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You Owe Yourself a Career Path

A Career Path Is Crucial for Employee Development

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man standing in a sea of choices trying to pick a career path

When You Have a Career Path, You Know Where You're Going Next

Thomas Barwick/Stone/Getty Images

Are you reaping the benefits of a thoughtfully-developed, written, employer-supported career path plan? Creating a career path, or career pathing, is an essential component of your life-long career management.

A career path plan is also a critical factor in performance development planning (PDP) in which a supervisor and reporting employee discuss and plan developmental opportunities for the employee. The PDP is important because it is written, shared with the supervisor, generally tracked by the organization for effectiveness, and reviewed quarterly (recommended) or regularly.

The career path encompasses both the employee's desired destination and the steps, experience, and development he or she will need to make progress on the journey. A career path gives the employee a sense of direction, a way to assess career progress, and career goals and milestones.

Developing a career path is easier, and more supported, in an organization that has a PDP process, or an effective performance appraisal or career planning process. You can, however, as an individual employee, make your own career path plan. You are the individual for whom the career path is the most important. You deserve a thoughtful career path plan.

How to Develop a Career Path

You can develop a career path by taking a look at your desired job / jobs within your organization. Then, chart a course through jobs and departments, with the help of your supervisor or manager and Human Resources staff, that is the most likely career path that will let you achieve your goal.

Recognize that obtaining the job you desire may require lateral moves, departmental transfers and job promotions along the way, if you are to achieve your goal.

Attaining your desired goal will also require that you develop skills, pursue employee development opportunities, and obtain certain experiences as you progress along your career path through your organization. Coaching from your supervisor and mentoring assistance from a more experienced employee, probably an employee with a position above yours on the organizational chart, will help.

Additional Considerations in Developing a Career Path

Three additional considerations exist when you develop your career path plan.

  • You need to decide on your career goals and desired jobs. While coaching and mentoring may help you arrive at several possible career options, a complete career exploration is your own task outside of work. You can contact career professionals at your college career services offices, local community colleges, or research online where career information and career tests and quizzes abound. About.com's Dawn Rosenberg McKay offers comprehensive information about career choice and career planning.

  • Put your career path plan in writing. If you are lucky enough to work within an organization that has an employee performance and / or career development process, the written plan is an integral component. If not, put your own plan in writing and share it with your supervisor, Human Resources, and involved others. Writing down your goals is an integral part of achieving them.

  • You own your career path plan. You can seek assistance from others, but you are the fundamental recipient of the rewards earned by following a planned career path. You are responsible for seeking a mentor, applying for internal job openings, and developing the skills and experience necessary for you to achieve your goals. Never forget this significant fact: you own your career path plan. No one will ever care as much as you do.

How to Support Effective Career Path Planning and Development

Employees want to see and understand their next opportunities within their company. This is especially important for ambitious employees who want and expect to see career development opportunities to be satisfied and motivated at work.

A thoughtful career path plan is a key factor in employee engagement and employee retention. An organization contributes to an employee's ability to develop a career path by making the knowledge, skills, experience, and job requirements of each position within the company - transparent. With this information, the employee can plan and prepare for various jobs and opportunities.

The organization supports employees in developing and pursuing a career path by providing access to these opportunities and information.

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