Most people do not have a written career plan that states their ideal end-job and the career milestones to be achieved along the way. Such a career plan (sometimes called a career roadmap) should have two long-term goals: firstly, the career component of your life plan which is usually expressed as the ideal job or role you would like to be in as you finish your career and retire. This is set as a lighthouse beacon to provide general direction to your career.
Secondly, you need to set a long-term career goal which is usually set at seven to ten years in the future (seven to ten years is considered quite long-term in career and life planning). This should be a job or role that would firmly establish you in your career and is usually set at a few positions higher than the one you are in currently.
At this stage, the seven to ten year goal is aspirational – it needs stepping stones to turn it into an actual plan. The way to do this is to work backwards and ask yourself: “To achieve that role in seven to ten years’ time, what job or role do I need to be in in five years’ time?” And then: “To achieve that role in five years’ time, what job or role do I need to be in in three years’ time?” And again: “To achieve that role in three years’ time, what job or role do I need to be in in one or two years’ time?”
The answers to these questions provide the milestones that form a planned career progression leading to your ideal long-term career. However, this is only part of the career roadmap. For each position or role in this plan, you need to identify (and record) the qualifications, experience and skills required to get that job. If you don’t have all of these, you won’t be eligible for that position.
You also need to do this for your current job – “what qualifications, experience and skills are ideally needed to perform excellently in my current role?” To get the next promotion or the next role in your career plan, you must be seen to be doing a great job in your current role.
So, starting with your current role, you match yourself against the qualifications, experience and skills that are ideally needed to perform excellently. Any gaps you identify are your immediate career development needs and you should discuss with your manager how you can obtain the missing parts.
Similarly, for the next job milestone (e.g. the role you need to be in in one or two years’ time), you match yourself against the qualifications, experience and skills that are required to do that job. The gaps you identify are added to your personal career development plan and are also a crucial part of your career roadmap – you need to obtain these to move on in your career.
You need to do this for each role that is a milestone in your career plan.
A career roadmap that contains your long-term career goal and the milestones necessary to get there provides you with career direction, serves to guide career-related decisions, and increases job motivation. It ensures a higher chance of career success. The gap-analysis between your present qualifications, skills and experience, and those required for each job or role in career roadmap, form your career development plan.