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How to Write a Professional Development Plan

by | Jul 9, 2019 | Career Planning

How to Write a PDP

This is the second article in a two-part series on the topic of Professional Development Plans. Read the first article here.

In the first part of this series, you learned that a professional development plan (or PDP) is a written document used to focus, evaluate and prioritize professional development goals and activities. In this article, you’re going to learn exactly what should be included in a PDP document and the simple 10-step process I use to write a PDP.

This process is outlined in more detail in the Build Your Professional Development Plan workbook. There you will also find a variety of exercises and templates to guide you through each step.

What’s included in a Professional Development Plan (PDP)?

In my experience, I believe a well-written, useful PDP document should contain the following three key elements:

  1. Your short-term and long-term career goals: What do you want to achieve professionally in the next 1, 3, 5 and 10 years?
  2. Your specific professional development areas of focus: What hard skills, soft skills, relationships and experience do you need obtain or deepen in order to make those goals reality?
  3. Your specific development activities broken down by quarter: What will you do, what resources will be required, and what is the excepted due date?

How to Create a Professional Development Plan (PDP)

I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to help people create their own comprehensive, well-organized PDP documents in a way that is simple and not overwhelming. The following 10-step process does just that. On the surface, it may look like a lot of steps, but once you get started, it flows very naturally. The time you spend on this activity is up to you. I’ve seen some people finish in a few hours while others spend weeks perfecting their work. Take it one step at a time and make the process work for you.

Here’s a high-level overview of my 10-step process for writing a Professional Development Plan (PDP):

1. Self-Assessment: Determine who you are, what you want from your life and your career, and what gaps you need to fill to make those things happen.

2. Goal Setting: Define what exactly success means to you. Make goals in all areas of life to ensure your career goals align with everything else.   

3. Research: Determine what it will take to reach your destination. How do you need to develop as a professional to achieve your goals?

4. Decision-Making: Pick a path for moving forward. What will you do to develop the right skills, relationships and experience you need to achieve your goals?

5. Action Items: Define exactly what activities you will engage in—books you will read, classes you will take, people you with network with, etc.  

6. Resources: Define what you need to make it happen—time, money, employer approval, etc.  

7. Deadlines: Establish a timeline for when your various development activities will be completed.  

8. Execution: DO THE WORK!

9. Revision: Make changes as you and your career evolve. This is a living document that is never written in stone.

10. Tracking: Monitor your progress to stay motivated and on-track.

As you can see, each step is relatively straight-forward but, when combined together in order, they give you everything you need to create and implement a personalized Professional Development Plan.

Using a Professional Development Plan Template (PDP Template)

Finally, it’s worthwhile noting that you may want to use a pre-existing template for creating your PDP. A template is a document that has already been formatted and organized, so all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Unfortunately, template quality can vary. I was unable to find one that suited my needs and preferences, so I created my own PDP template in Word. I’ve been using the same one for years now. It’s simple, but effective. It works perfectly for me and my clients. Don’t be afraid of creating your own if you’re not happy with the templates you find. 

Buikld Your Professional Development Plan workbook cover

Are You Ready to Create Your PDP?

Learn how to create and implement your own effective, personalized career plan. This workbook contains all the tips, tools, templates and resources you need!

About the Author

Chrissy Scivicque is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and certified Professional Career Manager (PCM). She is an author, in-demand presenter and international speaker known for engaging, entertaining, educating and empowering audiences of all sizes and backgrounds. Learn more here.

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