Have you thought about leaving for another job or possibly changing careers? Many seek upward mobility opportunities; often times, some of the best options are with other firms or if you are a federal employee, in the private sector. This works both ways, private sector employees may find lucrative positions with exceptional benefits and pay in the federal service.

What separates those who desire a change from those who actually achieve success? It’s not enough to dream about a great new job; you have to plan a course of action to reach your goals. The factors that determine whether or not you succeed are motivation, personal initiative, and actually taking the steps necessary to make your dreams come true.

If you aren’t satisfied with your current position or were bypassed for a promotion, don’t despair. You have many options to pursue especially today. Employers are having a difficult time finding qualified employees and many are offering sign-on bonuses to attract talent. Even if you lack the required education or experience, there are ways to obtain what’s necessary to achieve your goals.

6 Steps TO SUCCESSful Career Planning

There are a number of steps that you must take to develop a viable career development plan. A structured realistic program will improve your chance of success considerably.

Take one step at a time and fully explore each step as you progress.


A thorough self-assessment inventories your skills, knowledge, abilities, interests, accomplishments, values, networking contacts, and personal traits as they have been demonstrated in your day-to-day activities at work, school, home and in the community.  Make sure you include all your talents.  Pay close attention to “transferrables” – the skills and abilities that you can take with you to a new job. They are characteristics you have in which your new employer will be particularly interested.


Match your skills, education, work experiences, and interests to targeted jobs. You may look within the same group or your assessment may take you to an entirely different occupation.

Gather information about the companies or agencies of interest. Visit agency or corporate website and review their occupational descriptions and job vacancy lists. Federal job listings (vacancy announcements) include detailed qualification standards that you can use to compare them against your self-assessment data.

Note: Education can generally be substituted for required general and specialized experience when applying for federal jobs. One specialty may permit study successfully completed in schools above high school level to be substituted for general and specialized experience at the rate of one academic year of study for nine months of experience.  The conversion rate varies depending on the career. The converse is also true. Work experience, in many cases, can be substituted for required college degrees. For example, in the Administrative Management career fields, three years of general work experience can be substituted for a four-year course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree.

3. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS (IDPs) – Setting Realistic Goals

Most employers encourage workers to develop their careers through various internal programs. In the federal sector, employees draft comprehensive Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to help them progress in their careers. It’s the employee’s responsibility to develop a personalized and realistic plan to achieve their short and long-term career goals. Most employers provide training to improve your skills for the position you now occupy. However, they don’t automatically provide training that is outside the duties and responsibilities for your current position.

IDPs provide a way for you to establish specific training and experiences that will help you achieve your short and long-term career goals.


Tailor your application and resume to the job vacancy to improve your chances. Applicants who tailor their applications to the job vacancy are more likely to be referred to the selecting official for interviews.

Your application provides the employer with their first impression of you. First impressions matter and can be lasting so your application and resume must stand out from the crowd. There are a number of ways to achieve this. First, use a word processor and run it through spell check. Highlight your strengths, as well as, your knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for each job announcement.


Networking and informational interviews will help you with your job search. They provide insight into varied career paths. And don’t forget to take notes – they are an important part of this effort. Use whatever form works for you, but you’ll need to track everything to keep it all straight.

Companies and federal agencies use acronyms frequently, so your notes will capture key words and phrases that you may want to incorporate into your application package. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications when networking. If they are talking about the NSPS initiatives and you don’t know what NSPS stands for, ask. It can mean a number if things depending on the agency. To many, NSPS means the “National Security Personnel System” to others it may mean “National Society of Professional Surveyors.” Every contact you make is a potential gold mine of information that can be used to your benefit.


The better prepared for an interview that you are, the less anxious you will be and the greater your chances for success. There is an old saying in the real estate business that value is determined by three things: location, location, location. In interviewing, it’s preparation, preparation, preparation.

Research the company or agency. The more you know about the organization and the job for which you are applying, the better you will do on the interview. Get as much information as you can before the interview.

Arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for the interview to give yourself time to regain your composure and get acclimated to the environment. And then just see if this is the next place for your career.

All journeys start with the first step. The key is to get started now and begin your quest for a more satisfying career down the road.

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Dennis V. Damp, the creator of FederalJobs.net and FederalRetirement.net, is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp is the author of 28 books, his books were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.