How to Develop Career Goals-Plans

If yiu have not already read “Why Career Goals and Plans?” we’d suggest reading that first, before reading this article,

“How to Help Others to Develop Career Goals”

By Barry Sweeny, 2008

How can our organization help staff define and attain their career goals?” That is the question that was asked of me by Sreejon Deb, an HRD Manager in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In answering his question, I wrote the following paper. I hope it is helpful to YOU too!

1. TEACH AN ATTITUDE – Helping others set and attain career goals is essentially a process of skill building and attitude adjustment. Your purpose is primarily to give folks a sense of self-efficacy, that they can influence, to an increasing extent, what happens to them during their lives. The primary message for this is, “How to make each step of their career a preparation for future, unknown opporunities”. It’s definately an attitude that must be learned, especially by the younger generations with which we are now working.

If is must be LEARNED, then very clearly it must be TAUGHT. So, who in your organizaion has the skills and knowledge to teech others how to develop and use career goals and plans? Most probably, the answer is, “your mentors”.  And THAT is one big reason why every one of your supervisors and managers must be skilled in menoring strategies. The retention you so want to increas depends on it!

2. BUILD YOUR LOCAL BUSINESS CASE FOR DOING IT RIGHT – Define what your organization is willing to do to help folks attain their career goals. Frame it within an understanding of what retains quality employees and what the company’s actual cost of attrition really is. That may take some work to document, but I guarantee you that doing it right will cost LES than you are CURRENTLY SPENDING! Think about that. Now, do the research on retention on this web site and in your organization on the cist of attrition. Then, you can write a business case demonstrating that it will pay your organization to help with this issue.

3. PLAN FOR SUCCESS – Define what the organization cannot do. This means proactively assessing what decision makers are unlikely to be willing to do. Then you must frame your proposal so that they can see the VALUE of saying, “Yes” to what you suggest.

4. PLAN BIG – Establish a mentoring program so that all the following “help” occurs within a long-term, collaborative program. For most people collaboration is practically a requirement for reflection and self-assessment. Without collaboration, the will and time for reflection is overwhelmed by the daily press of the needs you serve and the work to meet those needs.

5. TRAIN CAREER DEVELOPMENT FACILITATORS AND PUT THEM TO WORK – Every mentor, supervisor, manager, and executive is responsible for employee retention – SO every one of them is also responsible to learn and use the skills of mentoring needed to develop and retain their direct reporting subordinates

Their first goal is to help employees define what their ideal, ultimate career position MIGHT look like. This sets a standard for comparison across time. This is not about being all that realistic – we’re talking about something that could be 20-30 years away. What’s critical is that it’s a position the employee really wants to attain., and can explai why they want it.

Next, guide them to research and answer the questions, “What is the skill set and experience that is typical. for people currently in that desired, ultimate position?”, and “What do the writers in good business magazines sya is changing for people in that desired role?”

6. SELF-ASSESSMENT AND NEEDS – Based on the above, help every employee to create, show them where to find, or provide them with self-assessment tools that compare where they perceive themselves to be relative to where they WANT to be. Ask such questions as, “What skills will you need to develop to succeed in your ultimate goal position?”, and “What positions might you have to have had and learned from as prerequists for your ultimate position?” The point here is tp get them thinking about steps they can begin to take now and in the near future to start working on preparing themselves for a better position that ALSO will help them grow in ways they need to grow.

7. SHORT -TERM OBJECTIVES  – Help them learn how to set reasonable goals and intermediate objectives to move their skills and knowledge from where they are toward where they want to be.

8. SHORT-TERM PLANS TO REACH THE OBJECTIVES – Help them learn how to define action plans that will be reasonable, yet challenging, and that will give them gradual progress toward their goals.

9. PLANNING IMPLEMENTATION OF THEIR PLAN – Help them identify the resources, knowledge, time, and skills they will need to attain their objectives and ultimate goals.

10. GUIDE DATA COLLECTION AND MONITORING OF PROGRESS – Help them learn how to measure and monitor implementation of their intentions and plans, and then, to celebrate progress when they achieve an intermediate objective. Use of career/professional development portfolios is one recommended method since it provides actual evidence on which to reflect and self-assess.

11. PROMPT THEM TO BECOME MENTORS TOO – Finally, help them learn how to help others through this same process by becoming a mentor. Do this all along throughout the entire process by periodically having the mentor ask them to answer three questions:

  • * “What have you just learned?” (Of course, ask this after a mentoring discussion, unless it was answered during the discussion.)
  • * “What did I do as your mentor that helped you to learn that?”  (You’d like feed back about the effectiveness of your mentoring, right?)
  • * “Is there any way you can use that insight to improve your own leadership effectiveness?”  (For example, if a protégé sees that their own performance is increased as a result of mentoring, perhaps THEY need to become more of a mentor to those with whom they work?

If becoming a mentor seems appropriate to them, you should know how to advise and guide them to do just that.