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As an HR professional, you know firsthand how important career development plans are to both employee engagement and happiness. However, when you work in HR, it can be all too easy to focus on every other employee’s development without ever thinking of your own.

Your career development as an HR pro is just as important as anyone else’s. While your leaders won’t necessarily be the ones to initiate your career development plan, they’d likely support your efforts if you decided to create such a plan for yourself. In the end, the only person who can create your career development plan is you.

So, where do you start? Oddly enough, at the end.

Figure Out the End Goal

Don’t set a goal just for the sake of setting it. Instead, you must set goals that truly resonate with you. Such goals are vital to career development, as they will give you the drive and passion you need to stay on the path for as long as it takes.

That isn’t to say you can never change your career path. Rather, it simply means you should have a clear direction at all times.

When you’re deciding on what the ultimate goal of your career development plan is, you should take into account what you will be required to do to attain your possible goals. For example, if you’re aiming for a director of human resources position at a Fortune 500 company, you may need to earn a master’s degree in business or HR. Would you be willing to go back to school to achieve your goal? If not, you’ll have to rethink your plan. Understanding precisely where you want to be and how you plan to get there will help you create manageable mini-goals you can accomplish over time.

Analyze the Path Ahead

Once you’ve figured out your ultimate career goal, you must determine what it will take to get there. The best way to do this is to look at job descriptions.

Search for job posts advertising your dream role — e.g., director of human resources, international human resources professional, executive recruiter, etc. Study these posts to determine the kinds of skills, experience, and qualifications you’ll need to eventually land the job.

Go through the job descriptions line by line, and assess how closely you match the skills and requirements. This exercise will give you a concrete understanding of the skills you need to develop as part of your plan. Look at multiple job postings from different companies to find common themes. Try to pinpoint the 3-5 skills you absolutely must have to land your dream job.

You may also want to investigate the social media profiles of professionals who already hold your goal role. Some things to pay attention to include:

  1. Length of tenure at current company
  2. Length of tenure in previous roles/at previous companies
  3. Common themes in recommendations or endorsements
  4. Membership in groups or associations
  5. Published articles/other works

Create a List of Actionable Steps

Now that you’ve figured out where you’re going and what you need to do to get there, all you have to do is plot your course. What barriers stand in your way? What will help you get to your destination faster? Actionable, progressive steps will keep you moving down the path to success.

Some steps in your plan might include:

  1. Volunteer to complete challenging projects and assignments in your current position. Getting involved in projects that are outside the normal scope of your position will help you grow and develop new skills.
  2. Take advantage of any and all formal training your company offers. Ask your boss what opportunities are available. It’s likely your company offers something, as spend on corporate training has grown to more than $70 billion in the United States.
  3. Search out resources online and in print to help you improve your skills and your industry knowledge.
  4. Write about your experiences and share your insights in industry outlets.
  5. Offer to speak at local or national events to share your knowledge.
  6. Test for certifications and join associations geared toward your industry.

Defining a career path is the first step toward achieving your ultimate career goal. Your plan likely won’t be perfect at first, and it may need some reviewing and adjusting along the way. However, as long as you have a plan and stick to it, you can have the successful HR career of your dreams.

A version of this article originally appeared on the ClearCompany blog.

Sara Pollock is head of the marketing department at ClearCompany.



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