Many of us spend our working lives without a clear career path, or we start with a professional development plan (PDP), then ditch it, forget about it or decide it can’t be done.

In fact, it’s not so hard to take the driver’s seat of your career, develop a career action plan for your working life and map out action steps to take you there – whether ‘there’ is CEO of a top company, or being the owner of your small business or start-up, or doing a series of satisfying creative projects that provides your main or additional source of income.

Knowing your strengths and skills, working out how to leverage and polish them will help you shine, even in turbulent times. Knowing where you are headed and steering a strong course means you’ll be less likely to drift in and out of jobs just because they were there, or avoid being swayed by an opportunity that has no relation to your ultimate goal. And if you do change career direction, you’ll have the tools to do it with confidence.

Here’s a handy checklist for creating a strategic career plan.

1. Identify areas for improvement

Every professional has areas they can improve. These might be factors that are holding you back, or new skills you’d love to add to your repertoire. Make a list of traits and skills you’d like to improve, either through formal training, education, on-the-job experience or simply by practising more on your own.

Also think about your current strengths – those tasks and responsibilities you enjoy doing that make you feel confident and capable – and whether there are any opportunities to hone those skills further or apply them more effectively.

2. Consider your values

If you’re churning out work that is not aligned with your core values, dissatisfaction and job stress usually will follow. Make a list of your top values – what you believe in and what’s important to you – and use these as guidelines when creating a career development plan, also known as a professional development plan or PDP.

For example, if social responsibility is very important to you, you might make it a goal to find a job at a not-for-profit or a company that prioritises charity work. Or your leadership style may be one where you genuinely allow your staff to take ownership and contribute to business decisions, however, your current job completely limits this principle.

Whatever the case may be for you, factoring your values into your plan is essential for maintaining career satisfaction.

3. Grow your professional network

Online and offline networking are essential if you want to forge ahead in your career. Set yourself some goals for building your professional network – whether through attending events, joining related online groups and forums, reaching out to people in your wider industry, or even getting to know your colleagues more closely.

RELATED: 10 networking tips that will work for anyone

4. Update your resume and LinkedIn profile

No matter where you want to go in your career, having a compelling, up-to-date resume and LinkedIn profile is key to success. Refresh your resume with recent achievements and new skills as you build them.

Also ensure your resume and LinkedIn profile contain examples of your most recent accomplishments, such as personal and team acknowledgements, award wins, improving business processes, contributing to the bottom line, recent qualifications or training, and any relevant conferences or workshops you’ve attended.

By updating these achievements regularly, you are demonstrating your commitment to further improving yourself, as well as the business’s success. Furthermore, having an updated list means you’ll be more likely to identify any gaps, or your next goal will be more apparent as it builds on your current foundation of skills and experience.

5. Translate intent into career development goals

Once you’ve clarified your values, areas for improvement and where you want to go, make a plan for how you’ll get there. Write down the following career development goals:

  • What do you need to do in the next week, month, three months and further down the track to put your career plan into action?
  • How will you improve on the areas you’ve identified that need attention?
  • How will you grow your network?
  • What sort of training or professional development courses will you complete?
  • Where would you like to be in a year’s time?

Make sure each goal is clear, detailed and has a timeframe attached to it – and then make them happen by taking the necessary steps, one by one, to ultimately get there.

Planning your next career move? Talk to a Michael Page recruitment specialist about employment opportunities in your industry.

Join over 60,000 readers!
Receive free advice to help give you a competitive edge in your career.