Yesterday I led a StrengthsFinder session with a room filled with accountants. They were very interested as they read the different descriptions of each of their strengths and then learned about the strengths of others in the room and on their smaller break-out teams. I saw some ‘aha, that’s what that’s called’ moments and lots of ‘yes, that’s so true’ realizations. I love these types of sessions, where students are learning and once I give them the concepts, they are able to run with them on their own.

I then discussed how they can use this information back on the job. How they can look for new team members by using strengths information – are you looking for more of the same types of folks or are you looking for more diversity? Do you have a strategic team and need forward-looking people or a tactical team and you need folks that will continously deliver consistent results? Is your team in a rut and you need new ideas? What strengths would bring disruptive ideas to your team?

We also discussed how understanding yourself will help you write your development plan. Even though the resume no longer carries an Objective at the top (it’s old-fashioned, haven’t you heard?), your development plan should have objectives. What are you trying to achieve? What are your short-term and long-term goals? What are the actionable steps you will take (with due dates!) to move closer to your goal? Who can help you? How will you leverage your network to make the right contacts or information?

Knowing yourself, your strengths and your limitations, are key to understanding your path and the resources and people you need to help you along the way. Having a written and well-thought out development plan to share with managers, mentors and contacts will be the map that gets you to your career destination.

Here is a list of suggestion sections for your development plan.

Brief Job History – using titles, short bullets, etc. to orient a reader and remind you of where you’ve been. Be sure to distinguish between Individual Contributor and Manager roles.

Strengths, Skills, Talents - shouldn’t be a huge list – focus on the top 5 things you love to do and demonstrate expertise

A statement around the type of work you love to do. I seek assignments where I can….

Any constraints? Can you travel at a moment’s notice? Do you need a flexible schedule?

Unique and Unrepeatable – What makes you distinct? What is your specialty?

Top Barriers to Success – What is standing in your way? Maybe one of your mentors can help you overcome it. Do you need more visibility? Do you need training?

Short Term Career Goals (1-2 Years): List them as statements.

Long Term Career Goals (3+ Years): List them as statements.

Short Term Plan - first list the skills you need to develop along with what type of assigment and actions you need to complete and the timeline and how you’ll measure success.

Long Term Plan - first list the skills you need to develop along with what type of assigment and actions you need to complete and the timeline and how you’ll measure success. This may be blank at first.

Help Needed: Who can help you? Manager, Peers, Friends, Mentors? What do you need from them? When will you ask?

Now you have a plan. It is going to be a living document. You should sit and update it each month as you accomplish your goals and add new ones. Take it with you and show it to mentors, managers and people you trust to give you advice and suggestions. Stay focused on the steps you need to take by adding them to your calendar, task list, vision board, etc.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

Author's Bio: 

For 20 years, Vikki Espinosa has worked in the High Tech industry as a Finance Professional. Over her career she held a variety of roles from Budgets & Planning Analyst to Controller with a heavy concentration in Systems, Processes and Training. Today she is a Business Operations Manager in a 5000 person organization with offices across the globe.

Vikki is passionate about Career Development, Manager & Leader Coaching and Development. She is Instructor, Mentor, Career Development Coach and Speaker. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration conferred in 1990 from Northeastern University in Boston.