How to Create a Professional Development Plan

Two coworkers discussing a professional development plan
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To gauge your potential as a true professional, an employer may ask you about your professional development plans (PDP) in a job interview. If you're not interviewing for a job and are a new hire, expect the question to come up during your performance appraisal. Your PDP will list career goals that you hope to meet and the avenues you will take to accomplish those goals. It should be a living document that grows and changes as you obtain new knowledge and skills.

Gather Information

If a pay raise or advancement at your current employer is a priority, a good place to start formulating an effective plan is to meet with your supervisor. Ask them what areas of knowledge or skills you should develop that will add the most value to your department.

If you have peers performing similar jobs in your department, examine the backgrounds of any outstanding performers. Identify the skills or knowledge base that contribute to the success of these employees and consider if you should also develop these strengths.  

Review Job Titles

Review typical job titles for your occupation and lists of job titles appropriate for different positions in your field. Search major job sites like Indeed or Simply Hired for job titles similar to yours, or any jobs you would like to have.  

Look for patterns in the qualifications that employers say they're looking for. Make a list of the most frequently referenced requirements, compare them to your strengths, and choose a few areas to target in your development plan. 

Review Seminar Agendas

It's also beneficial to review the agendas for workshops and seminars offered by your professional organization. Identify areas of knowledge and skills that are cutting edge in your field.

Include at least one technology-related objective in your plan. Tech-savvy employees are often the most sought after, whether the job is technology-based, or not.

Creating a Professional Development Plan

It's easier to achieve goals and objectives when you write them down. Compile all the information you have collected including:

  • Skills required
  • Knowledge required
  • Job requirements
  • Technology requirements

Upgrade Your Skills

Next, figure out how and when you can acquire the skills necessary for your future success. A good place to start is consulting with your professional association about local, national, and online seminars, as well as workshops and tutorials related to your interests.

You can also ask your Human Resources and IT departments about any in-house resources. And, you can look into any educational opportunities offered at local colleges and adult education programs.

Plan a Career Trajectory Timeline

Once you've gathered all this information, it's time to consider exactly how you're going to acquire the skills you need. You may need to take classes either at night or online or attend a boot camp to improve your skills. Also, many cities have college, university, and trade schools that may offer courses that will allow you to upgrade your skills.

Professional associations are a great place to gain knowledge. Some will have free courses you can take. These organizations may require a membership fee and some are only open to those in specific occupational fields.

Allowing the Time

Decide how much time you want to invest in your professional development because you need to balance your career needs with your lifestyle needs. Taking on too much at once is a good way to burn out fast. You need to figure out what activities will fit into your available time.

It's also smart to include a list of goals with tentative deadlines for each career activity. Be sure to update your LinkedIn profile and your resume each time you upgrade your skills. It's important to advertise your qualifications, especially when they are in-demand skills that employers are seeking.

The Importance of Following Through

As with most plans, execution is critical to success. Make sure you follow through and engage in as many professional development activities as possible. You'll not only enhance your career; you'll have a compelling story to tell during interviews and performance reviews.

Remember, having even a tentative career path in place will help you respond to interview questions about your goals for the future, and assist you in determining the next phase of your career.