Executive PA: Create your Career Development Plan - Michelle Gibbings

Have you got that ‘new year new career’ itch but are yet to do something about it? If you don’t continuously refine and adapt your operating style, you’ll quickly become outdated and find that those top jobs pass you by. But equipping yourself with new skills requires a willingness to learn new things and develop the courage to take charge of your career.

This article originally appeared in Executive PA Magazine, where I shared seven steps to ensure your skills are up-to-date and relevant for your dream role.


Got that ‘new year new job’ itch but not done anything about it yet? Michelle Gibbings outlines seven steps to ensure your skills are up-to-date and relevant for your dream role…

If you don’t continuously refine and adapt your operating style, you’ll quickly become outdated and find that top job passes you by. But equipping yourself with new skills requires a willingness to learn new things and, most of all, courage to take charge of your career.

This is not a responsibility that can be outsourced to someone else – people who have success in life know it’s their responsibility to direct their career. And they know learning is a critical part of that process.

Everyone learns differently, but what’s common is that people learn better the more involved they are with their learning. As the famous Confucian text said: “Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; but directly involve me and I’ll make it my own.”

So, if learning is essential to career success, and it’s more successful if the person finds it interesting and relevant, then it naturally follows that you should have a tailored plan to help you target your career growth and development. The good thing is this is a simple exercise to do, and it can be fun…

STEP 1: examine the present

Find a quiet location and put pen to paper – write down all your current skills and knowledge, from technical to functional to behavioural.

STEP 2: imagine your dream job

Think about what you really want to do. What does it involve and what would it take to get there? Don’t limit your thoughts or ideas – be bold.

STEP 3: identify the skills

Consider the new skills you’d need to land
the dream job. Once again, these should cover technical, functional and behavioural areas. Need help to discover what all of those skills may be? Talk with someone who works in that industry, field or company.

STEP 4: know the gap

Look at the skills you have and the skills you need to land that job and, for each, rate yourself on a scale of one to four:

  • No skill or knowledge
  • Some skill or knowledge, but not proficient
  • Competent at this skill and have knowledge
  • Expert with a high degree of skill and knowledge

STEP 5: get creative

Think about what you could do to close the gap (books to read, courses to enrol in, journals to subscribe to, people to meet and new practices to perfect) and decide which to prioritise.

Stretch yourself, don’t be afraid to be adventurous and make sure you have a balance of challenging and fun activities. Also consider having a range of cerebral, physical and spiritual activities (good for the mind, body and soul).

Don’t worry if you feel uncomfortable – it’s just your brain’s way of telling you that you are learning something new. But to grow and thrive in the changing world of work it’s essential to harness the power of that inner voice. So, embrace the feeling and don’t let it hold you back. Remember that each time you learn or try something new you’re challenging your brain.

STEP 6: build your plan

Take the ideas from step five and create a personal development plan that maps out your learning goals, what you’ll do and by when. Having dates is critical as you need to hold yourself to account but if you find this hard, get an accountability buddy to keep you on track.

Make sure your plan includes clear measure­ ments, too, so you can monitor progress and know when you’ve closed a skill or knowledge gap.

STEP 7: get busy doing

Put your plan into action, check progress and don’t forget to reward yourself. Celebrate your learning and the progress you’ve made.Michellegibbings.com


Michelle Gibbings is a change leadership and career expert, plus founder of Change Meridian where she works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress. She is the author of Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work.