Employers aren’t solely interested in your current skills and past accomplishments. They want to know your plans for future growth. They are looking to hire applicants who are interested in continually moving forward to gain new expertise. Therefore, when you’re interviewing for a job, be prepared to answer questions about your professional development plan for achieving your career goals.
Also, note that organizations look for employees who are plugged in to the latest trends impacting their field and eager to keep pace with changes in technology and best practices. They also recognize that no employee is perfect and look for evidence of self-awareness and a willingness to address any weaknesses. Keep this information in mind when creating or updating your professional development plan so you are well-prepared to answer questions at your job interview.
Interview Questions About Professional Development
Interviewers will ask a variety of questions to get this information. The most common tactic will be to ask about your weaknesses and how you might have addressed them in the past. Some recruiters might approach this issue by asking you about the most prominent trends impacting your field. A question such as, "What is your professional development plan for the next year?" has a broad enough scope to capture both weaknesses and professional trends.
A professional development plan describes your strategy for developing or acquiring the skills and experiences necessary to support your career goals and your continued improvement.
Employers are eager to recruit candidates who are intent on developing the right skills and acquiring the right knowledge to excel in their field.
Not having a plan in place will be a red flag for a prospective employer. The expectation for anyone hired for a professional position will be that you are prepared to upgrade your expertise continually. As an aside, that upgrading is also valuable for resume building.
Guidelines for Developing a Professional Development Plan
It's important to have a professional development plan to lead you through your career. The following guidelines will assist you in creating such a plan:
- Don’t wait until you’re actively job searching. The first step is to make sure you always have a professional development plan, as you never know when you will need to transition into job search mode. You might lose your job due to a layoff or other termination and need to ramp up quickly. Having a plan ready will save you time and give you the confidence to get moving on your search.
- Make a list of your goals. Consider whether you want a raise in the next year or a promotion. Perhaps you want to move up to your supervisor's job or transition to another industry entirely. Then, write down what you need to achieve your goals, including additional skills, knowledge, and certifications. Next, make a plan to acquire the qualifications you need including a timeline. Make sure your plan is realistic and achievable in light of your current commitments.
- Show off tech skills. In most cases, your professional development plan should include mastering the latest area of technology being tapped by employers in your sector. So, a project manager might be prepared to say, "I have been working on strengthening my business intelligence skills and have taken—or plan to take—a seminar on advanced Plex system ERP applications."
- Try to incorporate some reference to a hot industry trend. Review the latest journal articles and conference agendas for your professional associations and speak to well-informed colleagues for ideas. For example, a hospital administrator might say, "I have been reading articles on using electronic health records to generate clinical quality measures and plan to attend a seminar at the next Hospital Association conference on the topic."
- Don’t be afraid to talk about areas of potential improvement. Finally, if you have been working on an area that could use some improvement you might mention that strategy as part of your plan. For example, if you are in a field where presenting to groups is not a core skill but is somewhat valued, you might say, "I plan to work on my presentation skills by taking a workshop on optimizing the use of presentation tools like PowerPoint. I have always gotten positive feedback about my presentations but would like to jazz them up a bit."
If you are daunted by the task of creating a professional development plan, don't despair. Chances are you know more about how to achieve your goals than you think. It’s just a matter of putting your vague aspirations into more concrete terms and learning to talk about them effectively.