Create A Personal Development Plan: Full Guide & Examples
The ability to continue professional growth throughout the whole career path, confident planning, and strong self-awareness constitute one of the most desired qualities of a great specialist. People with a well-sustained vision of their professional development are more likely to achieve their goals. Therefore, they have better chances of getting high positions and prestigious job opportunities as companies highly value well-planned healthy ambitions and willingness to attain them as a part of the company's growth.
However, even though this sounds pretty obvious, in practice, it is challenging to reach professional self-confidence and develop a strategy of stepping out of the comfort zone. But the good news is that the solution already exists: you can create a personal development plan! Keep reading to get a better understanding of PDPs and learn useful recommendations on making one for yourself.
What is a personal development plan
A personal development plan (or PDP) is a strategy for achieving professional goals, which includes an analysis of personal qualities and skills, areas for improvement, and steps to complete within defined time limits. PDP's primary purpose is to systematize ambitions and create a guideline to put them into life from a realistic perspective.
Typically, a personal development plan for work is written in the form of several lists, divided by categories, such as the description of strengths and weaknesses, goals (short-, mid-, and long-term), actions to achieve them, and deadlines. Also, it is important to mention that deadlines are the main element of the PDP because a limited timescale provides clear motivation and a sense of duty to yourself. However, the deadlines should not be too tight; otherwise, it can cause even more pressure and anxiety, making such PDP ineffective.
What is the SWOT analysis for personal development
There are several approaches to creating PDP, but one of the most effective is using the SWOT analysis. SWOT is an abbreviation that stands for:
Strengths — what makes you a great specialist (e.g., skills, personal traits, knowledge, experience, etc.);
Weaknesses — what impedes your professional progress (insecurities, lack of skills or expertise, areas for improvement, etc.);
Opportunities — in which way you can accelerate your career growth;
Threats — what can be an obstacle on your professional development path.
The SWOT analysis helps dig deeper under the surface and involves strategic thinking in terms of defining the main potential problems on the way.
To include SWOT in your PDP, we recommend answering the following questions:
- What are the skills you are the most confident about?
- What can you do better than others?
- How do others describe your strengths?
- What are your main accomplishments?
- What skills do you find challenging to master?
- What are the reasons why you still haven't reached your goals?
- What tasks make you feel insecure or anxious?
- What are you most often advised to improve in yourself?
- What are the prospects for the field in which you work? How can you be at the forefront of them?
- Who can help you from your professional environment? Where else can you find such people?
- Will it be a good decision to change the place of work for better prospects?
- What factors in your workplace, industry, or the world situation might hinder your progress?
- Could your weaknesses lead to threats over time?
- Are there any factors beyond your control that could pose a threat?
- Are there people on whom your success depends? How can their impact be minimized?
How to make a PDP: 5 tips
1. Analyze yourself professionally
When creating your PDP, you should honestly assess yourself, and using the SWOT technique will help you a lot because it prompts you to ask clarifying questions, which will help you avoid bias towards yourself. Also, you are always free to ask for an external opinion about yourself from your manager, colleagues, or even friends for quality diversity of opinions.
Besides, it is important to note that you should evaluate not only hard skills but also soft ones, as they often determine how easily you can achieve your place under the sun in a competitive environment, etc.
This elaboration is necessary because the content of your plan and strategy for its implementation depends on it.
2. Assess your work environment
Not everything in the progress of the PDP depends solely on you because you work in a specific industry with its defining characteristics. Naturally, your plans may be subject to adjustments by external factors. And although you cannot predict so-called black swans, that is, sudden unexpected crises, you can develop an idea of what to expect from your company and the field. Therefore, do your research, using online sources and asking for opinions from professionals with similar experiences. This step will help you determine Opportunities and Threats more effectively in the SWOT analysis and formulate a realistic vision of what you need to do to achieve your goals.
3. Refer to examples of others
As a general rule, it is easier to work with existing cases of successful personal development and failures, so having a role model in mind is an excellent recommendation to follow. By the way, you don't need to look for someone with the same personality, level of expertise, and goals as you, because no two people are the same, and no two life circumstances are the same. What is important for you to take into account are specific areas for improvement. For example, as a middle IT professional who wants to improve your presentation skills, you can ask for advice from your friend who works as a project manager and managed to develop these skills from scratch.
4. Be flexible with deadlines
As mentioned above, clearly defined deadlines are essential for the effective implementation of PDP and a source of self-motivation. However, it is important to be prepared for the fact that you cannot plan all the deadlines accurately. Some steps will take less time than you expected, while others will take longer for various reasons. If there are no other ways to bypass the delays in achieving goals, then feel free to adjust plans. However, in certain cases, an inconsistency in the time limits can indicate an ill-set goal, so carefully review your goals in such situations.
5. Check and update your PDP
As much as we would like the personal development plan to work like a wish list addressed to the fairy godmother, in real life, you need to use the PDP as a tool to make it work. For this, every once in a while, you should review the PDP, remind yourself of the goals and deadlines, track your progress, analyze its pace, and update it according to new needs. In addition to the practical benefits, a nice bonus is that you can give yourself a pat on the back when you see how much closer you have become to your long-term goal.
Personal development plan examples
PDP example for a software developer
As of July 2022, a middle software developer who wants to grow to senior.
- Strong technical skills of the required level, ability to learn quickly, and attention to detail.
- Must improve my leadership and interpersonal skills and ability to formulate and communicate my vision to others.
- Become a senior developer.
- Manage a team of developers.
- Achieve a salary level of at least $120,000 per year.
- Continue self-education in software, focusing more on complex skills.
- Take a course on improving communication skills.
- Ask for more tasks at work, including intensive teamwork.
- Take a debate workshop.
- Find a senior developer mentor.
- Master's degree in computer science.
- Weekly online course in software development.
- Next month: Ask for more responsibility at work; attend a debate master class.
- Within the next six months: Start a communication skills course.
- Within the next three years: Promote to senior or apply for a senior position at another company.
PDP example for a product manager
As of July 2022, a product manager who wants to become the head of the product department.
- Strong skills in analyzing and processing information, creativity, and the ability to think systematically.
- Weak distribution of responsibilities, lack of confidence in my expertise, must improve UX/UI technical skills.
- Become a more confident leader.
- Become the head of the product department.
- Distribute more tasks among team members.
- Take UX/UI courses.
- Ask for feedback from head managers.
- Execute a large-scale team project under my supervision.
- Diploma in marketing and sales management.
- 5+ advanced training courses.
- Next month: Ask for feedback and analyze it; start UX/UI courses.
- Within the next six months: Find a major project opportunity and start working on it.
- Within the next three years: Become the head of the product department.
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