Writing A Professional Development Plan – Example & Template

September 20, 2017
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What is a Professional Development Plan?

A Professional Development Plan (PDP), also known as an Employee Development Plan or an Individual Development Plan, is used to document career goals and set out a strategy on how to meet them.

Creating a PDP takes time and planning. But, writing and implementing a PDP can help you to identify and develop the professional skills needed to reach your goals, and can keep you on the track to success. It’s an important process that helps you achieve your potential, reach your goals and take charge of your professional development.

Now is the time to start thinking about where you want your future to take you.

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It’s Important to Take your Career into Your Own Hands

Your professional development is your responsibility. While your employer might require or encourage you to create a PDP as part of your performance review process, the chances are this will involve you steering clear of any goals that see you leaving your current company.

Writing your own, private PDP can help you plan to meet your long-term career goals, and will assist in identifying the skills and actions you need to reach them.

Your dreams will only ever be dreams if you do nothing about them. Writing a PDP is taking the first step to making those dreams come true.

How to Write a Professional Development Plan

There are 9 steps to completing a PDP:

  1. Assess where you are now.
  2. Identify your specific career goals.
  3. Gather information.
  4. Identify what professional skills you already have and which you need to work on.
  5. Choose how you will accomplish your goals.
  6. Develop a timeline for accomplishing your specific targets and goals.
  7. Write it all down.
  8. Evaluate your plan.
  9. Measure your progress.

1.    Assess where you are now.

How is your career currently progressing? Assessing your current career situation is a good place to start. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have you been doing over the past year, 3 years or 5 years to help your professional development?
  • Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage in your career?

If the answers are ‘nothing’ and ‘no’, a PDP is a great place to start to begin turning that around. Even if those were not your answers, this step will give you the chance to assess the effectiveness of the strategies and actions you have been taking in the past.

Take this opportunity to reflect on your actions, and be honest with yourself. Identify, and write down, any actions that have specifically helped, or hindered, your professional development.

2.    Identify your specific career goals.

Where do you want to be? Answering this question can take a lot of time. It is a good idea to carve out a block of about thirty minutes; sit calmly and don’t rush.

Writing down your goals

To help you get started with identifying your career goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does success mean to you? Is it financial success, a promotion to a managerial position or starting your own business? The definition of ‘success’ varies from person to person. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’, so you need to understand what your motivations are to answer this question.
  • What activities do you love the most? Are these activities a part of your current job? If not, can you change this?
  • Are you experiencing a version of this success in your current job?
  • Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? Ten years? This is a good time to identify your long-term goals.

Defining your long and short-term goals can be scary. It can take a long time and a lot of thought, and you might start to get overwhelmed by the enormity of all the decisions, but that’s alright. Remember it’s okay to think big (like ‘dream job’ big) because with a proper PDP anything should be possible.

Just make sure that your goals are ‘SMART’:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.
  • Realistic.
  • Timely.

3.    Gather information.

What professional skills are needed to get where you want to go? After you have identified your long and short-term goals, researching what you need to achieve them is the next step. Which skills under your belt will impress at interviews and make you an ideal candidate?

Take this time to break your long-term goals down into more manageable steps. For example, if your long-term goal is to become an Area Manager, identify what the individual steps required to reach that position might be. These could be progressing to a supervisor position, being promoted to Team Manager and then Area Manager. Each one of these positions will have different job and skill requirements, and breaking them down into individual steps will allow you to create a better plan for the future.

Meeting with your line manager is a good place to start, as they might help you identify other areas you need to work on and offer suggestions about upcoming training opportunities provided by the company. Researching the criteria for the job you envision yourself having, and looking into new workshops that target the key skills needed in your profession, can also be helpful.

This step is important because it helps you identify the professional skills and abilities you need to help you reach your goals, enabling you to plan new learning and development opportunities that are relevant to your professional development.

4.    Evaluate your professional skills.

Now that you have identified what professional skills are desirable for your ideal career path, take a moment to tick off ones you’re already proficient in.

Knowing your current strengths is important, so you can clearly distinguish what you are lacking that might be holding you back.

5.    Decide on a strategy.

Now that you have identified the areas you need to work on, it is time to decide how you will remedy this. To be effective, your professional development should be;

  • Job embedded.
  • Strategic.
  • Continuous and ongoing.

Perhaps you could sign up to skills workshops and seminars that your company is offering, get involved in formal CPD training (such as the business courses offered by High Speed Training), or keep up to date with new technology relating to your field.

There are many strategic ways to develop the skills you need to accomplish your goals; take it in small chunks, relate all learning experiences to the skills identified by your PDP and remember this is a process of continual development – not a one-time thing.

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6.    Develop a timeline.

It is important to decide when you want to achieve your goals and laying out a time-frame is an important factor in making sure that you stick to your PDP. Knowing you have given yourself a deadline means you are more likely to achieve your plans.

Plan your targets on a yearly basis, make sure to give each target more time than you envision it taking because things rarely go to plan, and schedule your targets around opportunities you’d like to achieve.

By planning and scheduling your professional development, you’ll be the ideal candidate by the time that promotion you want rolls around.

7.    Write it all down.

Keep detailed notes of your Professional Development Plan that you can update and alter as you go along. Writing it all down will help you remember your overall goal and all the steps you have laid out for yourself.

A PDP is not something to be written and forgotten. It is a career-long tool that you should refer to regularly.

Writing it down will also be handy for when you are ready to apply for that new position or promotion. You will have a detailed list of all the professional skills you have been working on, and examples of just how you have gone about facilitating your own professional development.

8.    Evaluate your plan.

Before you commit to your PDP, look over it. Check again that all the goals and steps are:

  • Specific.
  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.
  • Realistic.
  • Timely.

Even though you should dream big, setting unreasonable goals and targets will make the experience of following a PDP stressful and disheartening. It’s important to evaluate your plan to make sure you can meet your targets – be it task or time-frame – and that your goals are realistic and achievable.

9.    Measure your progress.

Are you meeting your targets? Assessing your progress regularly is important. Even though you know your professional development is important (you’ve made a plan for it, after all) professional education can quickly fall in priority.

Measuring your progress will help you know if you are hitting your ‘check lists’, meeting your targets and are on track for reaching your goals. You may need to set more manageable steps, or make new targets, or even set new goals.

Remember that plans change and, as you go through your career, your goals will progress with you. Learning is a lifelong process, and it’s important to continue your professional development to ensure career success.

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