8 Steps to Create a Winning Career Growth Plan Getting ahead this year is all about reflecting on how last year went.

By Sujan Patel

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Where were you in your career this time last year? Does your answer describe the exact same place, position and salary you were in last year?

If so, it's time for a career growth plan to transform your success and take control over your career.

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There's nothing wrong with taking your time to achieve a goal, or to even set a goal to maintain and thrive in your current position. But staying in "idle" for too long can derail your ambitions and leave you wondering where the rest of your colleagues went as they raced up the ladder to success. Here are eight steps to lay out a career growth plan that puts you in the driver's seat:

1. Reflect on 2015.

Kickstart your career growth plan by reflecting on your failures, successes and near hits and misses from 2015. Take some time to consider what you learned and enjoyed from the last year and what you want to leave behind. Get some clarity by documenting your milestones on how you directly impacted your job and company with your skills and contributions.

As you're going through this process, don't write down just general thoughts. Get specific. If, for example, you did $200,000 in sales as a salesperson, knowing that number will allow you to set better growth milestones for 2016 (say, to improve your sales by 5 percent, to $210,000). If your biggest goal was to sell more, and all you wrote down was "Increase sales," you wouldn't know whether $150,000 or $250,000 represented an increase over your 2015 numbers.

The more you can chart out and visualize your strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes, the easier you'll find it to design a career growth plan that works.

2. Research job trends.

Before diving headfirst into a growth plan, stop to research current job and career trends. It may not be realistic to pivot and change careers right now, or it may be entirely possible to make some advancements, with careful planning and new certifications or degrees. Either way, you won't know until you've done some solid research on where your field is heading.

Your career growth plan can also include researching thriving side business you could start in your spare time. Steve Chou, for example, launched a wedding linen business with his wife and earned $100,000 in their first year of business. He still holds down a day job while maintaining a popular blog and ecommerce course.

3. Identify your new career goals.

Once you've reflected on what went right and wrong in 2015 and researched job trends, start charting out your new career goals. But it's not enough to sit around and daydream about all the fantasies associated with stepping into your new career. Brainstorm how to make each goal happen whether you're taking on new responsibilities at work or earning a new degree.

As an example, suppose your big aim for 2016 is to make a lateral move within your company to a department you believe offers better growth potential and more personal fulfilment. Answering the following questions will help you chart a course to achieve this goal:

  • Do I need to pursue any additional education? If so, how long will it take to complete? Where will I get that education? Are there any prerequisites I need to fulfill ahead of time?

  • Whom do I need on my side? How can I get my current boss on board? How can I connect with stakeholders and decision-makers in my new department?

  • What kind of work can I do now to prepare myself for the transition? Is there anything I can do that goes above and beyond to prove my value to my new department? Can I begin helping out on any projects within the department?

The more information you have, the better prepared you'll be to make your goals a reality in 2016.

Related: 8 Steps to Crushing Ridiculous Goals

4. Create your own career marketing plan,

It's up to you to turn your career into a thriving venture and position yourself as a coveted asset. Create your own marketing plan to generate buzz and give your credibility a boost.

One way to do that is to sign-up with a site like HARO, where you'll get alerts from journalists looking for input and expert quotes for their articles; and add press clips about yourself to your LinkedIn profile or online portfolio. Even one quote in a reputable publication can help advance your career goals.

5. Grow your network.

It's never too early -- or too late -- to grow your network, whether through LinkedIn or attendance at local events in your area. Make curating your LinkedIn contacts a priority, and offer to lend a hand or some advice. Offer to connect others to members of your network that could help them, without expecting anything in return.

The more you organically grow your network by being generous and sincere, the greater your chances of being someone worth remembering.

6. Make a big commitment.

What kind of commitment are you willing to make for yourself and your career? If sitting around and wishing for a big change hasn't gotten you anywhere in 2015, make a new resolution to take action. Invest in a career coach, training or classes to hone new skills and credentials for your resume. Look at spending money on yourself, whether through career counseling or a much-needed investment, like a laptop upgrade.

7. Write down your goals.

Writing out your goals may seem too simple to really work, but there's a science behind that exercise. Jordan Peterson from the University of Toronto's psychology department experimented in goal setting and expressive writing. And the results were stunning. Students reported turning their lives around, beating addictions, changing their majors and realizing their goals.

8. Celebrate your successes.

Taking the time to celebrate successes is just as important as charting out your path to success. Without acknowledging your accomplishments, without properly paying them respect, you're likely to miss the fact that they ever really happened.

Co-author of The Geek Gap Minda Zetlin wrote about missing out on enjoying her successes and the isolation she felt in setting empty goals and not celebrating them. She recommended setting both small and big goals and celebrating their successes as a means to enjoying the journey along the way. A little bragging and thinking about your life beyond your career can also help give your confidence a boost and help create more meaning.

What's on your career growth plan for 2016, and how do you plan to get there? Share your best insights by leaving a comment below:

Related: 8 Lessons Learned Studying World-Class Achievers

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Sujan Patel

Entrepreneur and Marketer, Co-founder of Web Profits

In his 14-plus years as a marketer and entrepreneur, Sujan Patel has helped hundreds of companies boost online traffic and sales and strengthen their online brand reputation. Patel is the co-founder of Web Profits and Mailshake.

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