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How to Write a Career Development Plan

Last Updated: July 10, 2019 Approved

This article was co-authored by Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC . Adrian Klaphaak is a career coach and founder of A Path That Fits, a mindfulness-based boutique career and life coaching company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also is an accredited Co-Active Professional Coach (CPCC). Klaphaak has used his training with the Coaches Training Institute, Hakomi Somatic Psychology and Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) to help thousands of people build successful careers and live more purposeful lives. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 95% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 191,104 times.

A career development plan is a useful tool for anyone attempting to progress deliberately through a specific career path. Learning how to write a career development plan forces you to critically consider where you are in your current career, where you'd like to be, how you think you can get there, and how you'll measure your actions.

Establishing Your Overall Goals

Step 1 Start by writing down your primary field of interest.

  • For example, say you want to work in an academic field. You could write something like, "My primary career interest is teaching at a college-level."

Step 2 Consider how you identify professionally.

  • Try to write down some of your personal skills. Even if you're just starting out, you may have general qualities that can be an asset to an employer. For example, maybe you're hardworking. Maybe you're easy to get along with and tend to be helpful to others.
  • Discuss your hobbies and education. These can help establish the skills you have already learned that you can bring to the work force.
  • What drives you as a worker? Are you driven by passion, the aspiration for success, or something else? Write down your main motivational factor before continuing with your plan.

Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC

Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC

Your personal strengths and interests can help you choose your ideal career. Career coach Adrian Klaphaak says: "Your strengths have built you to do certain things well and with ease. Your passions have programmed you to love some things and not others, and your personality has wired you to thrive in a specific type of work environment. You have a unique purpose that will bring meaning to your life and create a positive impact in the world."

Step 3 Establish where you are at the moment.

  • What is your current position in your field? Have you just finished your education? Are you beginning your educational path towards your goal career? Are you working an entry level position?
  • Write down exactly where you fall on the career ladder right now. For example, "Graduate student and teaching assistant in literature."

Step 4 Think about where you want to be in the future.

  • Leave aside any barriers here when you considered your dream career. If there was nothing holding you back, where would you ideally be in 5 years? 10 years? Do not worry about dreaming too big.
  • Write down your ultimate career goal. For example, you could write something like, "I would like to be a tenured literature professor at a four year university."

Breaking Your Goals Down into Smaller Steps

Step 1 Set SMART goals.

  • Write down a series of short and long term goals that will help you achieve your dreams. These goals should be relevant to your career at hand and obtainable. They should also be tangible goals so you can measure your progress along the way. Have a sense of when you want to achieve certain goals. For example, "Be a better teacher" is somewhat vague. To make it a SMART goal, think about what areas you want to improve in and write goals that cater to those areas.
  • You could narrow down the following goal more. For example, you could say something like, "I would like to improve the sense of support in my classroom by fostering more one-on-one time with the students." This is a measurable, specific goal that's relevant to your career. You can also set a time table for this goal. You can plan to foster more one-on-one time by spring semester.

Step 2 Write down concrete means to achieve your goals.

  • Returning to fostering more one-on-one time in the classroom, think about how this could be done. It's okay to consult other teachers and mentors here for advice. Maybe you could require three conference days where you talk to students one-on-one about their progress each year. You could also try to be more available electronically. Be more vigilant about returning student emails so students feel they can come to you with concerns.
  • From here, figure when you want to get this done by. These could be your goals for the coming semester. You could strive to improve the level of one-on-one support by the end of spring semester. The results, which should be measurable, could be your student evaluations. Write down something like, "I hope to see improved ratings in my student evaluations due to the increased classroom support."

Step 3 Identify any barriers to your goals.

  • These can be personal issues. For example, you may be a disorganized person by nature. Therefore, it may be hard to keep up with things like student email and grading. You could write down something like, "Being disorganized reduces the time I have available for my tasks". Or maybe you purposefully avoid doing certain tasks that you don't enjoy, which you could list as "My tendency towards procrastination may hold me back."
  • There may also be larger factors at play holding you back from your dreams. For example, academia is a competitive field with a limited number of jobs. You could write something like, "The job market for academic careers in the humanities is very competitive."

Step 4 Figure out means to defeat these barriers.

  • If you're a procrastinator by nature, what steps can you take to combat this? You can say something like, "I will limit my time on Facebook and Twitter." If you're disorganized, you could say "I will start using a calendar to track deadlines".
  • As for larger barriers, like a competitive job market, what can you do to set yourself apart? In academia, connections and active participation in the community can help set you apart. You could write something like, "I will maintain positive references with my contacts from graduate school" and "I will join a variety of academic organizations relevant to my field."

Evaluating Your Progress and Setting Deadlines

Step 1 Figure out how to measure career progress.

  • Know means of evaluating your success. For example, you could strive for improved ratings in student evaluations each semester.
  • You should also focus on participation in the community, maintaining contacts, and achieving certain awards, honors, and publications. How many publications you have, and any academic honors you receive, can be concrete measures of success. The time you've committed to an organization can also speak to success. For example, you could pledge at least a year to working on the student affairs committee in your graduate program.

Step 2 Order your career development on a timeline.

  • You can start at the beginning. Look at the goals you want to achieve by the end of this month or year. Write them down in order at the beginning of your timeline, including how you'll achieve these goals, any possible setback, and how you'll evaluate your success.
  • Then, move forward. What do you want to achieve in the next two years? The next five years? The next ten years? Keep adding on your goals in order, including setbacks, means to measure them, and means to achieve them.
  • For the example, your career path may start with activities in graduate school. These could include solid student teaching experience, obtaining awards and honors, and participating in graduate school organizations. As you move forward, you may want to gain an adjunct position, then move on to more permanent work. Eventually, your path should lead you to obtaining the role of a tenured professor of literature.

Step 3 Make note of milestones.

  • For an academic path, a milestone may be something like obtaining your master's degree, and then your doctorate. You also want to include things like accruing a particular honor or award, like gaining membership into an honors society.

Step 4 Keep the plan dynamic.

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About This Article

Adrian Klaphaak, CPCC

If you want to write a career development plan, start by writing down the field you want to work in and where you're currently at on the career ladder. Next, add the qualities you bring to your work, like being hard-working. Finally, show how you'll reach your dream job by writing down the goals you need to achieve to get there and concrete steps to achieve each goal. For example, you could say you want to improve the amount of 1-on-1 support you give by offering your students more office hours. For tips on how to evaluate your progress and how to create a timeline, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to Create a Career Development Plan

Illustration of a person walking up stairs.

Most employees will only stay at company long-term if they’re able to grow their careers. To do so, they’re eager and willing to learn new skills that can benefit them in their roles and contribute to your company. Consider:

  • 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn, CNBC reports.
  • 74% of workers are willing to re-train or learn new skills in order to remain employable, according to PwC’s “Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030” report.
  • 59% of Millennials say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when they’re applying for jobs, according to Gallup’s “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” report.

One way to attract top candidates and retain the ones you’ve hired is to offer employees a career development plan. Career development plans show your employees you’re invested in their long-term success, which could motivate them to work harder and stay with your company longer.

This guide explains what a career development plan is, how to create them for employees and how to include learning and development in career development plans.

What Is a Career Development Plan?

Think of a career development plan like a roadmap that details your workforce’s career journeys with your company. A career development plan is a written document that identifies:

  • Where an employee is now
  • Their long-term career goals with your company
  • The steps and roles they can take along the way to attain their goals

The career development plan can be as detailed as the supervisor and worker want it to be. Along the way to each milestone or achievement, there might be details like:

  • Specific accomplishments
  • Job assignments and projects to work on
  • Education or training to complete
  • Credentials or certifications to obtain
  • Developmental activities

A worker may also identify certain supervisors or trainers they want to work with to learn new skills from, or specific programs to take to expand their knowledge. They might also choose tasks to do and skills to learn that address any weaknesses they have. These can all be added to a career development plan.

Career development plans are beneficial to have because you can grow your talent from within, which can save you on hiring and recruiting costs. You’ll also gain a clearer view into the skills your workforce possesses, so you can hire based on gaps you need to fill in.

You can mention career development plans as early as during the recruiting and hiring phase. You might consider enlisting your human resources team to create a template for employee career development plans, so they’re equitable throughout the workforce.

An ideal manager for the career development plan is each worker’s supervisor, since they have direct contact with the worker. Also, managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement , according to Gallup research. Since managers see the day-to-day progression of those they manage, it makes sense to have them involved.

In the creation phase of a career development plan, the worker should understand the company goals and vision so they make sure what they want to achieve aligns with overall business goals.

The manager should ask the employee what they feel their strengths are, so those are the focus of the career development plan. Gallup reports strengths-based development results in a 9% to 15% increase in engaged employees . Throughout the career development plan creation process, the manager should ask the employee how they feel they can apply their strengths to each role.

Managers should ask employees what they want to learn in order to achieve their goals. You might offer corporate training programs and then plug employees into relevant ones that align with their learning objectives. Or, you could offer to cover part or all of tuition costs for online business programs . Ideally, education that’s completed may lead to increased responsibilities or role titles along the career development plan.

Write out a plan that details steps that include ways to measure success and deadlines to aspire to. The plan can span a year, a couple years and up to five years or more so the employee stays engaged and there are expected check-ins to monitor progress. Along the plan, identify potential mentors or trainers at work who can also work with the employee to develop their skills.

Make sure the manager establishes regular check-ins with the employee so together, they can consider career development plan progress, obstacles and achievements. Career development plans should be adaptable, so that the plan can change according to progress. Additionally, an employee may learn that their goals are evolving, so changes in the plan can accommodate those new goals.

Measure Career Development Plan Success

Before you begin a career development plan program, think about your goals as an organization. Do you want to increase employee engagement? Boost retention? Attract higher-quality talent?

Create ways to measure your career development plan program. Ask for input from managers and current and leaving employees about what they think of the program, so you can also evolve your strategy over time.

Career development plans that include access to training and development can strengthen your workforce. Wharton Online offers corporate training programs in subjects like leadership and strategic management for groups of at least 100 individuals. You can customize your learning platform based on your organization’s goals. Contact us for information.

The Wharton School is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU.

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What Is a Professional Development Plan, and How Do You Create Your Own?

If you're hoping to pursue a new career or advance in your current one, creating a professional development plan can be helpful. Use this guide to learn what a professional development plan is, its usefulness, and how to create one.

[Featured image] Woman at a workstation working on a professional development course

A professional development plan (PDP) is a document or visual aid that maps out your career goals. To help you attain your PDP goals , you'll specify what strategies you'll use, resources you might need, and target dates.

Why is it helpful to have a professional development plan?

Creating a PDP is the first step toward a commitment to following it. A professional development plan encourages you to think about what you want and helps you figure out how to get there. Having a PDP and regularly checking it helps keep you focused on your goals, which improves your chances of achieving them.

Questions to ask before creating a professional development plan

Before you begin developing a PDP, take some time to self-reflect to make sure you're on the right track. Ask yourself questions like these:

Where am I professionally right now?

Where do I want to be?

What skills and experience do I possess?

What skills and experience do I want or need?

What resources can I use to achieve my goals?

What is a realistic timeline for achievement?

How much time am I willing to commit to my goals?

Where can I turn for advice and support?

Steps for creating your professional development plan

Going through a few steps when creating a PDP can help guide your thinking and ensure accuracy. Everyone is different, so while this plan includes three steps, yours may consist of more.

Step one: Think about the goals you want to achieve and list them on paper.

Make them SMART goals, which means they should follow these guidelines:

S pecific instead of broad

M eaningful so that your goals align with your core values

A chievable and realistic

R elevant to your particular career plan

T ime-bound, so you have a timeframe and deadline to complete your goals

Step two: Write down your strengths and weaknesses.

Honest self-assessment is critical when creating a PDP. Some examples of strengths and weaknesses might include the following:

Strengths : good leadership skills, knowledge of accounting, creativity

Weaknesses : self-critical, fear of public speaking, procrastination

Step three: Create your professional development plan.

Make it legible and large enough to read it. Post your plan on a bulletin board, refrigerator, or cupboard, and refer to it regularly.

Professional development plan sample

Consider using a chart or table format when designing your professional development plan. Here is a sample of a professional development plan for someone who has decided to start a business. The main goal of preparing to start a business is breaking the plan down into smaller, more achievable goals.

Overall goal and mission statement: I want to start my own business . I need to develop a good skill set and be mentally and emotionally prepared to accomplish my overall goal. 

The importance of visual goal-setting

Posting your professional development plan where you can see it regularly might help ensure success in goal achievement. For extra fun, consider supplementing your PDP with a vision board, which is a poster board covered with images representing your vision for your career. According to a study conducted in 2016, vision boards can help people flesh out, define, and focus on personal and professional goals [ 1 ].

Additional tips for setting and achieving goals

For additional help with goal setting and achievement, take advantage of a few extra tips:

Make yourself more accountable for your goals by sharing them with one or two people you're close to.

Avoid becoming overwhelmed by focusing on one goal at a time.

When discouraged, remind yourself why you set these goals in the first place. 

When you achieve a goal, practice positive reinforcement by rewarding yourself. If you need reward ideas, consider treating yourself to a massage, a new hairstyle, or dinner on the town.

A few final points to remember

Once you've created a professional development plan, it's important to remember a few key points:

Your plan is flexible. Just because you've created a visual plan doesn't mean you can’t change it. If unexpected opportunities or challenges pop up, you can always adjust your timelines, return to the drawing board, and start again with a new PDP.

Your plan is for you. Even though others may occasionally influence your decisions, put yourself first when designing your PDP—not your partner, boss, coworkers, friends, or parents.

If you're looking for a valuable specialization to add to your professional development plan, consider enrolling in the Adapting: Career Development Specialization offered by Macquarie University on Coursera. This specialization includes a series of courses: Improve Yourself Always, Build Personal Resilience, Your Career Your Life, and Become a Global Citizen. With a two-month projected completion period, these courses enhance personal and professional skills, and you will earn a shareable certificate.

Article sources

Burton, Lisa M. and Lent, Jonathan. " The Use of Vision Boards as a Therapeutic Intervention ,.https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/The-Use-of-Vision-Boards-as-a-Therapeutic-Burton-Lent/b3cdb31fd8d694e0bd6f5a73416290f7ed2681dc.” Accessed October 25, 2023.

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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Career development plans: How to create one and more

Here’s how having a goal-oriented road map helps build a path to success.

How to write a career development plan.

You wouldn’t set off on a road trip without checking a map, so why would you approach your job each day without a clear sense of purpose and direction? Career development plans are all about the big picture. They provide the answer to the most common interview question of all time: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

But having a career development plan is about more than just taking a long-term view. Knowing where you want to end up in the future helps to focus your efforts in the present. Whether it’s your ambition to be promoted within your organization or to start your own enterprise, a solid career development plan helps you make informed decisions about your professional path and to understand where it might lead.

When you’re ready to take your next steps in business, it pays to think about the benefits of having flexible office space designed around your needs. WeWork provides beautifully designed workplace solutions built with flexibility in mind, offering inspirational workspace environments in locations around the world that encourage creativity and foster innovation.

For even more flexibility, WeWork All Access and WeWork On Demand let you and your teams access workspaces and meeting rooms in hundreds of sites across multiple cities, allowing teams to do their best work wherever they are.

What is a career development plan?

A career development plan is a document outlining the goals an employee hopes to achieve in their current role and beyond. It can be created solely by the employee, or with guidance and direction from a manager, and it sets out a road map to help guide them through the next stages of their professional journey.

Why create a career development plan?

You don’t have to be an employee of an organization to benefit from one. As with so many other aspects of life—whether you’re building a new business from scratch, managing your personal finances, or trying to live more healthily—simply having a vision for the future and an idea of how to get there is often the first step toward realizing those goals.

In business, a career development plan can motivate employees toward their next professional milestone. A career development plan sets out a series of achievable short-term objectives, leading to one or more long-term goals, and describes the experience, training, and actions needed to hit those targets and ultimately progress within the organization.

Benefits of having a career development plan

Career development plans have been shown to have a positive impact on employee motivation and professional outcomes. Those who use them tend to report greater success in their field, and a better relationship with their respective mentors.

There are benefits to having a well-mapped out career path, even if you don’t end up following it to the letter. Some of the stated benefits of having a career development plan include:

  • A sense of purpose and direction
  • Improved focus and motivation
  • Increased job satisfaction and commitment to tasks
  • Better visibility within the wider organization
  • More opportunities for career progression

How to write a career development plan step-by-step

The process of creating a career development plan will vary depending on the kind of work you do, as well as your individual circumstances, your goals, and your personal experiences. However, there are some basic steps you can take to help ensure your career plan is as effective as possible.

1. Define your goals

The first step in creating a career development plan is to define your goals . Use the SMART rules to make these clear and unambiguous. Your objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. 

“Take on more managerial responsibilities” is too vague an aspiration to be useful in a career development plan. “Earn a promotion to senior department manager within two years” is a solid target to aim for.

2. Identify your skills

Once you’ve defined your goals, the next step is to outline the exact steps and skills needed to achieve them. This part of the process is all about preparation and planning, and requires an understanding of the hurdles you might face as you make progress toward your objectives.

For example, if your goal is to be promoted to senior department manager, you might need to complete a leadership and management training course first. If you’re aiming to launch your own business, you might need to raise a specific amount of cash.

3. Build a timeline

Once you’ve fleshed out the interim steps needed to reach your long-term goals, it’s time to fit your career development plan into a timeline. Without one, it’s too easy to become sidetracked by smaller challenges and lose sight of the finish line .

Start with any fixed deadlines and work around those. For instance, if your company offers promotions only every three years, your career development plan will naturally progress toward that point in time. Work backward from that point, and be realistic about what you can achieve in the timeframe you have.

4. Track your progress

Review your career development plan often and use it as a benchmark to track the progress you’ve made over months and years. 

Remember that your plan isn’t set in stone : Circumstances can change, priorities can shift, and goals can evolve, so it’s important to keep your plan up to date. A career development plan should be rigid enough to be useful, but flexible enough to adapt to new situations.

Career development plans for employees

Lots of companies already have basic career development plans in place for new hires, so if you’re an employee, your manager may be able to share one with you. If not, nothing is stopping you from creating your own career development plan and working toward specific objectives within the organization.

If you decide to create your own career development plan, start by seeking feedback and guidance from your employer. Find out what opportunities are available to you and what kind of training, mentorship, and development would be most beneficial for your career.

Related articles

writing career development plan

Career development plans for employers: The role of HR

If you’re an employer, you have a responsibility to help your employees develop their talents and advance in their careers. After all, it’s in your interest to have a workforce that’s motivated, loyal , skilled, and engaged.

Your HR department can create a template career development plan for new employees, who can then personalize and add to the plan once they’ve found their feet within the company. By working together, you can make certain that your workforce is equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to move forward in their careers while ensuring that your business meets its long-term goals.

Steve Hogarty is a writer and journalist based in London. He is the travel editor of City AM newspaper and the deputy editor of City AM Magazine , where his work focuses on technology, travel, and entertainment.

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How to Write a Career Development Plan

writing career development plan

What is a career development plan?

A career development plan, or career progression plan, is your own personal roadmap to defining, strategizing, and achieving your career goals within a particular timeframe.

It sounds simple right? That's because it is!

Career planning and development can seem incredibly overwhelming, with many people assuming plans needs to be detailed, in-depth, and take weeks or even months to finalize.

We’re not saying that the goals you want to achieve in your career should be assumed within one hour of sitting down and writing your career development plan. In fact, we’d advise against this.

Your career goals should be things you’ve really thought about; where you want to be in 5- or 10-years’ time isn’t something you should rush.

However, once you’ve had a chance to think and define these goals, writing a development plan is very simple. And the best bit? It’s personal and can change with you as you progress.

Why is a career development plan important?

The main purpose of completing a career development plan is to provide you with a roadmap for your future career, which will allow you to make well-informed decisions to achieve what you want to achieve. But there are other benefits to writing a career development plan.

Boosting your self-awareness

To write a successful career development plan, you need to first assess where you are today, your strengths, where you can grow, and what it is you want to achieve in the future of your career.


As a ‘career development plan’ suggests, you’ll be developing yourself; not just in the long term, but gradually as you try to achieve the goals you have set yourself.

Commitment and contentment

We’re not saying you need to stay within one career forever. Career change and support is always available. But with a career development plan, you’ll not only be more incentivised to stick to your set career path, but by progressing and achieving goals as you go, you’re far more likely to find career contentment along the way.

Increased employee engagement and performance

A written plan can also increase employee engagement rates, motivation, and as a result, performance. Why? Having something in place to follow andhelp you meet targets, objectives, and goals is a straightforward way to keep you focused and positive.

How to write a career development plan

As we mentioned previously, writing a career development plan is a simple process if you follow a guide. We’ve put together seven steps to writing a successful career development plan.


Set your goals

Identify the obstacles or barriers you may face

Strategize how you are going to achieve these goals – an action plan

Identify what resources might be useful to achieving your goals

Set a clear timeline

Review regularly

Let’s take a deeper dive into these steps…

Writing your employee development plan should always start with self-assessment. This step is often overlooked when planning your career; but it’s key to understanding what direction and progression is best for you.

Self-assessment is incredibly important in evaluating where you are in your career, identifying your talents, recognizing areas of growth and skills that you may be missing, and ultimately understanding how this affects your career path and what career plan is going to work best for you.

If you’re just starting out in your career, self-assessment is also important in finding what field best suits you as a person.

Becoming self-aware is going to help you, not just in career planning, but throughout your whole work life.

The next step is outlining where you want to end up. This starts with setting your goals , both long-term and short-term.

You’ll probably be in a position to identify your long-term career goal first; where would you like to be in ten years’ time for example?

Creating shorter-term goals will then act as steppingstones to achieving your long-term career goal.

Identify obstacles or barriers that you may face

While identifying goals is a large part of drawing up a career development plan, identifying potential obstacles that may get in the way is equally important.

Planning for the challenges you may face within your career is going to help you overcome them when they come about.

For example, with the inevitability of technology becoming increasingly more present in workplaces, future changes in the industry are equally inevitable. So, understanding that you may need to upskill yourself to continue your career path is an obstacle you might want to factor into your career development plan.

Let’s get your action plan in place.

Here, we want to identify how we are going to get achieve your ideal career development and develop strategies to achieve both short- and long-term goals.

For example, let’s say you have an overall career goal of become a leader within an organization. Your first shorter-term goal may be to move into a managerial position; how do you intend to do so? What experience do you need, and how are you going to achieve this experience? This might even manifest into even smaller short-term goals to make up your strategy.

Depending on you as a person, these strategies can be as brief or in-depth as you like, but following a strategy to achieve your goals is another accountable motivator.

Resources that might be useful

Your next step may be identifying the resources that are both available to you and that would be useful in achieving your career development plan. For example, access to training courses or personalised and professional coaching .

Set a timeline

Setting a timeline is essentially a way to keep on top of your development, strive towards achieving your goals, understand where you are vs. where you want to be, and track how close you are to achieving your goals. It allows you to keep on top of your progress.

This timeline should be loose, however. It is key that you set timelines not deadlines, as much of the process will be outside of your control.

Don’t expect to stick to a rigid timeline throughout your career. Who knows what challenges you may face, or how quickly you might make it through the stages of your career development. Let your timeline flex with you.

Keep checking your career development plan. Update it as your progress throughout your career and allow it to motivate you but not dishearten you.

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Writing A Professional Development Plan – Example & Template

What is a professional development plan.

A Professional Development Plan (PDP), also known as an Employee Development Plan or an Individual Development Plan, is used to document career goals and set out a strategy on how to meet them.

Creating a PDP takes time and planning. But, writing and implementing a PDP can help you to identify and develop the professional skills needed to reach your goals, and can keep you on the track to success. It’s an important process that helps you achieve your potential, reach your goals and take charge of your professional development.

Now is the time to start thinking about where you want your future to take you.

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It’s Important to Take your Career into Your Own Hands

Your professional development is your responsibility. While your employer might require or encourage you to create a PDP as part of your performance review process, the chances are this will involve you steering clear of any goals that see you leaving your current company.

Writing your own, private PDP can help you plan to meet your long-term career goals, and will assist in identifying the skills and actions you need to reach them.

Your dreams will only ever be dreams if you do nothing about them. Writing a PDP is taking the first step to making those dreams come true.

How to Write a Professional Development Plan

There are 9 steps to completing a PDP:

  • Assess where you are now.
  • Identify your specific career goals.
  • Gather information.
  • Identify what professional skills you already have and which you need to work on.
  • Choose how you will accomplish your goals.
  • Develop a timeline for accomplishing your specific targets and goals.
  • Write it all down.
  • Evaluate your plan.
  • Measure your progress.

Example Development Plan Example & Template

1.    Assess where you are now.

How is your career currently progressing? Assessing your current career situation is a good place to start. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What have you been doing over the past year, 3 years or 5 years to help your professional development?
  • Are you where you thought you’d be at this stage in your career?

If the answers are ‘nothing’ and ‘no’, a PDP is a great place to start to begin turning that around. Even if those were not your answers, this step will give you the chance to assess the effectiveness of the strategies and actions you have been taking in the past.

Take this opportunity to reflect on your actions, and be honest with yourself. Identify, and write down, any actions that have specifically helped, or hindered, your professional development.

2.    Identify your specific career goals.

Where do you want to be? Answering this question can take a lot of time. It is a good idea to carve out a block of about thirty minutes; sit calmly and don’t rush.

Writing down your goals

To help you get started with identifying your career goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What does success mean to you? Is it financial success, a promotion to a managerial position or starting your own business? The definition of ‘success’ varies from person to person. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’, so you need to understand what your motivations are to answer this question.
  • What activities do you love the most? Are these activities a part of your current job? If not, can you change this?
  • Are you experiencing a version of this success in your current job?
  • Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? Ten years? This is a good time to identify your long-term goals.

Defining your long and short-term goals can be scary. It can take a long time and a lot of thought, and you might start to get overwhelmed by the enormity of all the decisions, but that’s alright. Remember it’s okay to think big (like ‘dream job’ big) because with a proper PDP anything should be possible.

Just make sure that your goals are ‘SMART’ :

  • Measurable.
  • Achievable.

3.    Gather information.

What professional skills are needed to get where you want to go? After you have identified your long and short-term goals, researching what you need to achieve them is the next step. Which skills under your belt will impress at interviews and make you an ideal candidate?

Take this time to break your long-term goals down into more manageable steps. For example, if your long-term goal is to become an Area Manager, identify what the individual steps required to reach that position might be. These could be progressing to a supervisor position, being promoted to Team Manager and then Area Manager. Each one of these positions will have different job and skill requirements, and breaking them down into individual steps will allow you to create a better plan for the future.

Meeting with your line manager is a good place to start, as they might help you identify other areas you need to work on and offer suggestions about upcoming training opportunities provided by the company. Researching the criteria for the job you envision yourself having, and looking into new workshops that target the key skills needed in your profession, can also be helpful.

This step is important because it helps you identify the professional skills and abilities you need to help you reach your goals, enabling you to plan new learning and development opportunities that are relevant to your professional development.

4.    Evaluate your professional skills.

Now that you have identified what professional skills are desirable for your ideal career path, take a moment to tick off ones you’re already proficient in.

Knowing your current strengths is important, so you can clearly distinguish what you are lacking that might be holding you back.

5.    Decide on a strategy.

Now that you have identified the areas you need to work on, it is time to decide how you will remedy this. To be effective, your professional development should be;

  • Job embedded.
  • Continuous and ongoing.

Perhaps you could sign up to skills workshops and seminars that your company is offering, get involved in formal CPD training (such as the business courses offered by High Speed Training), or keep up to date with new technology relating to your field.

There are many strategic ways to develop the skills you need to accomplish your goals; take it in small chunks, relate all learning experiences to the skills identified by your PDP and remember this is a process of continual development – not a one-time thing.

worker office

6.    Develop a timeline.

It is important to decide when you want to achieve your goals and laying out a time-frame is an important factor in making sure that you stick to your PDP. Knowing you have given yourself a deadline means you are more likely to achieve your plans.

Plan your targets on a yearly basis, make sure to give each target more time than you envision it taking because things rarely go to plan, and schedule your targets around opportunities you’d like to achieve.

By planning and scheduling your professional development, you’ll be the ideal candidate by the time that promotion you want rolls around.

7.    Write it all down.

Keep detailed notes of your Professional Development Plan that you can update and alter as you go along. Writing it all down will help you remember your overall goal and all the steps you have laid out for yourself.

A PDP is not something to be written and forgotten. It is a career-long tool that you should refer to regularly.

Writing it down will also be handy for when you are ready to apply for that new position or promotion. You will have a detailed list of all the professional skills you have been working on, and examples of just how you have gone about facilitating your own professional development.

8.    Evaluate your plan.

Before you commit to your PDP, look over it. Check again that all the goals and steps are:

Even though you should dream big, setting unreasonable goals and targets will make the experience of following a PDP stressful and disheartening. It’s important to evaluate your plan to make sure you can meet your targets – be it task or time-frame – and that your goals are realistic and achievable.

9.    Measure your progress.

Are you meeting your targets? Assessing your progress regularly is important. Even though you know your professional development is important (you’ve made a plan for it, after all) professional education can quickly fall in priority.

Measuring your progress will help you know if you are hitting your ‘check lists’, meeting your targets and are on track for reaching your goals. You may need to set more manageable steps, or make new targets, or even set new goals.

Remember that plans change and, as you go through your career, your goals will progress with you. Learning is a lifelong process, and it’s important to continue your professional development to ensure career success.

What to Read Next:

  • A Personal Development Plan Guide & Template
  • One Week Time Management Plan
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How to write a Career Development Plan

by Umesh Khandke

Banner Careers

Career development is essential within any company.

As well as providing motivation for employees, nurturing talent and recruiting from within is an extremely cost-effective way of filling highly skilled positions. Without a detailed career development plan, however, it’s almost impossible to successfully advance employees.

Why you need to a career development plan

The highly skilled positions in any company are the costliest in all respects. As well as demanding a higher salary, there are fewer candidates with the right skills to fill these positions making sourcing and recruiting them much harder. Because of their demand, they also have higher expectations of the work experience, such as rewards and compensation. Not only does this make their ongoing employment more expensive, it also makes them even more at risk of leaving within the first year for another competitor.

Nurturing existing talent early on the career track to fill these positions is much more cost-effective all round, saving money on sourcing, recruiting and potential bad hires. This is also a good way of nurturing extremely loyal employees which act as better ambassadors for the company and are generally more productive. Additionally, we all tend to work better with clearly defined goals and aims. Directionless employees are not only less productive but are probably not as satisfied with their career either.

carrer development plan

Of course, to successfully nurture top talent and create succession paths there needs to be a clearly defined career development plan. It provides a clear view to both employees and managers of their current roles and skills along with the future roles and skills needed. It also provides a timeline by defining when each of these short-term and long-term goals should be achieved so that progress can be tracked and adjustments can be made accordingly.

Writing a career development plan

Managers and employees should work closely to plan and write the career development plan.

Managers should use experience from their own career development to make sure that goals and activities are realistic and achievable, and to help the employee identify the best way to achieve them. They should also be ready to offer mentorship and allocate resources to help employees progress.

Identify and define a primary career interest

This is usually a general vocation such as within a particular department or sector in a certain industry. For example, the employee may want to work in marketing within the retail fashion industry.

Identify long-term professional goals

This is usually the position and things the employee wants to achieve within the company as well as how they might get there including any lateral moves or promotions.

For example, they may want to become a regional marketing manager. The best career path to achieve this might then be to move from digital marketing assistant to marketing executive and then finally regional marketing manager.

career plan goals

Identify the short-term goals

These should be the more immediate goals that contribute to long-term interests. Typically, this will include the skills and experience you might need to get , and the challenges that must be overcome to meet these goals.

With the employee, identify both personal and external barriers that might stop them meeting short-term goals and then come up with ways to overcome them. For example, the time constraints that their current responsibilities may have on the time needed to train and get the new skills for their long-term goals. The solution to this could be to find more efficient ways to work or delegate current responsibilities to make more time for training.

Identify the activities for each goal

List 2 – 3 activities that will help them achieve each goal including how they will accomplish the activity, any resources they might need to accomplish it and the time frame each goal will be accomplished in.

Common development activities might include identifying and cultivating a relationship with a mentor or role model, completing qualifications or training materials, reading other relevant material, receiving coaching from co-worker and so on.

As a manager, there are resources you could also provide or help employees to access to help them reach their goals. This could be an online portal with learning materials , funding and access to other colleagues in the company who could provide them additional support, expertise or experience.

activities goals

Identify positive tasks in the current role

Define the tasks the employee’s current role that are contributing to long term goals and should be emphasised or performed more frequently. For example, they may already be spending a lot of time with a co-worker who could provide valuable mentorship.

Identify the negative tasks in the current role

Similarly, define the tasks in the current role that are not contributing to or are inhibiting the employee from achieving their long-term goals and suggest ways to minimise, remove or delegate them. For example, they may currently have a lot of customer focused tasks that is taking time from their training for what is to be a mostly non-customer role. These tasks could be re-distributed to another employee who is looking a customer-focused role as their long-term professional goal.

Identify additional skills and experience

Write down any other additional skills, knowledge or experience that the employee might like to acquire that may directly or indirectly help in their current job or future positions.

Identify progress checkpoints

Finally, set out a time line and define when and how the progress on all activities and goals will be evaluated. Decide when each activity and goal will be accomplished to help define when each checkpoint should occur and decide on how each of these checkpoints will be carried out. For example, by phone, meetings or memos as well which developmental activities will be discussed at these times.

Don’t forget to make sure you’re providing the right king of progress evaluation. For example, if you plan to have smaller checkpoints of individual activities then memos or brief phone calls will be adequate, but if you set a checkpoint for the deadline of a short-term goal then this might be better in a more in-depth meeting format.

progressive checkpoints

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