No idea where you’re going to be in five years’ time? Time to make a plan…
Creating your own Personal Development Plan not only helps you effectively plan for the future and manage your own learning and development, but it can also help give you some direction and move forward in your career.
We’ve already covered the basics of what you need to know about Personal Development Plans, but to help you plan in the right way, we’ve put together a free PDP template to get you started:
Set your main objectives
First things first, you need to define your goals.
For some, these could have been set in the back of your mind for years, just waiting for the right time to make an appearance – but for others, it could take a bit of soul-searching.
If you’re stuck, ask yourself the following questions: ‘where do you want to progress in your career?’, ‘will you be happier in a different job?’, ‘what new skills and knowledge would make you more fulfilled?’, and most importantly, ‘what type of achievements are most significant to you?’
Once you’ve set aside your goals, consider prioritising them – and try not to tackle too many at once. Be realistic with what you want to achieve, and remember that these goals can be anything from short-term to long-term, big or small.
‘I want to become a Primary School Teacher’
‘I want to move up in my career as a Sales Assistant, and eventually progress into a management role’
Identify your current strengths
Once you’ve decided on your main goals, it’s time to consider your relevant strengths.
What attributes do you already have that could help this goal become a reality? Are there any transferrable skills you could utilise?
Even if you don’t have any direct experience in the field your objectives are based in, a strength can be anything from dedication, a creative mind and a keen interest in a particular area of academia, through to excellent people skills or a knack for numbers.
Identifying your strengths can also lead you to potential areas for improvement. For example, it might be that you have a range of experience in HR roles (strength), but no qualifications to quantify your skills (weakness).
And that’s where the areas for development come in…
‘I’m great at talking to people and understanding their needs, and have a range of experience in Customer Service based roles’
‘I often draw in my spare time, and have a keen interest in creative projects’
Decide on your key areas for development
If you often draw a blank when it comes to the common interview favourite, ‘what are your weaknesses?’ – this section of your PDP could help with that.
Identify the main areas of your career, or skills that will need improvement to be able to achieve your goals, and from there, you’ll be able to come up with realistic actions to turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Make sure the areas that need work are linked directly to your main objectives, so you’ll actually be motivated to improve on them.
‘I lack the accredited AAT qualifications to be able to enter a career in accounting’
‘My web design skills are basic, and will need to be more advanced for me to be able to progress in this field’
Research the skills you’ll need to gain to achieve your goals
Do some in depth research on what it takes to achieve your goals, and what kind of skills, knowledge, or qualifications will help you overcome your key weaknesses.
For example, if you want to become a Social Worker, but you have no previous experience, you’ll probably need to consider gaining a specialised qualification by doing a course, or perhaps taking a more full-on approach and studying a related subject at University.
Alternatively, it could be that you just need to gain some practical, hands-on experience in the area you’d like to progress in.
‘I will need to gain a an NVQ level 3 in Beauty and Make-up’
‘I will need to be able to demonstrate at least a year’s experience in the Marketing field, before I can progress further’
Put in place some actions
By identifying all of the above, you should be ready to set some concrete actions that will put you on the right track to achieving your goals.
Your actions should be heavily based on your weaknesses and areas of improvement, and what skills you will need to go ahead with fulfilling your ambitions. The amount of actions you set for each objective is solely dependent on you, your individual plan, and the complexity of your aims.
Academia isn’t for everyone, and neither is a practical approach, so do your research and choose the one that suits you best. These actions could range from reading up on a particular topic and doing an internship or apprenticeship, through to taking a course or learning a new skill.
‘Study a personal fitness trainer course’
‘Gain three month’s unpaid experience in a publishing house’
Give yourself a clear timeframe for each goal
Setting a deadline for each one of your goals will give you a visible target to reach for, not to mention ensure you’re on the right track throughout your career.
Be realistic with your timeframes, and take into account how long each individual action will take. You should also consider the potential obstacles that could delay you along the way, because things may not always run as smoothly as you hope.
This is real life, after all.
Track your progression
Finally, always track your development.
Not only does this help to emphasise where you’ve improved (which boosts your confidence and motivation), it also shows you what areas your exceling in, and what areas might need work.
By recognising the obstacles, you’ll be able to put in place new actions or alter your current ones in a way that better fits in with your main objective.
Still not sure on what to do with your PDP? Read our guide on what you need to know about Personal Development Plans here.