A well-developed career plan will consider the following five elements: direction, career time, transitions, career planning options, and projected outcome. If it does, it will be sufficiently flexible to accommodate changing opportunities for development and multiple (where several exist) ways of arriving at your goals. At the end of the career planning process, you should have set realistic career goals which lead to planned goal-related training and developmental activities that can be set forth in an Individual Development Plan and can reasonably be accomplished during the next year.
This involves career goals. Goal setting has two components: what you want to do (involving your knowledge, interests, and needs) and what the Coast Guard needs to do. Goal setting has to address both components through self-assessment and an assessment of the organization.
Self-assessment refers to your role, relationships, personal attributes, personal limitations, and job identification. It asks, "Who am I?"
Assessing the organization refers to looking at the boundaries set by the Coast Guard which influence your perceptions of available alternatives and the extent to which your aspirations are realistic and timely. (Boundaries include the Coast Guard's hierarchy, the functions of your work unit, the degree to which you identify with a particular group or specialty, your supervisor's technical or interpersonal skills, and the Coast Guard's culture.)
Any combination of these factors and the Coast Guard's norms can lead you to feel "boxed in" or frustrated. This means you must weigh the impact of organizational goals, values, and orientation on your plans.
This relates to distance and speed factors, that is, how far you want to go on the career path and how fast you expect to get there. Most of us think of career progress in terms of time, the distance we travel (typically upward), and the speed of advancement. You may well gauge the progress as being "on schedule," "ahead of schedule," or "behind schedule." Your supervisor can help you assess your progress by providing feedback as to whether your timeframes are reasonable within the Coast Guard.
Transitions relate to the changes expected (in knowledge, skills, and aptitudes) en route to a career goal. It's not uncommon for us to focus immediately on advancement and not on the changes necessary to prepare us to play a more responsible role within the Coast Guard. The concept of investment comes into play here. Investment refers to what price you're willing to pay to change positions: taking on more responsibility, more energy output, more time, and perhaps more money spent to prepare for a new position.
Investment also concerns the degree of certainty you're comfortable with as to whether you'll be happy and satisfied in a new assignment. There are people who ultimately learn to perform well in their new positions but, if they are absolutely honest with themselves, are unhappy in their new role.
Transitions involve the most thinking and planning. Setting goals and a timetable only initiates the career planning process. The transition factors must be considered and analyzed in detail. Because it is very difficult to be absolutely objective about oneself, you need both information and feedback from others (supervisors, friends, and family) in order to calculate the transitions involved.
You may be unaware of all the options available to you for career development or reaching career goals. Some of these options are:
Advancement. Moving to the next higher position, which is the option most often chosen.
Lateral. Moving across functions to develop new skills or as a way to reach a career goal when one career path dead-ends.
Change to Lower Grade. This can also be used for development or career goal attainment. An employee who accepts a lower grade for developmental purposes is entitled to pay retention only if the training program is a formal government-wide training program such as upward mobility, apprenticeship, or career internship. A change to lower grade for any other form of training may result in a loss of pay.
Mobility. This is often a key factor in career planning. Occasionally, a geographical move is necessary for an employee to obtain developmental experiences essential to achieving career goals or to advance to a desired grade.
Job Enrichment. For various reasons, you may not desire advancement (e.g., you like your present position or location). If this is you, your career goals may be working towards great responsibility and variety in the present position, which requires use of higher level knowledge and abilities. Accomplishment of these goals would provide high motivation and personal growth. This may be possible through restructuring jobs or shifting duties. (Note: in some cases, job enrichment may require changes in the job description).
Exploratory Research. Actively investigating other options, or taking temporary special projects or assignments to explore a new area, are forms of exploratory research. This could also include long-term training, developmental assignments, or task force assignments.
This relates to the probabilities that your investments and sacrifices for career progress will pay off. When considering predicted or actual outcomes, you must calculate the risks attached to various actions in the career plan. Risk is the potential loss of something you value (such as comfortable habits or confidence level as well as the possibility of failure). When attempting to predict outcome, you should seek out others for feedback and an understanding of the Coast Guard – e.g., what the Coast Guard needs and how it operates.