Answered by Susan, Hiring Expert at Praxair, Inc., on Monday, September 23, 2013
If you can envision a ladder, that will give you a good idea of what most career plans are not. They are not "straight up", they often take sideways or lateral moves. Although you do not need to identify now what job you want to retire in, you should break it down into manageable milestones, such as in 6 year clusters.
Start with an accurate assessment of what you do well (not by your standards, but by those who have supervised you). People tend to be most successful when they are placed in roles which play to their natural skillsets.
Second, map out what kinds of jobs you think today you would be good at about 6 years from now. Call that your next milestone. Then talk to people in those jobs and your manager and find out what technical skills and leadership competencies/behaviors are critical for those jobs. Then sit down with your manager or HR Manager and discuss the gap between your overall performance today vs that job 6 years out. Is there an intermediate role you should aim for in between which will teach you the technical and leadership skills required from now until then?
Be prepared to take multiple lateral moves between ages 25 adn 35 as these are your "learning" years in regards to gaining breadth of experience.
If after 6 years or so you do not like the direction you are heading, then do a course correction...but I recommend looking out two jobs into the future (or about 6 years). When you reach your early to mid 40's you should have a very clear idea about what job you want to "retire" in.....