This is the first article in a two-part series on the topic of Professional Development Plans.
As a career coach, I spend a lot of time helping my clients create plans for professional growth. One of the most important tools we use is known as a Professional Development Plan or PDP. Many professionals have heard this term before but few know what it’s really all about. In this two-part series, you’ll get an in-depth look at PDPs—what they are, how they work, and how they can help support your career success. This first article in the series covers the basics; the next article will provide an overview of the process for creating your own professional development plan.
Ready to jump right in? Grab the Build Your Professional Development Plan workbook here.
1. What is a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?
A Professional Development Plan (or PDP) is a written document used to focus, evaluate and prioritize professional development goals and activities.
PDP’s come in many different formats, some of which are more robust than others. There is no single right way or wrong way of creating your plan. However, there are some specific elements I believe every plan should include. (I’ll cover those in part 2 of this series.)
2. Why Create a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?
A PDP is an essential tool for all career-minded professionals. Here are just a few of the reasons to consider creating one:
- The process of writing a PDP forces you to define what you really want from your career and how you’re going to get it in real terms. The act of writing it down on paper (or typing it) allows you to gain greater clarity. As you go through the process, you will gain a greater understanding of yourself, including your professional strengths and areas for improvement.
- Because this is a written document, it becomes a tangible tool for future reference. You can review and revise it over and over again throughout your career. The work is something that builds on itself as you continue to grow professionally.
- A PDP provides a visual outline and roadmap for growth—you can clearly see gaps in experience, knowledge and skills, and can easily identify necessary activities to fill them. Plus, it helps you create a structured plan and timeline for achieving your goals. You’ll know what you need to do and when you should be doing it. Because of this, you’re much more likely to hold yourself accountable.
- Lastly, creating a PDP demonstrates commitment to your career. It shows that you take responsibility for your own growth. While some organizations will assist employees in creating their PDPs, it is more often a personal activity. It requires a dedication of time and energy to create, and even greater dedication to execute. However, it’s an investment that has the power to yield invaluable returns for you and your career.
3. What are the Benefits of a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?
So, how exactly does this investment pay off? Here are just a few of the things a PDP can help you achieve:
- New professional opportunities
- Increased work satisfaction and fulfillment
- Smooth career transitions
4. What is the Difference Between a Professional Development Plan (PDP) and a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)?
Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that there is a distinct and important difference between a Performance Improvement Plan (or PIP) and a PDP.
A PIP is generally used to document and address a performance issue. A manager may work with an employee to create a PIP as a means of defining performance concerns and outlining a path for required improvement.
If you have been given a PIP, your employment is potentially on shaky ground. These documents are sometimes used as a “last ditch” effort to reform an employee prior to termination. PIPs should be taken very seriously; they provide a clear mandate for a change in performance and failure to follow the defined requirements may lead to job loss.