What are the three most important considerations when crafting a personal career development strategy?

1) Self-awareness enables you to take stock of your key value creating activities and business passions. It also helps you understand better how you relate to others, and how others are impacted by you.

2) Industry/company research enables you to tailor your value creating activities in a way that is strategically aligned with your interests and your employer’s needs.

3) Networking through people and through professional social media (e.g. LinkedIn, BizReach, etc.) enables fresh Knowledge and Opportunities to find you.

If you know yourself, your industry and your employer, and your network well, the likelihood of a successful career goes up.

What is a personal career development strategy?

A personal career development strategy is an action plan for developing the professional knowledge, skills, capabilities, and networks that are required for timely advancement and promotion over the duration of one’s working life (avg. 22-70 years old).

The career development motivations of individuals will vary; consider the following definitions:

  • A “Career Explorer” is someone who is satisfied with their current pace of career progress, and they are interested in looking at a variety of potential future roles, but they are not necessarily ready to make a change now.
  • A “Career Accelerator” is someone who seeks to advance in their current career more quickly than their current pace of advancement.
  • A “Career Switcher” is someone who is interested in changing their career.
    • A “triple-play” is when someone (typically a newly minted MBA) changes industry, function, and country of employment in one fell swoop.
  • A “Career Plateauer” is someone who intentionally stays in their current position in order to maintain control of their personal and professional lives.
  • A “Career Backtracker” is someone who consciously chooses demotion in order to have more time and less stress.
  • An “Entrepreneur/Founder” is someone who is interested in running (or planning to start) their own business. Sometimes professionals establish their own firm because this is the only way that they can maintain control over their working hours or location. And, sometimes professionals establish their own firm because this is the only path available to them.


A career is a series of jobs or occupations undertaken for a significant period of a person’s working life and with opportunities for progress/advancement.

 In an era of rapid, disruptive change where companies are becoming less hierarchical, continuous learning has greater career development value than continuous upward mobility through a disappearing hierarchy.

What should be my focus during each stage of a global career?

Stage 01. Early Career
Ages: 22-40

Building the foundations for long-term success.

Find your business passions and join an industry and organization that are aligned with your business passions. Learn the rules of organizational citizenship and how to create value in meaningful ways. Increase your competencies/skills over time in order to be able to continue to pursue your career goals. Develop a broad range of functional competencies and areas of expertise; learn to see the organization holistically. Seek opportunities to move from Independent Contributor roles to Team Leader roles to Assistant Manager roles over time. Seek international language and cultural communication responsibilities and develop a global mindset. Remember to Manage Your Boss. Develop digital competencies.

As you prepare to move from the Early Career stage to the Mid Career stage, we recommend you read The First 90 Days.

Stage 02. Mid Career
Ages: 40-55

Functional and/or single country leadership roles.

Assess, reflect upon, and learn from your accomplishments and your failures during your Early Career stage. Confirm or adjust your goals for your Mid Career stage based on your current and preferred future context and the evolving organizational/industry environment. Determine ways to create new/more value during your Mid Career. For example, learn to manage at scale (i.e. move from managing teams to large, diverse groups), become responsible for P&L, lead a change management initiative, develop a strong results orientation, develop your authentic executive presence, learn how to hire, develop, and [when necessary] fire people. Continue to evolve with and understand the digital ecosystem. As you near the end of this stage, candidly assess whether your performance is likely to improve or decline over time. Continue to increase your competencies/skills over time in order to be able to continue to pursue or adjust your career goals in the next stage of your career.

Stage 03. Late Career
Ages: 55-?

Regional/Global level General Management roles.

Assess, reflect upon, and learn from your accomplishments and your failures during your Mid Career stage. Confirm or adjust your goals for your Late Career stage based on your current and preferred future context and the evolving organizational/industry environment. Focus on accelerating performance and achieving results across the organization and across broad geographic and cultural boundaries. Seek Board, Advisory, and Governance roles. Determine ways to create new/more value during your Late Career, including transferring your wisdom to a younger generation and helping to develop the next generation of organizational leaders. Continue to increase your competencies/skills over time in order to be able to continue to pursue your post-career/2nd career/retirement goals. Continue to evolve with the digital ecosystem with a focus on understanding what it enables and how it should be used to disrupt organizational business models.

If you would like a top level view of the changing pathways for career advancement, I recommend the following articles.

  • Capelli, P. and Hamori, M. (2005). The new road to the top. Harvard Business Review. 83(1), 25-32.
  • Cappelli, P. (2008). Talent management for the twenty-first century. Harvard Business Review, 86(3), 74-80.
  • Cappelli, P., Hamori, M., & Bonet, R. (2014). Who’s got those top jobs?. Harvard Business Review, 92(3), 74-77.

What titles are used on a typical career ladder in large firms operating in Japan?

Note: In the table above private sector organizational titles are given on the left, English language equivalents are provided in the center, and, whenever possible, Japanese ministerial equivalents are provided on the right. Also, please note that every organization is unique, and – depending on their context, history, and HR strategy – each organization may use titles or promotion timelines that vary from the ones indicated in the table above.

How are early and mid career professionals evaluated for promotion?

Note: The 9 box grid above is a tool often used by HR departments to periodically measure and evaluate an employee’s current performance and perceived future potential. It is especially useful for management succession planning (i.e. promotion decisions). On the X-Axis an employee’s performance is evaluated as being Low, Moderate, or High. On the Y-Axis, an employee’s potential is evaluated as being Low, Moderate, or High. Taken together, an employee is evaluated as Does Not Meet Expectations, Meets Expectations, or Exceeds Expectations. The highest evaluation is High Performance x High Potential (“Consistent Star.”)

What books can you recommend before I begin my career development planning process?

Student/Early Career Stages Reading List

Early & Mid Career Stages Reading List

What are the seven steps for developing a personal career strategy?

01. Self-Assessment

Consider your interests, skills, values, personality, strengths, passions, and convictions in order to discern and understand what is truly important to you with respect to your career aspirations.

  • Complete a free career interests assessment such as the O*Net Interest Profiler, or a fee-based career interests assessment such as CareerLeader.
  • Ask people in your network who you trust what your employability strengths and weaknesses are. “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

02. Industry/Company Research

Explore a wide range of industries, companies, functional areas, and job roles.

  • Review job descriptions on job list sites like linkedin.com, indeed.com, or simplyhired.com in order to get a sense of what kind of positions are available, and what kind of skills and capabilities are required.

  • Ask people within your network, including your Alumni network, if you can meet with them to conduct an informational interview. If the interview goes well, consider asking them if you can shadow them for a day in order to get a realistic preview of the employment experience in their organization.

03. Focus Your Career Goals

Narrow your focus, and align your skills and interests with likely career paths.

04. Gap Analysis

Identify gaps in your preparation (skills, knowledge or experience) which you will need to close in order to obtain your desired position. For each gap, identify specific actions you will take to enhance your skills and qualifications.

05. Personal Marketing Plan

Incorporate your self-assessment (Step 1), market research (Step 2), career goals (Step 3), and gap analysis (Step 4) into a plan for action.

Fundamentally, you need to define the critical path that will get you From Here → To There (i.e. Where you Want to Be).

HR probably has a plan for your next assignment. But, HR will probably also want to ask you about your current personal career development plans so that a good assignment can be made.

The boxes below will help you prepare for two possible contingencies: 1) an Internal Rotation/Promotion or 2) External Job Search.

Personal Marketing Plan
Internal Job Rotation/Promotion

  • Conduct a proactive internal job-search to identify possible good-fit roles for your next assignment.
  • Score the roles (e.g. A, B, C) and note, for yourself, why you assigned the score to each role. (One likely reason for assigning a high score would be that the role is aligned with your Personal Career Development Strategy.
  • Practice your performance review conversation points (i.e. the successes and, if appropriate, the failures you would like to discuss).

Personal Marketing Plan
External Job Search

  • Develop an impactful cover letter and résumé,
  • practice your elevator pitch,
  • hone your communication and networking skills, and
  • prepare a proactive and reactive job-search strategy.

06. Implementation

Put your Personal Career Strategy into action and begin executing on your job search activities.

07. Career Management

Manage first impressions and work hard to understand the people, culture, and goals at your new employer. Repeat Steps  1 – 6 whenever you think you are nearing the end of your Tour of Duty. Be open to – and ready for – new opportunities.

"How should I prepare for changes in the job market?"

We are living in an era of rapid change. It is important to factor the impacts of artificial intelligence, software automation, disruption, and organizational delayering into your Personal Career Development Strategy planning efforts.

The cumulative impact of AI, automation, disruption, and organizational delayering is a reduction in the absolute number of positions at the top and, increasingly, at the upper middle of the career ladder. This new reality requires logical leaders to consciously choose to measure career success as a function of one’s

“sense of satisfaction and psychological well-being, not by one’s position in an [increasingly delayered] organizational hierarchy.”

This article describes the changing relationship between employers and employees: Tours of Duty: The New Employer – Employee Compact. It argues that lifetime employment is dead, so employers and employees should strive to create conditions where employees attain lifetime ’EMPLOYABILITY’ by virtue of the skills and knowledge acquired on each ‘Tour of Duty.’

Just because labor markets are changing radically does not mean that personal career development strategies are unimportant. Indeed, it is reasonable to assert that having a strategy is more important than ever. If you have never conducted a “real” job search, then you need might need to complete one or more free, self-paced courses found at The Employability Skills Checklist to better prepare yourself for conducting an effective job search campaign. (Note: The courses are free, but, if you want a certificate, you have to pay).

If you are preparing to conduct a job search in one or two years, you should be networking like a leader now: How Leaders Create and Use Networks

Additional Suggestions

1-Page Job Proposals

If you already know what capabilities you bring to the table and you know the company and the type of position you want, you might consider putting together an unsolicited one page job proposal.

Create Your Dream Job

Finally, it is very important to remember that the best way to find your dream job is to invent it. Opportunities are usually created, rather than found.


Transparent MBA helps you “plan your professional path using over 250,000 data points gathered from over 2,500 top companies….

In our experience, and after talking to hundreds of MBAs, we found that most students were relying on anecdotal evidence to make decisions that affected the rest of their lives. After investing hundreds of thousands of dollars, students deserve significantly more.

Our vision is to create the ultimate resource for MBA students in deciding between jobs and career paths.”

Burning Glass tracks market data for high potentials. This is a website worth checking from time to time.

Selecting employers on the basis of whether they understand the Employment Experience is a key point of differentiation and competitive advantage is one way to focus on employers who are aligned with the future. If this idea appeals to you, please consider reading The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees.

Which MDI.TOKYO Program or Course is best suited to your career plans?