Skills Weaving - Blog 2: “Personal Career Development Plan”


For this week’s blog, we will take a closer look at the Personal Career Development Plan for academics. What is it, why is it useful, and how can you use Skills Weaving to design your own career plan? To get you started after reading this blog, we already prepared a career development plan template that can be downloaded for free from our website here


The Career Development Plan 

A career development plan is an outline of your personal strategy towards achieving career ambitions. It can be seen as your roadmap for your future career, listing specific actions that bring you closer towards your goals 

A career development plan can take many form, from being outlined on a paper napkin to an extensive table or 1-page document. With Skills Weaving, we developed a table template with all relevant sections (figure 1). You can download the template for free from our website to get started with designing your own career development plan. 

The first section of the career development plan describes your ultimate career ambition and outlines the career trajectory towards this goal. Next, you specify your short-term career goals (i.e. the next position you would like to obtain). Based on this information, you can perform some background research to identify potential bottlenecks on your career path (e.g. formal qualifications, potential barriers, other criteria). 

The second section shows your current skills. Upon self-reflection, discussions with others, or by taking the Skills Weaving - Academic Career Skills Assessment, you can identify relevant strengths and opportunities in relation to your career ambitions. By building on your strengths and improving on your opportunities, you can start to work towards your goal. 

The third section forms the core of the career development plan. In our template, we structured this section according to the 10 skills domains of Skills Weaving. Of course, you are free to choose your own or expand with other sections. For each Skill Domain, you can state your main objective and list several actions and activities that allow you to reach this objective.   


Figure 1. The Template Career Plan (click to enlarge)


Why should I design a Career Development Plan? 

First, a career development plan can be used as a roadmap towards achieving your career ambitions. Career ambitions usually represent long-term goals and can be quite overwhelming. A personal career development plan breaks this major goal down into specific actions and activities that can be taken in the short term. As such, it keeps you focused on taking small achievable steps towards your ultimate goal. 

Secondly, the graduate school in which you enrolled as a PhD student can require you to prepare a career development plan. Instead of taking this as a formality, we recommend you use this opportunity to reflect on your ambitions and design a structured approach. There may be specific requirements that the career plan needs to fulfil, so read the instructions and adhere to them.  

Thirdly, a career plan can be requested in the context of a grant application. For these purposes, you may need to prepare it according to specific requirements (which often do not provide more information than a page limit; still, read the instructions carefully and adhere to them). 

Finally, the added value of a career development plan often emerges by merely taking the initiative to prepare one. The required background research and self-reflection are essential steps in taking your career development seriously. 


Using Skills Weaving to get ahead with your Career Development Plan 

With Skills Weaving, we offer support on how to design your Personal Career Development Plan. By applying the information in this blog and using our free template, you should be able to get started. The Skills Weaving Assessment provides insights in your Skills Profile and allows you to identify opportunities for personal development. Moreover, the assessment report offers further suggestions and specific feedback that will inspire you to take action. If you want to learn more, you can also join our Webinar “Designing a Personal Career Development Plan”, which is sometimes offered in the context of specific career grants. 


Hints and tips 

  • Keep it short and simple. A written career plan can be as short as 1 page. 
  • If not sure about your career goal, prepare separate career plans for the different trajectories. It will help to clarify your ambitions and prioritize your actions. 
  • Career goals can change according to prevailing circumstances. Regularly adapt your career plan and keep older versions as a reminder of how much you already progressed. 
  • The Skills Weaving Assessment provides insights in your current skill profile. Use it to identify strengths and opportunities for development. 


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