that enables you to reach your career objectives. Take time to understand where you want to be within a specific time period (e.g. one year from now), and compartmentalise your career within that timeline. 

For example, if your dream is to be a senior project manager in a midsize energy company within the next two years, be sure to incorporate it into your plan. 

Ideally, you should establish where you want to be in small increments. Take into account where you are and what you want to do in the next two years. It’s easier to visualise and achieve a goal if you work on it in smaller portions. 

Looking for more candidate career advice? Check out our jobseeker guide! 

Do a gap analysis 

Conducting a gap analysis is a vital component of your career development plan. The process involves comparing your current performance against your desired career outcomes. Doing this analysis provides a clear picture of your strengths and areas for development, highlighting any aspects that require further enhancement. 

Start by exploring job listings for the role you want, paying close attention to the required skills, experiences, and qualifications. Assess your own capabilities in these areas, rating yourself to pinpoint where you excel and where additional effort is needed for improvement.

For a comprehensive analysis, consider consulting with a colleague. Their insights can help you identify any overlooked elements in your gap analysis, making your career development plan more robust and actionable.

Creating your career development plan

Set small, task-oriented goals as part of your action plan — Create a set of tasks and identify means of accomplishing them. For instance, if one of the needed skills is to learn how to operate certain software, take a course to polish it.  

Organise your goals around a reasonable timeline. It’s best to start with short-term objectives that you can achieve quickly before moving to long-term goals. It's also important to track your progress as you go along.

Think SMART — The SMART goal template (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound) helps you design your goals, ensuring they are tangible, realistic, and achievable.

Create task deadlines — Working with deadlines is a sure way to complete your tasks within the set timeline. 

Measure your progress and be ready to evaluate

Work team discussing a career development plan on a whiteboard

Source: Pexels/ThisIsEngineering

Implementing your personal goals and evaluating them along the way gets you on the right path from beginning to end. For guaranteed success, you need to keep track of every activity to make sure you are doing everything in the correct order. Equally important, consider milestones and update your goals as circumstances change and more opportunities present themselves.

Effectively implementing and regularly evaluating your personal goals is crucial in ensuring that you are on the correct path from the outset of your career development journey. To guarantee success, meticulously track each activity, verifying that everything is executed in the right sequence. 

As your career progresses, circumstances will evolve and new opportunities will arise. Adapting and updating your goals in response to these changes is key to maintaining relevance and momentum in your career development plan.

Grow your career with Airswift

Crafting a career development plan is a key strategy for advancing your career goals. By meticulously mapping out your professional trajectory, you set yourself on a path towards achieving these goals, fostering motivation, productivity, and success in your chosen career.

At Airswift, we are dedicated to assisting individuals in the energy, process, and infrastructure sectors in reaching their career aspirations. Sign up to our jobs board to explore the latest global vacancies and opportunities technology and engineering, tailored to your career development needs.

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This post was written by: Zoe Carpenter, Regional Recruitment Manager, Airswift