Creating Your Professional Development Plan: 3 Surprising Truths

As a career coach, one of my main roles is to help my clients develop the professional skills and abilities required to achieve their goals. It’s a process that takes time and planning, but I love helping people figure out what needs to be done, how to get started and how to stay on track. Related: 3 Career Development Tips That Will Get You Ahead Of The Competition Unfortunately, few people really know what it takes to create and implement a solid professional development plan. Truth be told, there are quite a few misconceptions around the topic. So I’d like to share three essential—and somewhat surprising—truths about the process to help you.


1. It’s Up To YOU

Your professional development is not the responsibility of anyone but you. Not your company, not your boss, not even your coach. Just you. Some companies try to help with the process by helping employees create professional development plans (PDP) as part of the performance review process. While it’s a nice gesture, it simply isn’t very useful for the vast majority of employees. In my experience, I’ve found that a PDP created at the behest of an employer is often an exercise for management, not the employee. In fact, if the employee will later be judged on that criteria, he or she actually feels encouraged to aim low so as not to be set up for future failure. For those who happen to have bigger goals that don’t involve working for the company, the PDP is pretty meaningless. The employee ends up playing a game, telling the manager what he wants to hear and not using the plan to facilitate real, desired professional growth. Even if your company helps you develop a plan, it’s always a smart idea to create one of your own in private. This will help you identify and take action on growing the skills needed to achieve your true long-term career goals, whether or not they involve your current company.

2. It’s Never “Final”

A PDP is not written in stone. It can—and should—be revised on regular basis. Goals shift, people change, circumstances present new challenges and opportunities. As a growing professional, you have to remain nimble. One of the things I like to tell people is that the further out you go in goal setting and planning, the more it becomes just a guess. You can’t predict the future, and there are all kinds of outside influences that will shape your reality. A downturn in the economy, a new technology, a sick family member…all of these things can impact your goals and your ability to follow through on a planned course of action. The important thing is to simply start the process. Once you have a plan, it can be revised. Regular review is an essential component of any PDP so, as things change, you can make adjustments. Even better—as you see change on the horizon, you can proactively plan for it.

3. It’s Never Done

A professional development plan is never complete. If you want to continue moving forward in your career, you must continue growing your skills. Learning is a lifelong process, and your PDP is a career-long tool. As long as you’re a professional, your PDP will be a big component of your Career Success Toolkit. This post was originally published on an earlier date.

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