Do you want to make progress in your career? Develop your skills? Grow your experience so you can take on a more exciting work and earn a higher salary?
Who wouldn’t want that?
So here’s how to get started: create a career progression plan so you can work out what you want and how you’re going to get it.
Career progression is simply the means by which you move forward in your career – whatever “forward” means to you. The goal is to plan each of your roles so you remain engaged, fulfilled and excited about your work. It’s also how you’ll get more responsibility and earn a higher salary.
You can only advance your career if you have a good career progression plan – one you feel passionate about, committed to and excited about putting into action.
What is a career progression plan?
A career progression plan helps you clearly identify what you want and how to get it so you can actually start taking real steps to make it happen. To work well, a good plan needs to be carefully thought through, written down and actionable.
To know what you want, find some quiet time so you can allow your ideas and desires to surface. Ask yourself what truly excites you, or maybe even scares you a bit? What gives you a sense of fulfilling a higher purpose beyond bringing in the bacon and climbing the greasy pole?
If you find it difficult to figure this out on your own, talk through your ideas with someone you trust. You may want to hire a career coach who can help you determine your heart’s desire. You might prefer to do an online course to discover your career purpose instead. After all, if you’re not sure of your options and you haven’t had any career advice since you left school, college or university, now may be the time to get some guidance and support.
Once you’ve started to find some ideas that excite you, research them so you can verify they’ll deliver the lifestyle, salary and opportunities you’re seeking. Then write down your decisions, goals and plans so you can refer to them easily.
Make a deal with yourself that you’ll review your career every six months. Perhaps book time with a career consultant on a regular basis so you can talk through how you’re getting on and establish some accountability.
How important is career progression planning?
If you’re feeling stuck in your career, wondering how you’re going to achieve your career ambitions, or afraid your livelihood is under threat from a rapidly evolving global economy, career progression planning is of utmost importance.
Because career progression planning is one way you can take back control of your career and your livelihood. In fact, it’s an essential requirement if you want to continue to grow, fulfil your earning and career potential, and achieve long term career satisfaction.
Why is progression important to you?
Now work out why “what you want” matters to you.
That’s because career progression isn’t just about climbing higher in your company or industry, it’s about achieving fulfilment. Once you understand why you want to progress, you can make plans based on your sense of purpose rather than just status or salary (though these are usually important as well).
Why does this matter?
Because if you don’t have a goal, it’s difficult to know which skills you need to develop and what kind of experience you need to gain to take your next step. Having a plan means you won’t be treading water. Instead you’ll be actively looking to develop yourself so you’re ready for more responsibility, more challenges and more rewards.
Above all, career progression planning puts you back in the driving seat of your career. You won’t end up waiting for opportunities or simply hoping you’ll get promoted. And you’re less likely to lose your way even if you experience redundancy and need a job fast.
How do you progress in your career?
The best way to create a career progression plan you’re motivated to put into action is to focus on what you enjoy. When work becomes a pleasure, you perform better, have more energy and bring more and better ideas to the table.
After that, it’s a case of getting clear on what you want to earn. This might mean clearing away some unconscious programming around money so you can achieve the wealth and financial success you aspire to.
You need to be honest with yourself. Get rid of ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ from your career progression plan. You’re not obliged to do anything you don’t want to. If you want more time for your family or you want to take a step back, do it. The only proviso is that you promise to review your plan on a regular basis so you know when it’s time to move forward again.
Which level of career progression are you at?
When you understand where you are now, with your career, it’s easier to make a career progression plan that’s right for you. For example, if you’re in your 20s and just starting out, your vision for the next five or 10 years will be very different from someone in their 40s with a wider range of skills and experience.
So examine where you are now. Think about what you want to achieve in the next year, three years and five years. Then you can plot a career pathway that’s both stimulating and realistic.
However, be aware that goals are simply markers in the sand. You may choose to go beyond your goals or change them over time. Life and work are not fixed entities. A lot can change in a year, both personally and professionally. So respond to those changes by adapting your career progression plan one, three and five years out.
When you create your career progression plan, look at the big picture rather than getting bogged down in too much detail. Maybe you know you want to be married with children in the next five years or perhaps you want to do an MBA. Maybe you’re keen to get promoted into a specific role within your industry or be earning a particular salary by the time you reach a certain age. But sometimes brilliant opportunities come along that you can’t foresee and it pays to be flexible and open-minded about what’s right for you.
However, you need to start from somewhere. Identify your broader goals because it’s these that will tell you a lot about your overall aspirations and they’ll ultimately shape your career progression.
What to do when you are not progressing in your career
If your career has started to stall or stagnate, you need to take action. Review where you are and what you have to offer an employer. Then you can decide what you want next. It could be that you like what you do but simply need to do it for a different organisation or in a different industry. Maybe you need a complete change.
And if you’re looking to make a big step up, consider what you need to do to make it happen. Establishing a few simple changes could make a significant difference to your chances of success. It’ll also give you a boost and help get you out of a rut.
Whether we’re aware of it or not, we all have our own personal brand. It comes through in our attitude, our expertise, our approach and our words. If you want to progress in a particular career direction, ensure your brand matches your goals and expectations. Build a brand around who you want to be and where you want to go, not on where you are now. That way, you’ll always be projecting yourself forward.
There’s no point in building a great brand but failing to follow through with your performance. Wearing a smart suit is easy, but delivering a difficult project through excellent teamwork is hard. However, it’s your actions that reinforce your brand and ensure you’re not known for style over substance.
If you’re going to get on in your career, be visible for the right reasons. Network and promote yourself so others are aware of your talents. If you wait to get noticed, you’ll likely wait a long time. Be bold and confident and remember that selling is a service. There’s no point having passion and ability if you never get the chance to share it and make a difference in the world.
Be willing to grow, learn and challenge yourself. Otherwise you’ll get stuck in a rut. Fear will hold you back and you’ll become a disgruntled and negative force rather than a positive one. Behaving negatively won’t get you anywhere. So rather than forcing a smile on your face, keep yourself motivated, engaged and excited about your work. True enthusiasm shines through and will carry you far.
Finally, have a vision of who you want to be, not just what you want to do or get. This isn’t about your job or your salary, it’s about how you turn up in the world. This is about having a vision of your future and what you aspire to. It’s how you make a contribution and create a legacy. You’re far more likely to shine when you have a bigger purpose.
So figure out what matters to you. Decide how do you want to impact others. Your work is an expression of who you are – it’s an intrinsic part of your life and the more you give, the more you get back.
How to use career progression planning if you’re an employer
If you run a company or you’re a departmental manager or HR manager, it’s important to consider the training and development of your employees so they stay engaged in their work. That way you can hold on to your best staff and help them develop into more senior roles. You’ll reduce the disruption caused by someone either moving within the company or leaving it altogether. When you have a detailed progression plan focused on the development and training needs of each employee, you’ll be able to respond quickly if the business needs to change.
How soon is someone ready for career progression?
It’s a good idea to discuss career progress with an employee as soon as they begin working for you. You can help them work out their plans for the future and give them a sense of purpose. When they’re excited about their work, they’ll be more committed to your organisation and its success. It will also help you identify their strengths and work to them, as well as the weaker skills and experience they need to develop further. It’s worth being clear on what opportunities exist for career progression for each individual within your organisation. This will help you guide and manage the expectations of your employees.
How to get help with career progression
If you’re looking for help with creating a career progression plan for yourself or your organisation, Career Consultants can help.
Sarah Berry is the UK’s best-selling career writer and career consultant for ambitious, goal-orientated and work-loving people who are looking for more from their job and careers. Sarah offers various ways to help you get more from your career or staff, including career coaching and career progression planning.
Don’t leave your career to chance. Start designing your career progression plan today and regain your control over your future and your success.