The Career Development Review

By certskills March 30, 2015 13:05

Your career development plan should now have several impressive and useful features. If you followed the steps in the previous posts in this series, your plan should include something like this:

  • A written short list of big strategic goals
  • A written development plan of specific steps to build the skills needed to reach those goals, including:
  • A long-term list of development activities (up to 5 years)
  • A quarterly schedule for the near-term activities (for up to 2 years)
  • SMART goals for at least the next few quarters of development activities
  • Dates assigned to the next few quarters’ SMART goals

Today’s post completes this series by discussing the review process. Basically, I’m suggesting that you review your plan quarterly, both by yourself and with a trusted advisor.

As usual in this series, today’s post is just noise without reading and doing the tasks in the other posts in this series. If you’ve not been there yet, check out these posts first:

Now on to the review process!

The Review Process over Time

This series suggests a quarterly schedule for your development plan. The review process should also be quarterly, and that’s no accident.

A quarterly review cycle, including a brief external review with one other person (your advisor), seems to strike a good balance between being too often and being too seldom. Basically, the process runs like this, with the assumption that your plan is tracking to a calendar quarter:

  1. Just before the end of the quarter, create a report, with:
  • …with an analysis of the ending quarter
  • …with next quarter’s provisional plan (SMART goals and dates)
  1. Send the report to your advisor
  2. Schedule time, in person, on the phone, video conference, whatever, to talk about your plan for 15-20 minutes
  3. Have the meeting about the end of the quarter, or the first week of the next quarter.
  4. Thank your advisor, and revise your development plan as needed
  5. Do it again, every quarter.


Figure 1: Review First Week of Quarter

That’s the process. Now let’s break down the key components and discuss why these actions matter.


Trusted Reviewer and Advisor

You need to find someone willing to be your advisor, someone who’s willing to take the time to review your plan and give you direct feedback.

So, what’s the job of a trusted advisor? Here are a few qualities that can be useful, in order of importance (at least to me)

Connected to you: They already have some connection to you; that is, they know you and care to some degree about whether you succeed or not.

Honest: They are willing to be honest with you when talking about your quarterly plan.

Respect: Do you respect them already? Then that person is a good candidate.

Industry knowledge: They know something about your industry.


Figure 2: Selecting a Trusted Advisor

How would you order the above list? I listed the items of importance to me. Of particular note, I personally think that industry knowledge is the least important of those attributes. For instance, if you could find someone with whom you already have a good relationship (someone who cares about you), who you respect, and who will give you honest input, wouldn’t you want that person’s input about most anything in life, even if they were clueless about your work tasks? Find that person in your work context, and it’s a home run.

You also need to be ready to tell your advisor what you expect of them. I think you need to ask little of them time-wise: basically the 15-20 minutes for the quarterly meeting, and maybe 10 minutes of reading the report beforehand. That’s it. You might grow to have more time together, but I’d suggest that you start with a business-like approach with a small ask to begin.

So, what are they signing up for? Here’s what I would ask.

  1. Reading your quarterly report: typically no more than 5 SMART goals from last quarter, and typically no more than 5 SMART goals for next quarter.
  2. Listening to your brief analysis of how well you objectively did on each.
  3. Listening to your brief analysis of how to do better next quarter.
  4. Reflecting on your big strategic goals.
  5. Speaking any suggestions, asking you questions, all for the purpose of helping you reach your goals.


If you write SMART goals in your development plan, then the review process should be much easier than without those smart goals. You can quickly and objectively review each SMART goal because the simple score – did you complete it on time, or not – is completely objective. You can probably review your 5 or so SMART goals with a few comments about what went well, and what didn’t, in 5 minutes. Then you can get all the advice and feedback they can give.


Write A Report as Part of Your Own Quarterly Review

Don’t have your quarterly review with your advisor without first doing a private review, including a written report.

Why? The review process, both private and with an advisor, is for your benefit. But you need to update your development plan, and adjust next quarter’s SMART goals anyway. And a private review makes you think about the process first before talking with your advisor.

  1. Self-analysis by writing down (briefly) the results from the just-ending quarter), and by making suggestions to yourself about what to do next
  2. Peer-analysis from your trusted advisor (or getting encouragement, or insights, or a kick in the tail, or whatever is needed, from your advisor)

As for process, you can write a separate report, or just update a running dialogue in your development plan, whatever works for you. But write down your notes from your self-analysis. Then extract key parts to share with your advisor before your quarterly meeting.

So, what’s in the quarterly report? The part that I suggest sharing with your advisor?

  • The ending quarter’s SMART goals
  • A pass/fail grade on each SMART goal
  • For each goal, list a sentence or two as to what worked well, what didn’t
  • Include next quarter’s plan (SMART Goals, dates)
  • Spend 5 minutes talking about the big goals – and celebrate any progress towards those goals!


Agree w/ Advisor How Much Feedback to Give

Who do you picture as your development plan advisor?

Some people need more of a Mom. Some need a coach. Some need an in-your-face-scream-their-head-off coach. You know what helps you achieve the most.

At the same time, don’t just ask someone to be your advisor, and not talk about what you want. If you just want a sounding board, someone to listen to you, tell them that. If you want them to be tough on you, tell them.

Funny story, just this week, my daughter (13 years) asked me to lecture her more about her sports activities. “Dad, you’re always encouraging, but sometimes I just need someone to yell at me! I do better when I get a lecture! Lecture me – don’t tell me it’s OK!” Well, I’m trying to be a better lecturer, but my daughter still laughs when I try to yell at her, because we both know it’s put on to try and get her motivated her way.


Failure Isn’t Always Failure, but Sometimes it Is!

So, you make a SMART goal, say read book X, certain chapters, by Date Y. At quarter’s end, you’ve read about half of what you should have read.

You failed, objectively. But why? Did you:

  • Set too high of a SMART goal?
  • Put other life or work activities as higher priority?
  • Did those priorities exist when you made this quarter’s plan, or did they show up? (EG, sickness in the family)
  • Did you get lazy?
  • Did you prioritize to other legitimate goals, on purpose, in the middle of the quarter?

This list shows one reason why it’s important to write down at least a brief quarterly report. It could be that you failed to reach the SMART goal, but for good reason. Maybe your SMART goal requires more time than you have – but note that, and make more realistic SMART goals for next quarter. Or maybe you do need that swift kick in the tail.

(And remember that advisor? Hopefully they can keep you honest on analyzing the cases in which you objectively don’t reach a SMART goal.)



So ends this series! It started due to my informal survey that showed a high-ish percentage of us didn’t have a career development plan, and even those who did didn’t look at their plans that often. Hopefully this series has helped us all to be a little more proactive, puts some plans on paper, and start to execute and learn with a little more success. Let me know your thoughts, questions, and stories of trying out any of these ideas!


The Career Development Plan Part 2
Question: Frame Relay Terms and Concepts
By certskills March 30, 2015 13:05
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  1. Bozdar January 12, 07:12

    I finished my dev plan step by step according to series. It looks good but what I do not have is a mentor. I am told that I do not need a mentor. I just need to do what I have written.

    Reply to this comment
    • certskills Author January 12, 13:03

      Hi Bozdar,
      Have to admit, got a good chuckle. What advisor is advising you that you don’t need an advisor (mentor)? 🙂
      In all seriousness, your comment references the advice you got from someone (a) to which you are connected and (b) whom you have some respect for (at least I infer that from your comment). I believe that listening to someone with the attributes listed here, consistently over time, will increase your changes of meeting your goals. Just my opinion. You may of course choose another path.
      All the best,

      Reply to this comment
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