Do you need a skills plan?

Wednesday 31 July 2019
Self-development is key to remaining relevant in the workplace. Find out if it’s time to reflect on your key skills to move forward in your career
Someone drawing up a plan

To thine own self be true, said Shakespeare; one of life’s great achievers, he understood that we are responsible for our own fulfilment – including our careers. We can wait for our line or senior managers to mentor and guide us toward what we need to know to climb the next rung of the ladder, or we can take the reins and evaluate ourselves.

How do you know if you need to create a skills plan? Perhaps you’ve found yourself in a period of change at work and are re-evaluating your role there; perhaps a new job opportunity has arisen and you’re wondering if you’re a good fit; or maybe you’re re-shaping your career to move into a different sector altogether. It’s never a bad time to take a step back and look at your progress and personal development, so we’ve compiled three questions to ask yourself to determine whether you need a formal skills plan.


Take a look at your current position: which aspects of the role do you enjoy or dislike? Perhaps you’re thinking about the need for a skills plan because you have identified where you have weaker areas that are affecting your ability to perform well in your current job. Or, perhaps you’ve identified that you’ve outgrown your current role and are looking for ways to move into a position with more responsibility and challenges. It’s important to know exactly what you think is lacking so you can decide which angle you’re taking. By understanding why you’re at this stage, you can decide which lens you’re looking at your career through. Think about your current responsibilities and how effective you are in executing them, as well as the steps you’ve taken to reach this role and what you’ve learned or achieved along the way.


Do you have a career goal? How far are you from reaching it? If you want to become a department or business unit manager, a chief executive, or start and manage your own business, think about the various rungs on the ladder as well as the skills necessary for reaching that goal. For example, will you need greater product knowledge, deeper skills in employee management, or stronger sales competencies? Look at job descriptions for roles you aspire to move into and measure yourself against that brief. Think about how you compare with your co-workers and peers in terms of knowledge, skills, experience, attitude and behaviours.


Note down all of your skills – even if you do not use them in your current role – next to a list of every skill that’s required to do both your current and your dream job. If necessary, think back to the hits and misses of your career so far, recalling any feedback from past supervisors and co-workers to help you develop this list – or seek their advice to identify skills that you can develop to help you reach your professional goals. It might help at this stage to put yourself into the shoes of a customer, co-worker, or potential employer. What would they want you to know, or to be able to do?

If you’ve had a performance appraisal recently, this is a good opportunity to reflect on the feedback. What specific aspects of your role do you feel confident in, and which ones make you uncomfortable? Are there any duties that you delegate instead of doing yourself, and why? Which computer programs are you fluent in, and which do you struggle with? Are there any people-management duties that you feel you haven’t mastered? Keep asking yourself: “Will improving this area make me more effective in my work? Will it offer me more job satisfaction?” If the answer is yes, you’ve identified a need to create a skills plan.

Personal development planning is a key step to being an innovative and effective manager – read through CMI's checklist here.

You can also read one Chartered Manager’s guide to creating her own personal development plan.

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