Personal Development Plan – A clear path to great achievements & options

Last Updated on 31st August 2021 by Freddie Chirgwin-Bell

Having a clear plan is always helpful. Doesn’t matter what it is or what it’s for, a plan helps provide structure and steps towards an end goal. There are so many benefits of personal and professional development.

Developing yourself can achieve incredible results.

This applies particularly well with careers. Having a good career plan is a vital first step in achieving results that will enable you to have growth, get to better jobs and better positions.

What is a PDP?

A personal development plan is a career plan. It’s a detailed plan of action based around your long-term goals. It answers questions such as what skills you need, what job(s) you want, what position you want, where you want to go, and more.

It outlines how you can achieve your goals by developing your strengths, improving weak areas, and acquiring new knowledge and skills.

A key element of any plan is to set milestones. Keep them small, easily achievable, and often. These milestones will help keep you motivated, by celebrating each success you can see your progress and track achievements towards completing your larger objectives.

What we’re talking about here is specifically for careers however, personal development plans can be used for school work, university progress, careers, or even personal goals.

With careers, sometimes these are made with help from employers and mentors, however, these can be accomplished just as effectively without assistance.

Why do I need a PDP?

It’s easy to say, “I want to be doing XYZ in five years.” It’s even a good first step. But there are a few details that need to be added to ensure you achieve that. Have a plan and going through the process will give you something to ensure you reach that statement.

It gives you a timeline and steps towards what you want.

Setting clear objectives, even using the SMART framework to set goals, will keep you on track.

It also allows you to prioritise and focus on developing the skills which are essential in order to achieve your goals.

Breaking your targets down into smaller steps and tasks can also make them feel more achievable, and writing down your goals and ticking off objectives you have completed helps you to keep motivated.

In fact, according to a study by psychologist Gail Matthews, people who wrote down their goals were 33 percent more successful in reaching those ambitions compared to people who didn’t write down their objectives.

When to make a PDP

A PDP can help you fulfil career, academic, or even personal goals.

In a workplace environment, your manager would typically support you in putting together your PDP and suggest key areas for improvement. They can also help you decide on your goals and the metrics you will use to measure your progress, along with identifying the resources you will need to complete your goals.

A Personal Development Plan is your opportunity to challenge yourself by setting multiple goals, including some you might not normally feel comfortable working towards. You can prioritise the goals you feel are most achievable – or alternatively, prioritise those you find most difficult to achieve, so that you do not neglect them in the long run.

Don’t think in a narrow way i.e. just technical qualifications. You need to also think about soft skills or experience away from work. This will all help your career because employers look for “well rounded” people.

Writing a PDP can also be a useful exercise even when you are in between jobs or planning out the next step in your career. It will help you see where you need to focus your energies so that you can develop the skills you need for the new role or promotion you’re working towards.

Steps to creating your personal development plan

The steps to create a PDP are simple, but by going into depth on each step you can make real headway in whatever you put your mind to. The Chartered Management Institute has a fantastic framework that you can use. The steps are:

  1. Establish your purpose or direction
  2. Identify development needs
  3. Identify learning opportunities
  4. Formulate an action plan
  5. Undertake the development
  6. Record the outcomes
  7. Evaluate and review

This obviously covers the whole process, but as an overview it gives you an idea of how to go through and improve yourself.

Step 1: What’s your purpose or direction?

What the purpose of you wanting to develop yourself? Is it to develop yourself and become the best in your industry? Is it to go into a new career? What direction are you wanting to take with your career/job/life/education?

By asking this soul-searching question you can have a high-level goal that then can be broken down into smaller more achievable chunks.

It also enables you to keep a focus on what is going to keep you happy.

Step 2: Identify development needs & learning opportunities

Yes, these are two separate steps, but they are peas in a pod. Treat them like they go hand in hand.

By understanding on what you need to work on first

Start by thinking about how you learn best, and which resources you have access to – whether it’s a formal course, learning on the job, or online resources. By knowing how you learn, you can better devise a plan that will be effective not only in how much you’ll learn but time and costs.

Adding on to this the SMART method is great for building goals your personal development plan. Each one of your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Make specific targets. For example, if you want to improve your public speaking skills, is it your presentation skills you want to work on or your speech-writing ones?
  • Make sure that your short-term objectives will contribute towards achieving your long-term goals.
  • Be honest about your weaknesses. What can you do to improve them?
  • Don’t just focus on your weaknesses – think about your strengths and how you can build on them.
  • Ensure your targets are realistic and specific. For example, ‘getting a pay raise’ is not something that is directly in your control – however, learning to use a specific software that may lead to one is.
  • Make sure you set deadlines for your objectives to help you stay on track. It’s a good idea to include some simpler, more achievable targets along the more challenging ones so that you don’t get discouraged along the way.

Step 3: Formulate an action plan

Have a clear action plan. Not only with breaking down things step by step, but is comprehensive enough that it will accomplish all of your higher level goals.

This action plan is going to be your guide throughout your journey. There needs to be small yet concrete steps that you can take that will enable continuous gradual progress.

As such you can not only measure your progress, but know what stages come next. Not only this by breaking it down into tiny chunks you can adjust the plan as circumstances change to ensure you’re leveraging your already existing skills to adapt to changes in your circumstances.

How to track your progress

You need to track your progress. Otherwise you can get confused or lost as to what you need to do next or even lose motivation not realising how far you’ve come.

Easiest method of tracking this? Writing it down with pen and paper.

You can use a notepad and pen, or a calendar, or even use dedicated apps such as Trello or Asana.

Having a system of writing down your goals and progress will keep things simpler as well as easier to remember. It will also give you a way to see your progress so that you can keep up your motivation and see where (if any) improvements are needed.

Tracking your progress and making progress are two different things.

Making progress requires a consistent effort and discipline. That’s why it’s often recommended to have a system of accountability for your action plan.

Step 4: Undertake the development

This one is the simplest, but also the hardest. Do the plan you’ve written.

Study courses, gain qualifications, build experience. Whatever it is you’ve formulated as a plan, then execute on that to ensure you keep to it.

As I said, simple but not easy.

Step 5: Record the outcomes

This comes back to tracking your progress. By recording the outcomes, you can see all the progress you’ve made.

Also, and more importantly, you have a catalogue of what you have achieved that will provide exceptional material for your CV.

So no matter whether you are going for academic, personal, or professional achievements keeping a record will give you an arsenal of things to either put on your CV, or just keep for yourself to be proud of.

Step 6: Evaluate and review

When you have achieved your larger goals then review your journey.

Through evaluating and reviewing your plan you can see where you can adjustments for future plans or endeavours.

You can see the pitfalls, mistakes, or slow-downs that happened but you can also see the progress and the times where you excelled. From that you can refine and better your personal development to truly futreproof yourself.

Wrapping Up

This covers everything that you will need to formulate and deliver on a Personal Development Plan, so that you can continue upskilling yourself, excelling in your job, and