We often look to others like our boss or our leaders to help guide our career development. That’s certainly not an unrealistic expectation. That’s what any good leader should do. But it doesn’t always happen like that. That doesn’t mean you may not have a good boss but being a good boss doesn’t always equal a great mentor. You’re not always going to work for a person like that – one who will keep a watchful eye on your professional growth.

Who has that responsibility?

You do.

The reality is you own your career. You know yourself better than anyone else. Leaving your career development in the hands of others is a risky proposition.

Have a Career Growth Plan

Let’s fast-forward and say that it’s December 2015. Answer these questions:

  • What did you accomplish this year?
  • What new skills did you learn?
  • What new certifications did you earn?
  • What’s your current role and title? What job duties do you have?
  • What company are you working in?
  • How do you leverage your talents at work every day?
  • How are you adding value every day?
  • Does your manager know all of the key talents you possess?
  • What new mentors do you have across various venues? (work, professional associations, etc.)
  • Are you up to date on your technology?
  • What new professional networks have you added?
  • Who surrounds you and motivates you?

Creating a career development plan is as easy as 1, 2, and 3.

Step 1: Know where you want to go

Before you can set any developmental action plan, you have to know where you want to end up. That’s the purpose of the above questions. Setting goals gives you a longer term vision and short-term motivation but you have to know your end destination before you can walk the right path.

A word of caution. Don’t just make a goal for the sake of making one. What makes these targets important for you? What is your intrinsic motivation? You need a goal that means something to you because if it doesn’t, you’re probably not going to be motivated to spring into action.

If you’re making a goal based on what someone else wants, it’s not going to be all that compelling and exciting for you. Clarity of goals is a great driver to success.

Step 2: Conduct Your Own Gap Analysis

In business, a gap analysis is used to determine what course of action has to be taken to move from the current state of operations to what is desired in the future.

Same theory for your personal gap analysis.

In step 1, you’ll figure out what you want to accomplish in 2015. Compare that to where you are now. The gap is where you figure out the differences in where you are and where you will be. Anything you cannot account for is the gap. Where you see a hole, build the bridge to close it. Create a course of action based upon your goals that help you get from Point A to Point B.

Step 3: Create Your Developmental Action Plan

Once you’re fully armed with clear 2015 goals, you can plot out all of the action plans — or the step-by-step process — you need to go through to meet these goals.

For each of the envisioned goals, you will develop a specific plan of action. Once you do that, you are ready to go.

It’s one step at a time.

One goal at a time.

The best plan is if you can work with your boss or a mentor to help you get to where you want to be. Just because you own your career doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.

And as with all goals and goal setting, be specific and hold yourself accountable by having clear deadlines and dates. Give yourself a “start-by” and an “end” date. Monitor your progress and keep track all along the way.

Career development is the sort of thing that you can easily forget about until you wake up one day and realize that a year’s gone by and you’re still in the same place. With a little bit of planning great things will happen.

The only way to be successful in your career developmental plan is to continually visualize it and have both short-term and long-term goals so that over time you start to see more parts of your vision coming true. Then one day you are going to wake up and find that you’re living your end goal in real-time.

What’s the difference between a dream and reality? Goals and a plan of action!

A Word about Growth and Change

Author John O’Donohue says:

“Change, therefore, need not be threatening… When you are faithful to the risk and ambivalence of growth, you are engaging your life. The soul loves risk, it is only through the door of risk that growth can enter.”

Doing work you love and working for a company you enjoy is essential to your ability to thrive at work and thrive as a person. It fulfills you. It makes you happy. It adds inspiration and happiness. So 2015 can be as great as you want to make it.

In 2015, hold yourself responsible for:

Let us know what you think!