The Career Development Process: Goal-Setting and Career Planning

By University Staff

people climbing corporate ladder

Your job and your career are two different things, separated by levels of fulfillment, education, and advancement potential (, n.d.). For most of us, finding a new job hopefully means more money, better health benefits, a stronger title, a shorter commute, etc. Those are promises an employer can make to you. Finding a better career, or growing in your current one, requires making promises to yourself, and staying committed until you reach your goal. More than anything, it takes a plan.

Organizing Your Objectives

Career development should begin with some introspection, and your plan should consist of the short-term (1-5 years) and long-term (5+ years) objectives that you hope to achieve (Trueba, 2008). Be realistic when making determinations between the two. A level-up promotion could fall under the short-term heading, but becoming the CEO or owning your own business sounds like a five or more years goal.

Additionally, if organization isn’t your thing, a quick online search can help you out. There are numerous templates, such as a personal action plan, that will help you easily organize your thoughts into separate tasks and plans, serving as a to-do-list for your career.

Identifying the Gaps

A gap analysis will help you identify and create a plan to remove any barriers between you and your goals. For instance, if there’s a level of skill or training you need to land your next job or promotion, you need to make education a priority.

During this process, it’s important not to treat your gaps as negatives and instead view them as opportunities. Think of the last job description you read line by line thinking, “I can do that, I can do that,” only to become frustrated when you came upon the skills or requirements that didn’t match your resume. If you start to notice the same gaps when reading several job descriptions, you’ll know exactly where you fall short, and what you need to do to become a better match (Tannahill-Moran, 2015).

Talking it Through With Someone

Believe it or not, there’s a good chance your company wants to hear your career development plans. Employers are willing to help you achieve your goals because it increases the chances that you’ll be happy within the organization and open to staying. Plus, a better-trained, highly motivated employee is worth more than someone who feels neglected and is itching to jump ship. If it’s something you don’t feel comfortable talking to your boss about, go to human resources and ask what kind of career development programs they provide employees.

Online students have an even better option; a dedicated Career Services team will not only listen to their career development plans but will also help put them in action. When you access the University of Arizona Global Campus “My Career” site, you’ll take a quick survey about your goals, and the Career Services team will help you identify a list of benefits available, including personality assessment tools, resume review, career fairs, and mock interview sessions. Taking full advantage of the resources available to you will help you remain focused and organized for however long you need to achieve short- and long-term objectives.

Throughout the entire process, it’s important to be patient. Just because you’re not where you want to be doesn’t mean it will never happen. You’re the only one who can make change, and learn from any failures along the way. Anyone who’s achieved his or her goals will tell you there’s no point in giving up.


Written by University Staff

References (n.d.) Retrieved from

Tannahill-Moran, D. (2015). 3 Steps to Create Your Own Career Development Plan. Careerealism. Retrieved from

Trueba, J. (2008). The Career Development Plan – A Quick Guide for Managers and Supervisors. National Career Development Association. Retrieved from

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