Cliches are annoying, but sometimes they have a ring of truth. Like, ‘a goal without a plan is just a dream’. You wouldn’t expect to become a sports star without a lot of training, or a musician without putting in the effort to play gigs, so why would it be any different when reaching any career goals?

That’s where a career progression plan comes in. By setting one, you’re basically working out what you really want to achieve and working backwards to take the right steps to get there.

“Career progression plans also help you to recognise and take advantage of opportunities as they arise because you have a clear direction and know what your success looks like,” explains HR specialist and co-founder of HR consulting firm – deliberatepractice – Greg Smith.

But where to start?

1. Work out your long-term goals

“Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic and Time-framed) goals is the first place to start,” says Smith. “It’s exciting to dream about what your career could be and imagine what your life would look like having got there. However it’s also important to be realistic and stay grounded in what’s possible using a staged approach.”

What do you actually want to do? Maybe it’s a new job, or a promotion, or starting your own business. Just make sure you put some genuine self-reflection into it to be sure it’s something that’s important to you.

2. Set steps for getting there

Here’s the crucial part, in my opinion. How can you realistically reach your goals? Can you stay in your current role, or does your goal involve a complete career switch? Or maybe it’s just more training to be able to take on more responsibilities.

“It’s about planning strategies to achieve those career objectives, and establishing milestones to track progress,” continues Smith. “This will include knowledge of your target markets [and] self-promotion activities, such as networking.”

“Career progression plans can help you to measure your skills against your aspirations and take corrective action to fill any skills gaps through targeted development. This could be learning on the job, professional development, training, formal study, coaching or a combination of all of these.”

aka pick a direction

3. Commit to your plan

Whatever your steps are, make them clear, make them achievable and actually write them down so you can refer back to them and check off the steps as you achieve them. It’ll make it so much easier to stay motivated and on track.

“Also consider engaging a coach or mentor to help guide and be alongside you and share in your success as your career progresses,” recommends Smith.

Image: Friends