Career Fortitude



In today’s dynamic professional landscape, career advancement is not merely a matter of tenure or experience.  Advancing your career requires a proactive approach towards personal and professional growth.  An effective development action plan serves as a roadmap, guiding you toward achieving your career goals.

I have created a detailed development action plan that you can download for free as a PDF.  I created this template based on my own experiences with my leadership development and what I’ve learned from coaching other leaders as they work through their development journeys as well.  This plan outlines specific steps and strategies to enhance skills, expand knowledge, and leverage opportunities for advancement.

What makes an effective development action plan?

It’s a strategic plan based on your individual competencies and career goals.  An effective development action plan starts by identifying one main objective you want to achieve in your career.  This could be completing training on a specific subject, becoming a leader, or advancement through a promotion.  An effective development action plan allows you to formulate smaller, short-term goals needed to accomplish in order to reach that larger goal that will ultimately advance your career.

An effective development action plan is the framework of your professional development that helps you to identify your strengths and opportunities.  It helps you lean into your strengths while focusing on the development opportunities that you’ll need to address in order to achieve your goals.  A development plan is nothing without action, so a big focus in crafting your plan is creating strong goals that are actionable and realistic.

A critical piece of development is taking the time to reflect on the progress of the plan, gaining feedback from others, and making the necessary adjustments to ensure you’re tracking to meet the timeline you set to meet your goal.  This is where my development action plan differs from other templates.  I have created a plan that specifically and strategically helps you create accountability to completing goals and receiving the critical feedback needed along the way.

Creating goals can be the easy part of development, but following through on completing goals is where people often slip up and fail to hold themselves accountable for taking action and meeting their objectives.  Another mistake people make is not getting quality feedback during the developmental process that’s critical for accountability and ensuring the plan is realistic and attainable.

I’m going to share the 6 main areas of my development action plan.  As you listen start thinking about that one career objective you have and begin to formulate how you’ll craft your plan so you are one step closer to taking action.


  1. Assess Current Skills and Competencies

Start by completing a self-assessment to identify strengths and areas for improvement.  This step could involve asking for feedback from mentors and colleagues if you want to ensure you’ve assessed your core competencies accurately.  Understanding your current core competencies provides a baseline for development efforts and helps prioritize areas needing more focus.

My template guides you through 8 core competencies to help you identify the strengths that you’ll be leveraging during your development plan and the areas of opportunity that you’ll need to focus on as you’re crafting your goals.  These core competencies are adaptability, collaboration, communication, leadership qualities, integrity, inclusivity, responsiveness, and results.


  1. Identify Career Objective

Obviously, a critical step in an effective development action plan is to clearly define your current career objective.  With this development action plan approach, we’ll just focus on one main short-term career objective.  Come up with an objective that can be achieved in 3 to 6 months.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a plan to reach a longer-term goal, but be careful of falling into the trap of setting a big goal too far out in the future without understanding the short-term goals needed to set yourself up to achieve that longer-term goal.

Breaking down long-term career goals into smaller and more attainable goals in the short term is the key to not becoming overwhelmed and losing momentum through the development process.  Your career objective should be a short and concise statement that you’ll refer to when crafting smaller SMART goals to support it.

“Becoming a stronger leader” is not a great objective.  Instead, be specific, like “In the next 3 months I want to improve my problem-solving skills by becoming proficient in continuous improvement tools and integrate them into my team.”  Instead of the objective “I want to advance my career in the next year”, your objective could be “to earn a promotion into Sales Manager position within the next 6 months.”

As you can tell, these are specific and short-term objectives that will require smaller SMART goals. For example, currently having less than a year of experience in a leadership role with a long-term goal of earning a C-level role includes multiple promotions necessary to get there.  Having that big long-term goal is great for inspiration but numerous smaller goals are necessary to accomplish before being ready for that higher C-level position.  A short-term goal in this scenario could be improving active listening skills based on identifying communication being a core competency that requires attention in order to grow leadership skills.

Something else to consider while forming your goal is it might be necessary to research industry trends and requirements.  For example, if you’re working on obtaining a role that requires certification, you’ll need to research how long it takes to receive the necessary training and ensure you’re planning how to pay for it and you have the required time and energy in your life to commit to it.

If you need training that takes longer than 6 months, don’t let that stop you from completing the development action plan.  You can have one objective focused on receiving the certification and another objective that you’ll complete within 6 months that will work in conjunction to get you ready for your career advancement.


  1. Determine Developmental Focuses

Based on your self-assessment, career goal, and understanding your core competencies, it’s now time to establish clear developmental strategies.  You’ll use your self-assessment to identify your strengths and opportunities.  Determine how you’ll lean into your strengths during your development action plan to fuel progress and have the most impact.

You’ll also determine your opportunities and turn these into your developmental focuses for your action plan.  Take your main opportunities and determine how you’ll close that gap and improve your competency in this area.

Working on improving your opportunities can be a smaller goal of your action plan on its own, or it could be aligned with a business goal as well.  Such as improving your active listening skills to build trust with your team to ultimately improve engagement among your team.

As I mentioned, the development focus could include training and certifications based on your industry and what your goal is.  It could also include receiving support from a coach or enlisting the support of a mentor to help you strengthen your skills quickly.

These focuses should be specific actions aimed at bridging skill gaps, acquiring new knowledge, or gaining relevant experience.  Prioritize based on their importance in achieving that larger goal you’re working towards.


  1. Seek Guidance and Support

A critical step that people often skip that can make a development plan ineffective is not identifying a person or multiple people who can help in the journey by offering mentorship, accountability, and feedback.

Identifying a mentor within or outside your organization who can provide valuable guidance and support.  Mentors offer valuable insights, share experiences, and provide constructive feedback that can accelerate your professional growth.

If you have trouble identifying someone who would be a great mentor, you might need to invest some time in networking to identify someone within your industry who would be willing to offer their time and guidance to support you.

Make sure the person you recruit to support your development can provide helpful feedback.  Before you even start putting your plan into action determine the frequency and method of receiving feedback from your mentor.  I recommend meeting at least once a week for consistency and accountability.

You might find through the development process you’ll need to focus on completing tasks to achieve your goals that you hadn’t anticipated.  Regular time set up with your mentor to bounce ideas off of and devise a plan of action quickly is key to keeping an effective development action plan moving forward.


  1. Form the Action Plan

Now it’s time to form the actions that outline activities and resources needed for skill development.  This may include enrolling in courses, attending workshops or conferences, pursuing certifications, or engaging in on-the-job learning opportunities.  You’ll benefit the most by balancing between formal training and practical application to create a holistic approach to gaining necessary technical and soft skills.

Action comes from crafting smaller goals that will offer the most value needed to achieve your larger main objective.  These goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART Goals).  Regardless of your main objective, these SMART goals are critical for supporting your plan and are the smaller stepping stones to ultimately achieve larger objectives and career goals.

An effective SMART goal provides clarity in identifying precisely how to make progress in your development.  This is key for ensuring you’re on the right path and creates accountability from goals that are measurable and time-bound.  As I mentioned earlier, these SMART goals must support your main objective.In the example of earning a promotion, you’ll need to identify smaller goals that will help accomplish that objective.  What skills will you need to learn?  What training or on-the-job experience will you need to obtain in order to position yourself for the promotion?  It’s common to use multiple SMART goals to fully support your objective.


  1. Evaluate Progress and Reflect

You’ll need to execute the development plan diligently, by tracking progress towards SMART goals.  Regularly assess milestones, adjust strategies as needed, and celebrate accomplishments.  Reflect on challenges encountered and lessons learned, refining the plan to maintain alignment with your main career goal.

Don’t underestimate the impact that evaluation and reflection can have on your success.  Execution of a development action plan is challenging because it requires growth as a person.  Growth can be very uncomfortable and unfortunately, people often become deterred from continuing their development because they can’t overcome being uncomfortable.

People who can effectively evaluate their progress and adjust accordingly are the ones who reach their objectives time after time and find the most success in their careers.  But don’t shy away from asking for help and leaning on your mentor’s experience and expertise in times of discomfort.  Trying to face it alone is what can derail people from following through on their action plans.


Those are the 6 areas of my development action plan that can be used to help you strategically craft your next steps for your career advancement.  An effective development action plan is a strategic tool for career advancement because it empowers individuals just like you to take charge of your professional development and achieve career goals.

Remember, you want to identify one main objective that can be achieved in the next 3 to 6 months.  Having a vision further out than that for your career is great and you should be thinking long-term.  But in order to focus on the smaller stepping stones goals that will help you learn skills and fine-tune your leadership abilities quickly, form an objective that can be obtained in the short-term.

By working through smaller SMART goals in order to accomplish that main objective in 3 to 6 months you’ll also boost your confidence by successfully reaching goals.  You’ll see the impact that completing smaller stepping-stone goals has on you and your career, and you’ll become more proficient in identifying what goals you need to achieve next to jumpstart your career advancement journey.


I hope you downloaded my free development action plan PDF and started filling it out with your plan to grow and develop.  If you follow along and invest the time and energy into working through the entire process, I know you’ll come away with new skills and more confidence.

Until next time, always keep learning and always keep growing.


Philip Hilt – Leadership & Career Coach



Sign Up for the Career Fortitude Newsletter to receive more valuable information:

* indicates required

Leave a Reply