career progression: secure the development you deserve

Learn how to create an actionable career progression plan that will help you move in the right direction.

Rate this content

Career progression is a goal many professionals aspire to achieve. It represents the path to personal and professional growth, enhanced financial security, and increased job satisfaction. In fact, a recent study found 60% of workers were more likely to choose a role with a career progression plan over an identical job with a higher salary. 

Learning and development is proven to help the company you work for, too. In fact, research by Virti recently found that 67% of respondents said training has a positive impact on revenue. 

However, securing the career development you deserve can be challenging. In this article, we’ll provide advice on how to progress in your career, including how to create a really great career progression plan. 

set clear goals for professional development

The first step in securing the career development you deserve is to set clear, achievable career goals. To do this, ask yourself these types of questions:  

  • Where do you see yourself in a year’s time?  

  • What salary would you be content with? 

  • How important is your work/life balance? 

  • What are your strengths? 

  • How would you describe your current experience and career? 

By identifying these answers, you can better map out your career journey and work towards tangible milestones in the short term, while knowing you're working towards your long-term goals.

be proactive

Progressing in your career won't happen without being proactive.  

Seek out new responsibilities and challenges in your current role that will help you move towards your long-term goals. When you demonstrate initiative, it shows your dedication to your organisation and illustrates to your employer that you're a valuable team member. This can potentially lead to more significant opportunities within the company.  

If you're still unsure about what will help you move up the career ladder, it could be time to seek out a mentor.  

finding a mentor to help your professional development

A mentor can offer you a 1:1 relationship and advise you directly on your career or development in your professional field. But how can you connect with one? 

To find a mentor, try researching people within your industry who started in a similar or the same position as you but have progressed to a more senior or fulfilling role. Reach out and ask them about their own career progression. Chances are they'll be flattered and will want to help you. By speaking to someone in an aspiration role, you’ll be able to put together a list of things you need to do to achieve your goals. You'll feel self-assured that you're on the right path, and you'll feel motivated to replicate their steps to success. 

Alternatively, caba helps up-and-coming accountants find guidance from mentors. You can read more about caba mentorship here.  

develop soft skills

Naturally, one of the most effective ways to progress in your career path is to develop your skillset. The required technical skills to develop will depend on each role, but developing soft skills is a crucial part of professional growth. Examples of soft skills are:   

  • Effective communication  

  • Leadership  

  • Adaptability  

  • Emotional intelligence  

  • Time management   

  • Teamwork   

  • Problem solving  

Soft skills enable you to work more effectively with colleagues and clients, positioning you for advancement. For example, Communication skills can help you to build stronger and more effective workplace relationships and become an assertive leader

If you feel you aren't getting the opportunity to develop these within your day-to-day role, research training courses or professional development webinars. This proactive approach will illustrate that you're ready for a greater responsibility, the course will provide you with the information you'll need to progress, and you'll have identified training and development resources for your company. 

start conversations if you feel undervalued at work

You may feel your current career progression is not what you deserve. Perhaps you've taken on new challenges and developed new skills, or been given more responsibility and your job description or salary doesn't line up? Or maybe you feel that you've outgrown your current role, and it's time to flex some new professional muscles to help your personal development? You won't get that pay rise or forward movement if you don't speak to your line manager. 

Starting these conversations with your managers can be daunting, but staying calm and open can help. Try phrases like this:   

“When you have the time, I’d like to talk about my career progression plan, and how it aligns with my current role”  

“I’m concerned my career path within this role has slowed. Do you have time to talk about why this might be?”   

“My career progression is really important to me, and I’d like to have a chat when you have the time to check that we’re in agreement with my progress”  

Career progression is vital for employee retention, so a good manager should be invested in helping you reach your development goals. To get the most out of your conversation with them, come prepared: give examples of where you've left your comfort zone or demonstrated new skills. Alternatively, identify training opportunities to help you bring more knowledge to the team. Illustrate how you're moving the company in the right direction, and you'll more easily make the case for your own career progression. 

you may need to pursue opportunities elsewhere

Finally, don't be afraid to explore new job opportunities if you feel you aren’t progressing in your career. Sometimes, a change of scenery or a new company can provide the job progression you're looking for. You wouldn’t be alone in making the move, either. In fact, a recent study found that Gen Z and Millennials are so motivated to improve their skillset that 74% would consider quitting their job for better skills development elsewhere. 

Research companies like your own, or in areas that interest you, and see if they're hiring. Examine the job description and consider the opportunities for progression. It doesn't always have to be a promotion: moving to a business with a different way of working can help your career development too. Working with a group of new employees, new clients or new challenges will help you learn more about your industry and where you want to go. 

Moving forward is vital for career progression. If you feel you are being held back in your current company, it's time to look for companies where you'll be free to grow. 

what support is available to help your career progression?

If you feel you’re actively doing all the above, and you’re still struggling with your job progression, there is help available.  

Whether you’re aiming for a promotion, interested in changing careers, returning to work after a break or looking for practical, actionable advice to get ahead in your professional development, caba’s professional coaching and development services will help you. Contact us to find out more about our impartial and confidential support. 

career progression framework: creating a roadmap that suits you

Progression in your career doesn't happen by chance. It requires a strategic and proactive approach to secure the development you deserve. With dedication and perseverance, you can secure the career progression that aligns with your aspirations and potential.   

It's easier to be strategic and proactive if you know where you're headed in the long run. Outlining your own career goals will help you draft career development plans that feel practical and achievable. Rome wasn't built in a day, but if you can demonstrate progress towards your goals, you'll feel more motivated - and you'll be ready and eager for your performance reviews and appraisals. 

advice on finding a new role

Searching for a new role can feel draining. From making a positive first impression in interviews, to powering up your LinkedIn profile, we can offer bespoke advice.

discover our resources



keep reading


struggling at work after maternity leave?

Here's how to thrive at work if you're struggling to settle back in after maternity leave.


managing part-time employees: how to get the most from your team

When managing part-time employees, it's important to maximise their skills and make them feel connected.


how to build confidence at work: 10 proven strategies

Learn how to develop workplace confidence, from overcoming setbacks to speaking more confidently.


 your questions answered 

Who is eligible for support?

We support past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), ACA students, ICAEW staff members, and the family and carers of members and students. 

  1. No matter where your career takes you, past and present members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England Wales (ICAEW) are eligible for caba’s services for life, even if you change your career and leave accountancy 
  2. ACA students (ICAEW Provisional Members) who are either an active student or have been an active student within the last three years are eligible for caba's services 
  3. Past and present staff members of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's services for life, even if you leave either organisation. Please note, for former employees, our financial support is only available to those who have had five years continuous employment with either organisation 
  4. Family members and carers of either an eligible past or present ICAEW member, ACA student or past or present employee of the ICAEW or caba are eligible for caba's support. We define a family member as a: 
    1. spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner 
    2. widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    3. divorced spouse or civil partner who has not remarried or cohabiting with a partner 
    4. child aged up to 25. Please note, children aged between 16 and 25 are not eligible for individual financial support 
    5. any other person who is dependent on the eligible individual supporting them financially or are reliant on the eligible individual’s care 
    6. any other person on whom the eligible individual is reliant, either financially or for care 

You can find out more about our available support both in the UK and around the world on our support we offer  page. 

Are your services means-tested?

If you need financial support, we carry out a means test where we consider income, expenditure, capital and assets.  

*Please note none of our other services are means-tested. 

How confidential is caba? Do you report members to the ICAEW?

Everything you tell us is kept in the strictest of confidence. We don't share your personal information with any third parties, and that includes ICAEW. caba is a separate organisation from ICAEW and is an independent charity with its own board of trustees. We do not have a duty to report anything to ICAEW.

Can caba pay for my ICAEW membership fees?

If you’re struggling to pay your subscriptions, we're able to offer financial assistance which is means tested based on your household income. Whatever your situation, we're always here to offer advice to help you manage your finances.

How long does it take to receive financial support?

It depends on the individual situation, but we can work very quickly if it’s an emergency.

download our financial support flowchart


Not got the answer to your question?