5 Steps to a Solid Professional Development Plan

26 Nov

5 Steps to a Solid Professional Development Plan

A professional development plan (PDP) is a reference roadmap to your career goals. It gives you the clarity you need on the actions to take to move forward. Legacy jobs that you can do for the rest of your life are almost non-existent in this era, not to mention work is getting harder and more demanding. If you’d like a fulfilling, rewarding career for yourself, then you need to take the reins of your development into your own hands.

Here, Bangs Media shows you how to create a fool-proof professional development plan in 5 steps and offers some bonus career advice at the end:

1. Get to know yourself and your aspirations

Before you make plans, you need to get clear about what you want. What does a successful career mean to you? What do you find fulfilling? If you already have a career, is there a specific direction you’d like to move toward or a position you desire?

Evaluate your professional interests, your personal interests, your skills, and your experiences, and then try to find a direction that aligns with everything. You may not have all the answers – and that’s okay. You should consider taking online personality and career assessment tests – many are free – to determine the direction you want to take. For those with existing careers, researching your industry and the job market and talking to industry experts can help you identify your next step.

2. Set goals

Once you have a direction nailed down, identify where you stand currently in terms of knowledge, skill set, and experience. This will enable you to determine what you need to do to bridge the gap. Self-reflection and honesty are crucial – be brutally honest with yourself at this stage, as hard as it might be. You can only improve if you acknowledge you need to improve. Try to make it about the journey, not the destination.

Experts recommend you set practical, concrete goals at this stage. “SMART” short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals are best. PeopleGoal gives concrete examples of professional development goals to aim for – like taking a course, getting involved in an internal project, or asking your manager for feedback.  

3. Reach your goals 

Now comes the hardest part – practically reaching your goals. Typically, you need experience, education, and skills to advance. Gather your resources and invest them in gaining more experience, furthering your education, and practicing your skills. To gain experience, you could ask for more responsibilities, volunteer for projects, and shadow experts. If you need more education, then you could attend seminars and workshops or take professional courses. If you need skills, then you could practice more and get mentored, among other things. 

4. Track your progress

Life – and achieving your goals – rarely goes to plan. Tracking your career progress allows you to see where you’re meeting your targets and where you’re falling short. Furthermore, you can see which of your goals are realistic, which of them are going to take longer to reach than you expected to reach, and which of your strategies need a tune-up.

5. Rinse and repeat

Professional development planning is not linear but a cyclical process. It reflects the reality that your goals are dynamic, not set in stone, as is your career progression. Once you’ve tracked your progress, you should reassess your position, make adjustments, make new plans, and attempt to achieve your targets again. The average person changes careers 5-7 times during their working life, reports Career Advice Online. It’s the norm to have massive career changes in your life. PDP is, arguably, best used as a short-term tool (say a few years at a time) than a long-term one. 

Start your own business with a business plan

At some point in your life, you may find yourself hankering to start your own business. It’s a good ambition to have and not as hard as you might think. If you plan things carefully, you could be enormously successful. To get started, you need a solid business idea, some funding, and a well-written business plan.

A business plan is the equivalent of a professional development plan – it helps you plan out your business properly. The document describes your company, your services or products, the business structure, your funding, market conditions, financial projections, and other critical details.

Go back to school for a business degree

Business skills and knowledge can help you find more success with your business (as well as your career). You can go back to school to earn a business bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like business, communications, management, or accounting. You’ll pick up skills that will help you ably manage your business and help it to thrive. Online degree programs make it easy for you to run your company while going back to school at the same time.


If you find yourself lost or hitting a wall in your career, professional development planning (PDP) can arm you with the knowledge you need to move forward or overcome any challenges in your way. You don’t have to plan alone – your organization will likely help you plan your development and even fund some of your educational goals, whether that’s attending a professional course or going back to school for a business degree.

-Sharon Redd, Writer


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