What Personal growth and development success looks like

Career development plan example: Don’t rely on one sponsor for a promotion!

If you have your eye on a promotion this year, start is by thinking about last year. What went well, and more often for the types of self-critical type of professional women I work with – what didn’t! This is a great ‘pause’ to think about what will set you apart for next year – and start planning now. 

When I’m speaking to audiences, audiences often ask for a career development plan example to set them apart.

An important answer revolves around how they think about the advocacy or sponsorship they get from others at work. Here’s why having too few sponsors will work against you, and what to do about it. This career development plan example revolves around the way you think about your colleagues. But it also gets you to think wider! Include those to whom you report, but also those whom you serve. These people can all can make or break your career!

Relying on just a few key people won’t be sufficient for most of us. It certainly won’t work for those of us in matrix organisations. Here are three things to move you beyond dangerously relying on one sponsor:

1. Don’t overwhelm your sponsor – or anyone else you need

Clearly, you’ll need to engage with senior people. However, you’ll also need to ensure you don’t overwhelm them when you do get their ear! This is worth remembering, as almost everyone feels busy and that they themselves are trying to move towards something bigger.

One great career development plan example I loved came from a woman I interviewed for my first book.  I interviewed Janet Davies, who has had various senior marketing roles in her impressive career. She shared a killer career development plan example that I love for its practicality and simplicity. 

For my book ‘Beyond the Boys’ Club’, Janet shared a great tip you can literally hold in your hand. It was borne out of her helping a colleague who tanked his first meeting with a senior staff member. While not an official sponsor to her male colleague, she built a better relationship with him by offering him hard-earned advice. 

Janet recalled: ‘He was meeting with my boss for the first time and was about to go into his office carrying a large pile of papers. I warned him not to go in with so much paperwork otherwise he wouldn’t be in longer than just a few minutes, even though they were scheduled to have an hour together. He chose to ignore me, and sure enough, he was out again in five minutes. He walked over to my desk saying, “Okay, so you were right. I’m listening now. How did you know?”

2. Don’t underestimate the role peers or even subordinates play in your success

Janet continued her career development plan example: “I explained that the MD was always very busy, had a very short attention span anyway, and was likely to feel overwhelmed by seeing so much paper and an hour scheduled in front of him. He knows that you will have done the due diligence but he wants you to share your proposed solution right up front.

So, when he sees you with your great big stack of papers he immediately thinks, ‘Oh no, this guy is going to stand there droning on for ages. He might not even get to the solution. I’d better cut this short right now. I’ve got better things to do.’

Janet advised him as a career development plan example; ‘If you really want to get his attention,’ she suggested, ‘just write a couple of points on a Post-it note, hold it visibly in your hand, go to the door and say, ‘Do you have five minutes?’ 

With that small piece of paper, you give the impression that what you want to discuss will be quick and painless. I usually ask him how his weekend was or something, so he is more receptive to talking, and then I go in for the kill.”

3. Listen to sound advice from those who have made your likely mistakes  

Janet reassured him how this worked for her, explaining ‘I might be in there an hour but for him, it seems like just a few minutes since it all appeared very straightforward and off the cuff.

Essentially, the higher up in the food chain, the easier you have to make it for them to say yes to you. It can also help to warm them up with a quick email about what you want to talk about beforehand and get to the point quickly.’ 


Pretty soon, her male colleague realised he had not just one, but several advocates he should keep on board – his official boss, but also Janet, and so many others. This career development plan example is important to so many of the successful women in male-dominated fields whom I coach.  

Think wider than your boss. Instead, ask yourself – who else will have a bigger impact than perhaps you’d first anticipated on your career?

Getting ever more practical,  how could this career development plan example of ‘post-it note magic’ work for you?

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