What is my Career Development Plan?

The one thing I know about myself is that I hate introspection. So, fair warning, this will be a mopey and self-indulgent post.

As part of my MSc, I have to create and discuss my Personal Development Plan in relation to my Career and I'm… stumped!

I've never known what I wanted to be when I grow up. Sure, vague dreams of being a starship pilot (unlikely) or an actor (failed) - but other than that? Just… I dunno. Computers?

My "career" so far has been drifting from gig to gig going "Oh, that looks interesting, I'll try that." Or, sometimes, having a friend say "Hey! You should come work for us." To which I say "Sure, why not."

I'm not quite at the Spın̈al Tap levels of drifting, but I'm not far.

If I was, say, an Accountant - there would be a defined career path. Pass exams. Get chartered. Manage a team. Do more, harder exams. Make partner. Run the firm. I guess, I don't really know what accountants do. Same with Zookeeper - there's a variety of paths which lead up to a bunch of interesting zoo-based jobs.

But me? I don't really know what my job is. I'm not on any particular career track. What's the next thing for people like me?

Without wishing to boast (OK, a little bit boasty) I think I'm at a good local maxima. I contribute to solving interesting problems. I occasionally get to brief senior politicians and civil servants. I'm respected in my field and get asked to speak at events about my experience and expertise. I'm at the top of my pay band. I rarely take work home with me.

On a personal level, I'm married, own a house, have a decent pension, a range of hobbies, and some nice friends. I'd like a cat - but my wife isn't keen.

I know what I don't want to do with my career:

  • Manage people. I don't want to sign off your timesheets and I'm in no position to help others develop.
  • Organise budgets. I just have no interest in how or where money is spent.
  • Work too hard. I laugh at those people who are "crushing it" 996. There's more to life than work.
  • Commute regularly. I used to do 2 hours each way. Now, even a 30 minute train ride feels like an imposition.
  • Make other people rich. I've worked for large corporates and small start-up. Even with shares, options, and equity, it always felt like the sweat of my brow only feathered someone else's nest.

Things I want to do:

  • Make things better. I wouldn't work for, say, an arms company. I want to work on something meaningful and useful.
  • Work with nice people. I don't go to work to make friends. But I don't want to be surrounded by arseholes all day.
  • Earn a lot of money. I live in a capitalist system. I need to feed myself and prepare for leaner years.
  • Tackle interesting problems. I don't care about, say, the plight of abandoned donkeys.
  • Retire early. Honestly, my plan is to go into flexible retirement in about 8 years. I won't quite be at FIRE, but close enough that I can survive on picking things up here and there.

I think that can all be summed up by saying I'm not career driven. I'm doing an MSc because I thought it would be interesting. The sort of jobs I'm interested in generally say "educated to Masters level or equivalent experience". So I don't think I need it for my next role.

I'm not aware of any deficiencies in my work which require remedial training. And I don't see any future jobs which require a specific qualification.

How do I write out a personal development plan which says "do interesting stuff"?

Future Professional Goals

I have half an eye on this Professional Doctorate in Data Science. Again, mostly because I think it looks interesting and I'm vain enough to want to be a doctor. I don't know what I would do with the qualification - nor whether I want to spend my career in data science.

So What Next?

Deleted: I asked Twitter how I should approach this, and got some sensible (and not so sensible) answers. But what do you have in your professional development plan? Come on, show the rest of the class 🙂

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16 thoughts on “What is my Career Development Plan?”

  1. Matt Harwood says:

    Hi Terence!

    I feel we are very similar in our outlook on 'careers' - I too have had no defined path. I have a feeling it comes from the fact that our work was born as an exploration of technology - technologies themselves have no defined, linear path either, do they?

    Interestingly, I've had to put together a career plan recently too. From the frustration I was feeling from this lack of a path, I found a 'career coach' to help clarify things for me. So far, I've become more convinced I'm not a 'have a plan' person - scary, because my current title contains "Strategic Planning"!

    I know it's part of your MSc - but personally, I question whether a plan is positive for everyone. What if some of us thrive in our work a bit more when we don't know what's next? Maybe that is part of our motivation?

    Anyway, sorry to ramble. I just couldn't leave without a quick comment.


  2. Richard says:

    That is a career development plan. Doesn’t that fulfil the brief. If not can you challenge the need for a defined career plan to complete an MSc?

  3. Laura James says:

    It seems to me that you have a plan, it's just an unconventional one. You have some desires, which you articulate clearly. You could extend this to some words about what you think you need to do, to enable the plan of "follow interesting opportunities when they arise, within the broad space defined by your desires." For instance, to enable you to take up interesting roles, you may want to keep experimenting with relevant new technologies, being open to formal and informal learning opportunities, etc. That feels like a plan to me.

    I am required to maintain a similar plan as part of being a registered professional (chartered engineer). Mine is similar - learning new things which enable me to take appropriate roles when they appear. A big bit I usually elaborate on is: how do i identify skills or knowledge I might need for my next step, and how do I secure those skills? This changes every few years. That's OK.

  4. Polly Thompson says:

    What would an Agile personal development plan look like?

    Maybe speaking to some delivery managers about how they frame agile work for non-agile stakeholders could give you some ideas for how to approach this?

    How about a personal development manifesto? A set of principles you'll adopt to guide your decisions at each point? A backlog based on what you know now?

  5. DinoNerd says:

    You sound like me, or at least me during the best parts of my career, but rather younger than I am now (more like what I was then).

    In the good period of my career, my guiding principles were:
    - does this look like fun?
    - will it let me learn things that might open up new options?
    - will I be paid fairly, and enough for my needs?
    - is it at least not doing evil? (Doing good never seemed like a real option, for me, in software, frankly.)

    In the bad period, this got supplanted with:
    - will it move me towards more control over my work, and more status/money?
    - will it help me save a good sum for retirement?

    But by then I was watching people with good "soft skills" (ass kissing, office politics etc. in some cases; tact and not embarrassing managers in others) being put in positions where they got more money, more status, and the right to make decisions on topics even they agreed I knew more about. Rules that required people of a certain grade I couldn't get promoted to, to approve all decisions in my specialty, were pretty much the last straw.

  6. Tom says:

    I read and enjoy most of your posts, so seeing you be glib about the fate of an animal which is mistreated to say the least around the world for entertainment and profit is quite disappointing.

    Good luck with the career plan, I have no advice for you there, being a fellow drifter.

  7. Mike Bick says:

    I think this sums up my entire career. I got away with it for 42 years.


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