5 Tips for Creating a Career Action and Development Plan

Career action plan and career development plan

Planning your career goals and pathways is a useful exercise and even more valuable in times of change and uncertainty. An action and development plan in particular, is an essential resource to guide your career progression and help you create effective career goals.

What’s included in an action and development career plan?

A successful action and development plan should include:

  • Clear career goals and what you need to do to reach them.
  • Personal development goals and how you’ll achieve them.
  • Realistic timeframes.
  • Regular revision and updating.

An action and development plan doesn’t need to be fancy or formal. Its purpose is to provide you with guidance and support to achieve the career goals you’re seeking.

Another essential part of your action and development plan is to include people who can help you in your career and personal development journey. While a lot of the progress is dependent on your actions, having the right people around you to provide support when needed is vital.

1. Plan your career goals

The first step of a successful action plan is to sit down and think about your ultimate career goals – it’s okay to have more than one!

An excellent way to think about goals is to use the SMART framework. Ask yourself if your goals are:

  • Specific?
  • Measurable?
  • Achievable?
  • Relevant?
  • Time-bound?

Make sure that any goals you choose are purely for you and not influenced by outside people or pressures. Adding this discernment to the process will ensure you’re as self-motivated and committed as you can to achieve them.

If you’re feeling stuck, consider where you see yourself in one, five, or 10 years. Give yourself permission to think big. What does your career and work life look like at these future points? If that seems daunting, try working backwards from 10 years to today. Taking a long-term view can give you guidance as to what you really desire from your career.

2. Create a career action plan

Once you’re clear on your goals, it’s time to put the career section of your action and development plan together.

A career action plan is an individualised plan designed to help you organise your goals and outline what steps are needed to accomplish them. It’s most useful if you have a good idea of what your career goals are, but need more clarity and guidance on the steps you need to take to get there. It’s also a great tool to enhance motivation and prevent feelings of overwhelm.

Your career action plan should outline:

  • Your goals and a timeframe for each.
  • What professional training you’ll complete.
  • What professional training can be completed in your workplace.
  • The people who can support you to achieve your plan (such as mentors, co-workers, and managers).

Here’s an example:

Goal: Acquire a management role within my current industry in the next three years.
Action: Complete a professional qualification (a Diploma of Leadership and Management (BSB50420) is a well-rounded option suited to most industries).
Action: Take on more responsibilities in my current role, volunteer to lead projects, etc.
Support: Career expert, learning coaches, direct manager or senior mentor at work.

Download my Career Action Plan


3. Focus on personal development

Personal development is the second half of your action and development plan. Just as important as defining your career goals, personal development is about working on the soft skills that make you stand out amongst other applicants and co-workers. It also makes you a more well-rounded person. It’s helpful to consider your ability to upskill with a qualification and gain in-demand practical knowledge and skills to set you up for a successful career. Diplomas are an excellent option for those looking to further their career. Skills you acquire from these respected qualifications are relevant to a variety of industries and give you broad career outcomes. You also benefit from polishing up your personal development skills, making you stand out in the recruitment process.

The difference between this step and the previous one is that personal development planning solely focuses on you and your skills. Such skills include communication, public speaking, empathy, teamwork and time management. While these two plan aspects differ, they also complement each other and form collaborative parts of your overall action and development plan.

4. Find your support team

Ultimately, the action and development plan is your responsibility, but having the right support around you is vital to your success. Make sure to include the people who can help you through each stage in your plan.

Examples of people who you could reach out to for support and guidance are:

  • Teachers.
  • Mentors from current or past work.
  • Friends and family.
  • People who are currently working in your dream role or industry.

5. Allow for revision and review

The final step in creating your action and development plan is to allow for revision and review. You need to check in regularly with your plan to ensure that you’re making progress that’s in line with your timeframes and that your goals are still relevant to where you want to be in your career.

You may find that as you manoeuvre through the process, your plans begin to change. You may want to focus on a different industry altogether or perhaps a different role. Checking in and reviewing your plan can stop you from wasting time working towards outdated goals. A mentor or coach can be a vital sounding board here.

Finalising your action and development career plan

An action and development plan is an important tool in your career planning process and shouldn’t be overlooked. Doing this career planning process step by step will help you get clear on what you’re after from your career and how to get there faster while enjoying your work.


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