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A professional development plan helps you build a framework for your career. Without one, you are starting or continuing your professional life without structure. It is that simple. There is nothing complicated about developing this essential plan if you know how to get started. So, what is a professional development plan, and how do you create it?

What is a Professional Development Plan?

A professional development plan serves as a roadmap to seamlessly take you from one stage to the next and give you direction. It helps you develop yourself and follow a structured path that leads you toward your goals.

Why is Professional Development Important?

Professional development allows you to invest in yourself. A professional development plan helps you develop and identify your skill sets and follow a structured path to your goals. In other words, it sets you up for success by:

  • Bolstering your self-confidence. Having a plan in place and seeing yourself following it feels good.
  • Helping you expand your knowledge base. You know what classes and certifications you need to meet your career goals. You will also have an awareness of the experience you should aim to acquire.
  • Allowing you to network. Networking with peers can easily fall by the wayside in a busy career. Professional development provides you with networking opportunities.

Most importantly, though, it helps you achieve your critical goals. If you want to be a CEO by the time you are 30, you need to put a plan in place to reach that challenging goal.

How to Create a Professional Development Plan

Ironically, you need a plan in place to create your professional development plan. Like any project, the more organized you are, the more efficiently you can do it.

Do a Self-Assessment

Looking inward is an excellent place to start when creating your professional development plan. What do you hope to achieve in your career? It’s a question you must answer to determine what type of education you need, how long it will take, what kinds of experience you should pursue, and what professional organizations you should consider joining as part of your networking.

A self-assessment can also help you develop a timeline for your goals and get a feel for whether they are realistic. For example, if you want to learn how to use new technology, win an industry award, or start your own business,  you can factor these into the plan.

First, where are you now in your career planning? Have you completed college? Are you considering going back to school or taking continuing education courses?

Also, are you currently working? Is it a field you enjoy, or are you looking to make a change? Understanding where you are will help you know where you want to go.

As you do your assessment, write out what you like to do, especially if you have problems visualizing your plans. For example, do you enjoy working on a computer? What do you like about it? Do you like building the hardware, or is it the programming you do best? This will help you determine if the career you have in mind for yourself fits your personality. If you don’t like working with children, then being a teacher might not be your best career choice.

Map out what studies you have enjoyed in school so far. Were you a science geek or an artist? This can also provide direction for your career.

Set Long- and Short-Term Goals for Yourself

Your professional development plan is a roadmap for your future. It will allow you to play the long game regarding your career. Start with a long-term goal. What job do you want to pursue? Make sure to research the industry to see if there is a specialization that interests you or new skill that you need to learn.

Once you establish the long-term goals, you can focus on short-term ones to help get you there. What education do you need to follow the career path you want? Your short-term goal might be to choose a certificate program to help you sharpen those necessary skills.

Now, what can you do to support your studies? Is there an internship you can do during the summer? How about a part-time job that allows you to work in your industry of choice while you go to school?

Also, consider how you will pay for your classes. Can you take courses online and work in your field while completing your program? Will your employer pay for you to continue your education? Take the time to research your goals and identify resources to help you better understand how to meet them.

Create Your Timeline

By now, you have the core information you need to start setting up actionable steps and a timeline to meet them. You should know what skills you have and what you still need to develop. How long will it take you to learn new skills?

Also, identify potential obstacles that might interfere with your timeline, like personal goals. What concerns do you have about your ability to meet the set goals you have for yourself? Is money an obstacle? What about family?

Write out your timeline, so you can go back and make changes along the way as needed. You want to keep it as actionable as possible. For instance, maybe you decide to get a fundamental certification along with your degree, which might take a few extra months.

Develop a Way to Track Your Progress

Look at your professional development as a project. All projects need a way to measure progress so you can make adjustments along the way. Keeping a journal is a practical start. It will help you reassess how you feel about the direction you are taking as you go.

Professional development plans are not set in stone. You can make changes if you see that you are unhappy with your path. A journal might help you spot patterns that indicate you need to rethink some of your goals.

Education is another way to track your progress. Are you completing your courses as planned? Are there additional courses you might want to take?

Professional Plan Examples

Of course, every professional plan looks a little different. Consider this example of someone looking to move ahead at their current job.

  • Your self-assessment shows your need for better communication skills and to improve your leadership abilities, so you stand out in your company.
  • Your initial goal might be an increase in salary and promotion at your job. Both are easily trackable.
  • Your strategy to get there might be to take one or more certificate courses in business or project management. You might also look for a company mentor that can advise you on what you should work on to meet your goal.

You decide that you should be able to move up to project manager within a year if you complete two three-month courses. You can use those courses to show you have the initiative to handle the new job.

At Post University, we offer many ways to assist students and professionals along their career paths. Current students may engage with the Center for Career and Professional Development, which provides services and staff that can assist with internships, career planning, and the job search process. Professionals and graduates who wish to grow their skills can choose from a wealth of professional development courses at our School of Continuing Education. Our professional development courses are convenient and affordable, with online options taught by industry professionals. Let Post University be a part of helping you reach your career and professional development goals!

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a on our website or reach out directly! 

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.