A professional development plan, when written well, is like creating a custom recipe for your favourite dish. It contains a list of all the ingredients, utensils, and instructions needed to make this dish. Like a recipe, a professional development plan shows you how to use your ingredients (your skills and talents) to get what you want (your long term career goals). There are several ways to write a professional development plan, but here are a few critical parts that should be included:

  1. Long term career goals
  2. Role models
  3. Personality type: Strengths & weaknesses
  4. Career path
  5. Level up plan / short term goals

Long Term Career Goals

Think of your long term career goal like the finished product of the recipe. This represents your ultimate career goal.  Think carefully about your dream career and what you see yourself doing long term. What is your end goal in your chosen career path? You can have more than one long term career goal. List them out as a first step.

Role Models

In creating a recipe, sometimes we might want to imitate or incorporate some elements of another recipe we’ve come across. Your career role models ideally should be people that have done something or embody a quality that you admire. Who are your career role models? What qualities do you admire about them? What have they done that inspires you? It’s great to have role models in your specific field, but don’t limit yourself. For example, my role models are Tobi Lütke, Ben Carson, and Chimamanda Adichie.

Personality Type: Strengths and Weaknesses

Your personality type gives you more insight on what your strengths and weaknesses are. There are several free tests available online to determine this, like Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Enneagram Personality Test, (paid versions give a more detailed report). Having a good understanding of your personality type, strengths, and weaknesses informs you of some of the ingredients and utensils you have in hand. What are your strengths? Have you seen these strengths come to play in your daily life and in your career so far? What are your weaknesses? Outline them. Would you like to improve in these areas? In your professional development plan, you can choose to amplify your strengths and avoid your weaknesses or even improve in areas of weakness.

Career Path

In this section, list out your career path from where you are currently to where you want to be in the long run. Think of all the roles you want to occupy as you move forward in your career. For example, a software developer’s career path might look like the following:

Junior developer -> Senior Developer -> Technical Lead -> Director of department -> VP of engineering -> Founder/CEO of tech firm

Bear in mind that this might look a bit different for self-employed individuals. Your career path might be in the form of the different stages of your business as it grows. For example:

Start a business in your city -> Introduce new product -> Expand to two locations -> Expand product range -> Expand to 5 countries -> Own a chain of businesses

If you have regular assessments (quarterly, bi-annually, annually) at your workplace, keep track of the feedback you receive at every stage. If you are self-employed, ask for feedback regularly from your clients and write it down.

Level Up Plan

Your level up plan is made up of a combination of your short-term career goals, feedback and your willingness to play on your strengths or improve your weaknesses (or both). Break down your long term goals into short term goals; divide your year into quarters and assign these short term goals to each quarter. For each goal you set, define and measure KPIs.

For example, if your goal is to learn a new programming language, a good KPI would be to develop a new program using the language or contribute to an open source software by a set date. An important part of setting short term goals is to keep them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound.

Just like that, you’ve created your first recipe! The beautiful thing about a professional development plan is that it makes you more intentional about your career – you now know exactly what you want and you’ll be more focused to work towards it: Write the vision and make it plain. For the ease of following this guide, I created a simple (and I really mean simple) Word template that you can customize. Click here to download the template. Feel free to contact me if you need help in completing this exercise and remember to share this with people if you’ve found this useful.


Author Ebun

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