WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer - I have moved from job to job in the sector without much career planning - Is a career plan important and how do I do it?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com

One of the problems in the sector is that there is little succession planning. Organisations do not give proper thought to career structures or succession for staff, and trustees pay little attention to this for chief executives.

But it is also true that individuals don't plan their career progression.

Yet you might find yourself asked at a job interview "where do you see yourself in three years' time?

I wonder what each of us would say?

Without being too formal about this, it is always worth thinking through your own career path. If you are at a senior manager level do you want to move into a larger director post? Or do you want to try for a chief executive post?

Some management textbooks argue that you should be thinking about moving on or up every three years or so. I am not sure whether this is right for the sector but there can be problems if you stay in a post for too long and you become stale. Seeking new challenges in a new job can be fun.

One thing to be generally avoided is staying in post for too little time. I think around two years is a minimum in a post but there are always exceptions. And, in particular, you must always be able to answer positively to the question of why you want to move. It should not be that you are bored with your current post. It must be that you see a particular challenge in the post applied for and you have the skills that would make a good fit for you.

This isn't an exact science - sometimes what you see as the ideal post or a great organisation comes along just at the wrong time. And planning a career move can take time. It is not simply a question of picking up the journals, applying and hey presto, you are in a new job.

I have two main pieces of advice. First, always work on your professional development. You need to plan for the relevant courses that keep you fresh and stretch your mind.

Second, build up your hinterland. At senior levels I expect to see three-dimensional people who have active involvements outside their jobs. There are plenty of trustee positions, quango posts, community organisations crying out for talent. These are great networking opportunities and provide the potential to make a contribution. It also looks so good on a CV.

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