How to Write a Career Plan

Written by: Imogen Hartley
Published on: 30 Mar 2021

CareerPlan

How to Write a Career Plan

For many of us, just knowing where to begin can be the initial hurdle when it comes to writing a career plan. Thinking about the future, particularly at the moment, can feel overwhelming and often gets put off as a task for another day.

However, planning for the future, particularly when it comes to career development, is key for career fulfilment and success. Is there a promotion you have been thinking about for some time? Is there a company whose social media posts have been catching your eye for months, but you have not had chance to apply? Do you have life goals that could be achieved with a pay rise or relocation?

Here, we will explore how producing a career development plan, with clear career goals and career actions can help you maximise your time and reach your full potential.

Firstly, what is a career plan?

A career plan is unique to each individual, but the general structure outlines short- and long- term goals, and the actions you need to take to achieve them. A career action plan not only helps to provide focus, but can help you decide if you need to spend time enhancing skills through training and development, which opportunities you should seek, and the best time to seek them.

Deciding upon your career plan

Before you commit to a specific career plan, it is important to thoroughly consider what you’re looking to gain and how different paths may benefit you.

Outline your options

What are your career interests? If you are currently a Private PA, are you interested in staying in this world, or would you like to move into a business-focused support role? Perhaps you are a Receptionist looking to progress into Office Management. Alternatively, the options you may look at when writing your career plan could involve promotions, pay rises or role locations. Considering these different options for your career plan will enable you to produce goals and targets that truly excite you, and will make sticking to the plan all the easier.

Think about your current skills and experience

Once you have outlined which options interest you for the next stage of your career progression, it’s time to weigh up how your skills and experience can feed into these.

Firstly, look at your career progression thus far – how easily do the options listed lead on from what you have already achieved? If you are looking for a complete change, or are at the outset of your business support career, write a list of your current skills, beginning with your strongest. Doing this will enable you to asses your outlined options with greater clarity, and write a career plan that has the best chance of success.

Consider external factors

A number of external factors, some which are outside of your control, will need to be considered when deciding upon a career path.

  • What qualifications are required?
    • Some roles may require you to hold qualifications such as a driver’s license, or have specific language or childcare qualifications. Other employers may be seeking degree holders or those with vocation specific training, such as the LPC if you are looking in the legal market. All of this is worth considering, as you may need to factor time for additional education and training into your career development plan.
  • How strong is demand in your field?
    • Whilst this is a factor that is ever changing, it is worth thinking about. Even if demand for your dream position is not currently at an all-time high, it can still be a viable career option. Instead, begin to think about ways to gain experience that will ultimately be invaluable once demand rises again. For example, if you would love to become a Receptionist, seek roles that will see you dealing with people and organising schedules. Our article on broadening your job hunt horizons may be of use at this stage in your career.
  • How does your career fit in with your life?
    • Although one’s career is a pivotal and important part of life, there are other forces at play. Are you tied to a specific area due to family commitments? Do you have other responsibilities that require your time of an evening, meaning that being on call 24/7 will not work for you? When career planning, it is of paramount importance to not forget the other aspects of your life not only to which you are committed, but that bring you happiness.

Decision time!

Once you have thought through each of the above steps, it is time to choose the career option that is best for you. Having carefully gone through the selection process, actually putting pen to paper and creating your career development plan should be a much easier task than initially anticipated.

How to write your career plan

Writing your career progression plan should be an ongoing process – you will update it as and when you achieve your goals and as your plans evolve. It is also good to maintain a level of flexibility, as you never know what life may bring.

Goals, goals, goals

These need to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.

Specific

  • ‘I want to get a new role in the near future’ is not a specific goal. Instead, list the exact job you want, the type of company you want to work for, how much you need to be paid and when you want to have achieved this by. For example: ‘Junior PA - £24,000 – Fashion Company – within the next 5 months.’ Adding the specifics will enable you to envision and therefore work towards the goal, making it more likely to become a reality.

Measurable

  • A measurable goal produces tangible evidence that can be assessed along the way. For example, although ‘I am going to get a promotion’ initially may appear a measurable goal, the steps taken towards this need to be more clear. ‘I am going to speak with my manager to find out what it takes to be promoted, then follow each step to ensure my promotion’ is much more measurable and manageable.

Attainable

  • If you are just starting out in your career, your first career goal cannot be ‘Become CEO’. Of course, it is important to dream big, but the point of a career development plan is to put in place careful and measured steps to ensure success. So, your goals may instead involve a particular line of promotions, and the necessary steps to achieve these. This carefully planned career path may one day lead to that CEO promotion after all!

Relevant

  • If you are looking to become a Marketing Assistant, that CIM qualification you have been eyeing up could help ensure your success, whereas if you want an Office Manager role, enhancing your IT and computer management abilities will be more beneficial. Look at the position you ultimately want to be in, and work to enhance the skills needed for that role.

Time bound

  • Perhaps the most important of the SMART criteria is setting time bound goals to keep you on track. Whether you are creating a 5-year career plan, 10-year career plan or beyond, adding a timeframe to each specific career goal will stand you in the best stead for success. These can be monthly, for example: ‘Achieve a type speed of 75 wpm within 4 months’, or set with a specific date: ‘Achieve a type speed of 75 wpm by August 2021’.

Putting it all together

So, you know in which direction you want your career to go, you have your goals and their time frames, and you are ready to put pen to paper. To help you get started, we have produced a career plan example for you to follow.

5-year career plan

Long-term goal: Become a Private PA to a UHNWI within the media industry

Start date: 1st April 2021

Goal 1: Attain first Junior PA role

To be achieved by: 1st June 2021

Actions required:

  • Finalise CV
  • Contact recruiters
  • Apply for 3 jobs per week on SecsintheCity, reduced to 2 per week if in an interview process

Goal 2: Promotion to PA

To be achieved by: 1.5 years into role

Actions required:

  • At initial interview, find out about progression routes within the company
  • Continually speak with managers to ensure targets are being hit/exceeded
  • Speak with fellow PAs to gain advice on how to progress within the company

Goal 3: Ensure I have enough experience in the media industry

To be achieved by: 2.5 years into role

Actions required:

  • Attend events such as the PA Show to enhance knowledge of the profession and hear talks on career development
  • Continuously research and attend webinars to do with the media industry
  • Keep abreast of news and affairs

Goal 4: Gain PA role within media industry

To be achieved by: 1st April 2024

Actions required:

  • Attend networking events to gain connections
  • Search on SecsintheCity for specific ‘Media’ positions
  • Complete steps 1-3

Goal 5: Gain Private PA role within media industry

To be achieved by: 1st April 2026

Actions required:

  • Deepen knowledge of Private PA world by attending seminars and events
  • Keep abreast of the jobs market, ensuring an eye is kept for roles coming up

Following the above career plan template, include the roles you need to gain experience in, the people you want to network with, qualifications you need to obtain and events you would like to attend.

Finding yourself a mentor or becoming a mentee can be invaluable for enhancing your career. Here at SecsintheCity, we are soon to launch our own mentoring scheme – fill out the form here if you are interested in being a mentee, or here if you are interested in being a mentor.

Hopefully the above steps have outlined how to come up with an effective and useful career plan unique to your ambitions. It is important to keep in mind exactly what your goals are and how to achieve them, while remembering to maintain a degree of flexibility. So, what next? Write out your career plan, then check into SecsintheCity to find your perfect career progression roles and more unmissable career advice.