How to Write a Professional Development Plan
Developing both short- and long-term goals can help guide your decisions throughout your career, whether you want to complete a complex project or earn a certain type of job. A professional development plan can guide you toward reaching those goals by implementing structured steps. In this article, we’ll explain what a professional development plan is, review how to create one and provide an example.
What is a professional development plan?
A professional development plan is a list of actionable steps for achieving your career goals. A professional development plan helps you gain specific insight into how you can reach your career aspirations, such as earning a new certification or finding a mentor who can advise you. Drafting a professional development plan is especially helpful during a job search. By defining your goals in a PDP, you can have a true understanding of how you want to navigate the search and interview process.
You can use many different formats to create a PDP. It can be a simple typed document, or you could create a structured table with rows and columns. Use a format that can help you methodically think about your professional future and the goals you need to reach that vision.
A PDP should be a continual reference or touchstone, and you should update it every time you reach important milestones. Regularly updating your PDP allows you to set new goals that help you grow as a professional and individual.
How to create a professional development plan
Follow these five steps to create a simple, thorough professional development plan:
A self-assessment is an evaluation of your professional interests, knowledge and skills. Creating a self-assessment allows you to examine your current position as it relates to your career goals. When you determine the skills and interests you currently possess, you can identify areas in which you can improve to obtain your goals.
It can be helpful to identify your transferable skills. Transferable skills are marketable personal assets that many employers seek in candidates, such as good communication, teamwork or leadership. List which software applications or computer programs you are proficient with. As workplaces become increasingly dependent on computer programs, having technological skills is valuable in any industry.
The goals you set in your professional development plan should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). Using SMART goals will make them trackable, which makes it easier to update your PDP when you complete important milestones.
Structure your goals in a way that makes it easy to achieve them by completing small steps. It’s helpful to list goals in order of priority with highest first so you can quickly identify them. It can also help to categorize goals as short-, mid- or long-term so you can develop more detailed steps to achieve each one:
Your professional development plan strategies define how you will achieve your goals. You should list a variety of approaches, including experiential learning (learning through doing), exposure (learning from others), education and reflection.
As a general rule, the majority of your strategies should be experiential. This gives you valuable hands-on experience when developing new skills. For example, a person who wants to be a veterinarian could volunteer at an animal shelter as an experiential strategy for learning more about working with animals.
Here are some things you should consider when developing your strategy:
Resources are places where you can find professional growth. They might provide workshops or networking opportunities, and they have the potential to enhance your career path greatly.
Some professional resources include:
When you’re developing the resources section of your PDP, be specific. These resources might have tuition, fees or time requirements. It’s important to have a complete idea of what is available to you.
Your professional development plan should always be a work in progress. It should grow and change over time and reflect where you currently stand in your professional life. Some good times to update your professional development plan are when reaching milestones, updating strategies or changing goals.
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