How Do I Create a Professional Development Plan?

Terry Masters
Terry Masters
Woman posing
Woman posing

You can create a professional development plan by outlining your career goals, identifying action steps needed to achieve those goals, and assigning target dates for completion. This type of career planning can be internally or externally motivated. Many individuals establish a professional development plan to keep themselves on track with their major career objectives. In other contexts, professional planning is a human resources tool that is imposed upon an employee as part of an employer's management of its human assets.

Anyone can decide to put a written plan in place to help structure a career path. Motivational seminars, self-help books, and the career services department of colleges and universities will recommend you create a professional development plan to help crystallize a specific success trajectory. These sources suggest a typical development method and format for such a plan, but any systematic process that serves to focus you and keep you on track can work.

A professional development plan that is designed by an individual will typically have three components. These three components are derived from an evaluative process that can also be broken down into three steps. First, you analyze your strengths and weaknesses and consider your needs and interests. Next, you obtain outside input on the possible directions you can take your career. Finally, you identify short and long term goals and objectives that are reflective of where you want to see yourself professionally in the future.

This process enables you to write a formal professional development plan. The plan lists the goals and objectives you have identified, action steps needed to achieve those ends, and a target date for each step. Setting a specific time frame for the completion of each step is perhaps the most important part of the planning process. Ultimately, the plan is a tool to enhance your ability to achieve a particular goal in a set amount of time.

An externally imposed professional development plan is a human resources tool. In a corporate context, the plan development process will often start with a request to the employee to complete a self-assessment of his skills and value to the company. His superiors will meanwhile complete a separate assessment of his skills and value along with an assessment of the company's needs. The employee and a company representative will then sit down and identify goals, objectives, and target opportunities to achieve those ends. The whole process is committed to writing and used during employee evaluations to determine if he is making adequate progress in increasing his value to the company.

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