Do You Need a Professional Development Plan?

by Stephanie Haywood of

A professional development plan (PDP) is a document that clarifies your career goals and the strategies you plan to use to achieve them. It’s a good way to take stock of your present situation, skills, and expertise, as well as your aspirations. This is a document that should be revisited frequently and revised as needed. Having a specific plan for how you hope to reach your goals makes it more likely you will succeed.

What does a PDP contain?

In a general way, a PDP documents the experience, knowledge, skills, and interests that you currently have as a starting point. This is an excellent point at which to create or revise your resume. The PDP also lists your goals, which should be achievable and measurable, and places these in order of priority. Each goal should be broken down into smaller components that will be achieved. A third section of the PDP enumerates strategies that will be used to achieve the goals, such as taking classes, getting certifications, accumulating experience, and making contacts.

One section of the plan should contain a list of resources you can use to work toward your goals, and a final section estimates timelines you hope to follow as you work toward your goals. You will come back to the PDP regularly to monitor your progress taking the steps to achieve your goals. Since few of us get anything perfectly right on the first attempt, your plan may need to be changed and adjusted as you move forward.

Create a strong resume

Creating a resume should be part of your PDP. As you list your experience, knowledge, skills, and references, it will help you to clarify the areas in which you hope to move forward. This will be quite helpful if your goals include seeking a new position. The resume will represent you to potential employers. Resume templates are available to guide you in creating a professional-looking document. Many of these can be tweaked to reflect your personal taste, experience, and goals. For example, this resume builder online is free and offers many choices for customization. Once you’ve created such a document, amending it as you achieve your goals will be easy.

Starting your own business

One of your goals may be starting your own business. Although this won’t happen overnight, it is certainly possible. You’ll need to break the process down into steps and break these down into smaller steps. One important decision will be determining how your business will be structured. Many entrepreneurs choose to go with a limited liability corporation (LLC), which has some tax advantages, as well as more flexibility, less paperwork, and of course, protection for your assets. Laws and regulations for LLCs vary by state, so it’s important to check these for your location. You can file the necessary paperwork yourself or even hire an attorney, but a third option is possible–using a formation service. A formation service is less expensive than an attorney and will generally be up to date on current regulations as this is their primary focus.

A professional development plan can be like a roadmap to help you set and plan the best routes to achieving your goals and guide you in the process of getting there. You’ll be able to measure and document your progress with the PDP. As time goes by and you achieve some goals, you’ll want to add others and make sure that your actions are leading to the results you want. Creating a strong resume is part of this process, and it will be a great asset as you apply for new positions. If your primary focus is on eventually starting your own business, the PDP will be a great tool for helping you detail the steps needed as you make progress toward achieving this or any goal.

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