Ready to begin growing and developing your professional identity but unsure where to start?
A professional development plan is a great starting block for mapping out where you want to be at certain points in your career. Whether you’re looking to gain more professional experience, improve your knowledge or level up your skill set – it’s the perfect way to focus your goals and aspirations into smaller, more achievable steps.
Ready to learn why they’re such a vital career tool? Read on for the best practices and tips on how to create a professional development plan.
What is a professional development plan?
A professional development plan – or PDP – is used to document your short- and long-term career goals as well as the skills, qualifications and experience you will need to reach them.
Within a PDP, the roadmap for how to reach these goals is often broken down into simple, manageable actions. These may be coordinated by a manager since they’ll typically have a plan for your career progression. However, there is nothing stopping you from creating your own PDP.
Plans should include timelines, goals, specific actions needed, and your strengths and weaknesses. These things will help you to gain a better understanding of how to get where you want to be in your career.
Once you have a PDP, you can update it as you reach milestones and goals, alongside being able to refer to it throughout your career. With a regularly updated PDP, you’ll be able to measure your career progression while staying on track to hitting new goals.
How to create a professional development plan
Creating a PDP that is ambitious but realistic be a difficult undertaking. Below are some of our main tips for getting started with yours.
Conduct a self-assessment
Before you even set out to write your first professional development plan, you must understand your goals, qualities, passions and motivations.
Ask yourself the following questions:
– What are my strengths?
– What are my weaknesses?
– Where do I want to be in two/five/ten years?
– What motivates me at work?
This self-assessment will help form the basis of your PDP, so you should spend a decent amount of time on this initial step. If you get stuck and need some help, you can always consult any feedback you’ve received in your current or previous roles.
You can also refer to any performance reviews you might have. Any areas where you’ve received feedback on your strengths and weaknesses can help here.
Identify your strengths
Once you have your self-assessment under your belt, you can begin identifying the things you’re best at. Whether you have specialist skills or knowledge of a specific subject –knowing where your talents lie will help give you the confidence you need to progress.
Aspiring to earn a promotion to attain a particular level of seniority at your company? Or maybe you want to exceed performance expectations? Whatever your goals, ensure you keep them specific and achievable.
The next step is working out how you’re going to reach those goals. Think about extra training or education you might need, or anything else that would aid with your plan. You should also be realistic with this and consider what you and the company can afford in terms of training and resources.
List any useful resources
Resources can look different depending on your goals and strategies. They can include everything from how you’re going to fund education or training to useful websites that will help you meet your goals.
Creating a list encompassing everything you’ll need will be useful to reference if you feel stuck with your strategy or need extra help to reach the next steps.
Create a timeline/deadlines
Before you start to write your plan, you’ll need to think about the timeline for your development. Does your manager have a set timeline in mind for your progression? Or do you want to achieve something by a certain date?
Consider a realistic timeline for how you’re going to achieve your development goals. You can then break the process of realising set goals up into an achievable roadmap that follows your pre-defined timeframe.
Professional development plan template
Ready to create your own PDP? We’ve provided a customisable template for you to use below.
Example professional development plans
Everyone’s professional development plan should be unique since it depends on your personal goals and your career path.
Looking for inspiration? Here, we’ll give some examples of things you could include in the different sections of your PDP.
Include details about your previous development and where you are in your career. This might take the form of positive and negative feedback you’ve received or recent achievements that demonstrate new skills, knowledge or experience.For example:
– Currently communicating effectively across various teams
– Recently implemented a new method that increased efficiency
– Could update knowledge to meet current practices
Your self-assessment and any positive feedback you’ve received should help you to identify your key strengths. When looking to take on new challenges, it can be helpful to be aware of areas you feel confident in.
Some examples of strengths to include in your PDP might include:
– Software proficiency
Your goals and aspirations section should list specific, achievable goals. Here are some examples:
– Advance to a leadership position
– Diversify your role into other departments
– Earn a promotion
– Take on new responsibilities
Rather than focusing on what you can’t do by listing weaknesses, see this section as an opportunity for development. Development opportunities you could use include:
– Lacking knowledge on [insert topic/software/practice] e.g., business software or marketing practices
– Want to learn more about how [insert topic/software/practice] works
– Take on more responsibility in a particular area to gain experience and progress up the career ladder
The action plan is arguably the most important aspect of your PDP. Here are some examples of what to include in yours:
– Step: Update knowledge on [insert topic/software/practice]
– Schedule: By March/within six months
– Conditions: Require funding for training – self-funding or company funded?
– Step: Improve understanding of how my department/other departments operate
– Schedule: By next year/within six months
– Conditions: Require the time of various other team members – is it possible with the current workload/tasks?
Curating a list of important resources will give you a helpful touchpoint to refer back to if you get stuck. For example, you could include:
– Useful sites on the [insert topic/software/practice]
– Potential company budget available
– Personal funds for development
– Any resources your manager has created e.g. performance reviews
– Time available within your company
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