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How a professional development plan can assist your career planning
A great career doesn’t just happen by itself. Like anything else you want to achieve in life, a successful career takes time, effort and most importantly, planning, to get right. For that reason, a professional development plan in the form of a written summary of your ambitions, aspirations and objectives can be extremely useful in helping to clarify your career goals and sharpen your focus.
A career development plan is designed to outline your interests, values and skills, and to help you think about:
- Where you are now, and where you want to be
- Your likes, dislikes, passions, strengths, skills, experience and personality, and how closely they align with your chosen job
- Your short-term and long-term career goals
- Any skills, qualifications and experience you might still need to acquire
- The current labour market, where the work is, and any other job requirements you might need to research.
Articulating a vision statement for your career is the first step in helping you get that dream job. By setting clearly defined career goals and mapping out the steps you need to take to get where you want to be, you can more easily navigate towards the vision you’ve laid out for yourself.
Writing your career plan out (rather than just having an abstract idea in your head) also gives you something to keep referring back to, and you can much more easily measure your progress. It’s also a satisfying process to be able to tick each career objective off your list – and actually see the progress you’re making.
Remember, there’s more than one path to career success, and after you’ve developed your professional development plan you might realise that in its current form it’s not the route you want to take – so flexibility is key. Don't be afraid to adjust your plan or even create an entirely new career objective, based on what you’ve learned. This kind of insight is one reason why making a career plan is such a worthwhile investment of your time. And importantly, be prepared to take opportunities when they present themselves, and not necessarily when you are fully prepared for them.
Top tips for developing a professional development plan
Keep your goals front-of-mind
The tasks of daily life can often get in the way of the bigger picture – so find a way to remind yourself of your larger career goals on a daily or weekly basis. Post encouraging notes on the fridge or set up reminders or alerts on your mobile phone.
It can feel overwhelming when you look at your career plan in its entirety – so decide which goals are most important, and tackle them first.
Websites and apps can be really handy in helping you to set weekly career goals and stay on track. Check out online tools like Goalmigo, Stickk, Any and Wunderlist to help you plan, track and stay focused.
Share your plans with friends and family members. That way, you’ll be able to tell them about your progress and they can offer support and encouragement when you need it. You can also consider enlisting your boss into your career plan, if it aligns with their view of you or their plans for your professional development.
Keep a journal
Consider recording your progress in a diary or journal. It can be really useful to get your thoughts, feelings, frustrations and achievements down on paper, while helping you to see how much you are actually accomplishing.
Celebrate your career achievements and you’ll boost your motivation – so make sure you mark the milestones by treating yourself with something celebratory.