How and why to create a career development plan


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A career plan can help you stay afloat even in turbulent times. We tell you what you need to create it

About the expert: Maxim Desyatykh, founder of the service for selecting mentors for designers Duo Sapiens and co-founder of the technology company red_mad_robot.

First of all, it is important to clarify that a development plan in a profession is fundamentally different from a “career wishlist.” No one forbids dreaming of a coveted position in a company on the Forbes list, but you definitely shouldn’t plan your own development around this goal.

A career plan should be based not on what positions and companies a person moves to, but on what professional skills, qualities and experience he accumulates – they cannot be taken away, no matter how the world around him changes and no matter what happens in it .

Companies often participate in creating a specialist’s career track. Many of them have set up algorithms for development in different positions, and there are mentor programs.

This is logical: employers are interested in their employees developing – but developing precisely in this company and in exactly the way that is accepted in this particular company. Therefore, the development and career of a specialist is an area of ​​his personal responsibility, which is unreasonable to shift to the current employer.

It is worth saying that a career plan is not a prerequisite for moving up the career ladder, but it definitely speeds up this process, making it more meaningful and orderly. So where to start?

Anchor points

Visualize your career track and skill set

In order to draw up a development plan, you need to understand what the career ladder looks like in your area of ​​expertise. It’s worth visualizing what a specialist’s path looks like: from junior level, through middle and senior – to manager. You can also consider neighboring “branches” in which it is potentially interesting to develop or interact with them: development, marketing, design, etc.

The next step is to understand how the grades differ from each other in your case. For example, in the field of design, junior, middle and senior specialists differ in their level of qualifications in the work they do, and, for example, a design lead no longer draws a design, but manages people – this is a completely different skill. Consequently, at this stage it will be necessary to pay special attention to management issues.

Also, before creating a plan, it is worth understanding the necessary skill set in the profession: a map of skills, knowledge, qualities and experience. Understand how the skill set changes from one level to another and what requirements are placed on a specialist at each of them.

Set realistic deadlines

For digital specialists, the “gold standard” of growth looks like this: a step higher once every nine months. Of course, there are cases when growth in a position can take longer or less time – for example, when a person initially underestimated or overestimated the current grade.

However, this cannot be said to be an average: many specialists do not take any steps in their career for years, do not learn new things, and do not develop skills. Largely because they do not understand their path: they have no career plan and no movement along this plan. At the same time, their salary may, albeit slightly, grow due to annual indexation.

One way or another, the deadlines should be realistic and individual. You shouldn’t strictly limit yourself to nine months: this is just a convenient period of time during which, with the right approach, qualitative changes in professional development can occur.

Find a mentor

Of course, everyone makes a career plan, first of all, for themselves, and other people’s advice can only confuse you. However, it is still worth showing the plan to someone senior in the profession in order to think together about its content and feasibility.

These could be work colleagues – senior specialists or a manager, if the company has adopted the practice of investing in the professional development of people. You can also turn to external consultants – for example, a mentor who will tell you how it works not in a specific company, but in the market in general.

It is advisable that this is not a coach who talks about careers in general, but a person who has traveled a similar path to you and understands how it works.

Whoever you decide to turn to, the value of such a mentor is that he will help you set the right priorities, suggest missed points that the specialist himself may not see simply due to “unconscious incompetence” – when a person does not yet know what he does not know .

So, let’s move on to the structure of a career plan.

Career plan: what’s inside


This block includes obtaining theoretical information that will help grow your expertise – reading specialized articles, watching videos on YouTube, taking courses, listening to podcasts, attending conferences, etc.

In fact, acquiring knowledge is a process that for a modern specialist never stops. But if a person sets career goals and wants to achieve them in the near future, then acquiring new knowledge should be systematic and regularly present in the work schedule.


Unlike acquiring knowledge, skills are their repeated practice. Obviously, knowing how something is done and being able to do it are two different things. A simple example: if you are about to have an operation, it is better to go to the operating table with a surgeon who knows how to perform operations, and not with someone who knows how to do them.

Obtaining a skill presupposes that a person has repeatedly performed some action and reinforced it with the help of feedback from a mentor – this could be a colleague, a manager, or a mentor. Skills include mastering special working tools, programs, programming languages, etc.


We are talking about well-known soft skills, which traditionally include negotiation skills, logical and critical thinking, emotional intelligence and much more. You need to understand what qualities are needed at this or that stage of your career.

For example, for a freelancer who works from home, it is not so important to immediately learn coordinated teamwork as the ability to negotiate with customers, but he can always return to this later – for example, if he goes to work in an office.

It is important to set realistic goals for yourself and develop qualities that can be trained. That is, do not set yourself the impossible goal of “becoming a charismatic leader,” but divide it into components: learn to communicate more environmentally, be more persuasive, and so on.


This point involves the intentional immersion of a specialist in situations and areas that are new to him. Gaining experience means facing a particular task, remembering mistakes, and drawing conclusions.

For example, a person may set a goal to work with fintech projects in order to have them in their portfolio, or use a new tool, such as A/B testing. Thus, gaining new experience does not occur chaotically, but purposefully: a person specifically begins to look for opportunities to try new things.


In your career plan, it is also important to reflect changes in salary that will occur as you grow, to maintain motivation. Here you can rely on your own feelings, average market figures, and communicate with colleagues.

Assessing changes: how to understand that you have grown?

If a system of career tracks and mentoring is introduced at the company level, then the deadlines for assessing the current grade are most likely determined there. But often companies, especially small startups, have no time for this. It is especially important here that a specialist takes responsibility for his career and does not wait until his growth is noticed.

You can come to your manager at the beginning of your career plan to check with him, and then return to this conversation after the same nine months to share results and achievements, talk about increasing your salary.

There is a good “360 degree” assessment method, when a specialist discusses his professional development not only with his supervisor, but also with his colleagues, friends, and subordinates. After evaluating them, a certain “arithmetic mean” is displayed and an understanding emerges of what still needs to be worked on.



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