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A bit of structure and a few questions & topics to jump-start your career planning discussions
Bill Hoberecht - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.         

 I’ve found having a career plan to be helpful as I approach decision points in my job, consulting engagements, and my career.  This article presents a framework for initiating career planning within the environment of your current job and career, giving suggestions on topics to discuss, a few resources to read, and a template for your very own career plan.



Career Planning . . . is it Worthwhile?

When first starting my professional career, I was occasionally invited to participate in discussions with my manager about my career.  As I remember, these ‘career planning’ discussions were rather superficial – 15 minutes of chat, usually in January.  This brief exercise was basically a discussion of my job and my hopes for the upcoming one, three and five years; it seems the pervasive answer (among me and my colleagues) always involved becoming technically proficient, stepping into leadership roles, and becoming promoted into successively more responsible management positions.

Now, a few decades later, I recognize that this type of ‘career planning’ probably was somewhat useful, but an opportunity was missed to have a genuine dialog on this important topic.

Genuine career planning can:

After joining the ranks of management, I was afforded the opportunity to participate in many excellent performance management and career planning seminars and workshops.  Perhaps the most significant outcome of these was the development of my perspective that


My conclusion: Career Planning is indeed valuable when it includes self-examination, an appreciation for the work environment, and strong connections with career confidants and advisors.


Obstacles to Career Planning

Career Planning is far more than producing a training plan or looking through job listings for that next assignment – it can involve a fair amount of thinking, discussion, and, ultimately, some action.

There are plenty of reasons for avoiding Career Planning (and these can be valid for an entire career!):


Unfortunately, most of us have only been exposed to superficial career management discussions and fail to reap the benefits of effective career planning.


The ‘Hoberecht Method’ of Initiating Career Planning

This article describes the method I use to initiate Career Planning discussions – these materials are an excellent starting point for career planning that is far more insightful than a cursory discussion on your aspirations in the next 1, 3 and 5 years.

I use these notes to guide my discussions with employees who directly report to me, and suggest that these employees use the accompanying Career Plan template.  These notes are based upon the foundation that the best career plan for you will be based upon:


Initially, there are two primary participants in getting this Career Planning underway:

  1. Manager: Responsible for initiating the Career Planning discussion, structuring the continuing discussions and establishing an overall time frame for career planning activities.
  2. Employee: The owner of their career plan.  Responsible for participating in the initial career planning discussions initiated by the Manager then taking ownership for driving all subsequent career planning discussions and activities.  Responsible for identifying and engaging with others who will participate in career planning activities

Creating a career plan starts with a discussion between the Manager and Employee - more details on this are in the next section of this article.  The subsequent steps of Career Planning, not detailed here, probably include these actions by the Employee:

I recommend these two books as excellent guides on career planning.  Although they might appear to be targeted to job seekers, these are also excellent in helping stimulate thinking about your current career.

  1. What Color is Your Parachute?    This excellent book (first published in 1971) is updated and reissued every year or two.   The book includes a thorough approach to understanding your values, skills & drivers and then applying this information to your job search and career advancement.  The author's companion web site provides even more information.
  2. What Color Is Your Parachute Workbook: How to Create a Picture of Your Ideal Job or Next Career, by Richard Nelson Bolles.  


Your Initial Career Planning Discussion

It is time to begin your Career Planning discovery.  This will kick-off with a discussion between a Manager, who schedules this discussion time, and an Employee who reports directly to that Manager.

During this discussion you will step back from the immediate pressures of the daily job and focus on the employee’s career.  This is a directed discussion that is not rushed, but allows for the exchange, discussion and thought on several important topics.

This first discussion between a manager and employee is intended to:


Here are some questions that can help guide the discussion – these questions should take about two hours to discuss.  If you complete this in less than one hour, then the discussion is not sufficiently deep.  The manager should prepare by being familiar with these questions, no preparation is required by the employee for this discussion.


Outline – Discussion Questions for the first Career Planning Discussion 


What’s Next?

If you manage others, consider the value of initiating a career planning discussion with each of your employees that report to you.  The cost to you is negligible, yet the benefits to the employee, to you and to your organization can be significant.