7 Steps to Creating a Professional Development Plan

professional development plan, professional development plan example
Learning Strategies

7 Steps to Creating a Professional Development Plan

A professional development plan (PDP) is a roadmap that guides your career towards your desired goals. It helps you set specific, actionable goals, develop strategies, and identify the resources you need for your professional growth.

Creating a professional development plan provides structure to your career progression, helps you stay focused on your goals, and allows for regular review and updates. This article outlines the steps to create a professional development plan, including self-assessment, goal setting, identifying strategies, and tracking progress.

Professional Development Plan

A professional development plan (PDP) guides your career towards your desired goals. It provides insights into achieving job ambitions, such as obtaining a new certification or finding a mentor.

A professional development plan is crucial during job searches, as it helps you navigate the search and interview process. Various PDP formats exist, such as a simple document or a structured table. A PDP should be a constant reference and should be revised as you reach significant milestones. It helps you establish new objectives contribute to your personal and professional growth.

Why You Should Create a Professional Development Plan?

Creating a professional development plan (PDP) is beneficial for several reasons:

  • Structured Career Progression: A PDP provides a structured approach to your career progression, helping to maintain focus and direction. With a plan, it is simple to become distracted by various options and find yourself in a satisfactory situation.
  • Goal Setting and Tracking: A PDP allows you to set specific, actionable goals for your career. It provides a reference for your goals and helps you identify opportunities that can aid your career development. This can be particularly useful when you need clarification on what steps to take towards achieving your career goals.
  • Actionable Strategies: A PDP includes actionable strategies for achieving your goals. This could involve attending conferences, finding a mentor, or signing up for workshops. A clear action plan makes it easier to take proactive steps towards your career development.
  • Regular Review and Update: A PDP is not a one-time project but an ever-changing document you update as your goals, surroundings, and priorities change. Regularly reviewing and updating your plan ensures that it remains relevant and practical.
  • Focused Goal Setting: A PDP 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 

How to Create a Professional Development Plan

The steps to creating a professional development plan are : 

#1. Self-assessment

Self-assessment is a process that evaluates one’s professional interests, knowledge, and skills in relation to their professional goals. It helps identify areas for improvement and helps in achieving these goals. Transferable skills, such as strong communication, teamwork, and leadership, are marketable and sought after by businesses. Identifying your comfort level with various software apps and computer programs can also help you achieve these goals. The increasing use of computer programs in the workplace makes it crucial for workers to possess relevant technological competencies, making self-assessment a valuable tool for achieving professional goals.

#2. Assess your skill set

Now that you’ve done that, think about the skills you’re already competent in as well as the ones you’ll need to improve in the future in order to achieve your objectives. Read job listings for roles that are comparable to the one you are currently holding, as well as positions that you would like to hold in the future. This will help you evaluate the breadth and depth of your skill set.

#3. Set your goals

SMART objectives, or Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely, are essential for setting professional growth goals. These goals are trackable and make it easier to update your development plan (PDP) when you achieve significant milestones. To accomplish these objectives, organise them into smaller tasks and prioritise them in order of importance. Classify goals as short-term, intermediate-term, or long-term to establish specific actions for each goal. Short-term objectives include next year, mid-term objectives are the next one to two years, and long-term objectives are the next three to five years. This helps in tracking progress and ensuring a clear and achievable plan for professional growth.

#4. List the strategies you need to achieve your goals 

To achieve career goals, it is essential to have clear targets and plan specific stages to achieve them. These steps should be as clear as possible and incorporated into your plan. For example, if you want to read one book from a prominent business leader every month, you can include this step in your plan. Assess your progress towards your goals at the end of each month by assessing whether you completed the book you set out to read. If you are successful, you are on the right track. If you don’t gain helpful experience or skills at every stage, you should remove it. Your short-term and long-term professional development plans should align with your career goals and work together.

#5. Identify the resources you need

Professional resources are places where you can find professional growth, offering workshops and networking opportunities. These resources can enhance your career path by providing certifications or degrees in specific fields. Continuing education institutions offer programs, conferences, and courses that can lead to certifications or degrees.

Professional associations offer memberships, allowing you to connect with like-minded individuals and build your professional network. Webinars are internet-based presentations on specific topics, such as evaluating industry trends or teaching skills. It’s essential to be clear when developing resources in your professional development plan (PDP) as they may have tuition, fees, or time requirements. By understanding these resources, you can increase your opportunities to advance in your career.

#6. Set timelines and stay focused

Your professional development plan should be a continuous process, evolving as you progress. It’s beneficial to update it when reaching milestones, adjusting strategies, or setting new goals. Avoid distractions, as they can negatively impact focus and knowledge retention. Studies show that people who are constantly distracted by instant messages perform worse. Moreover, becoming distracted can lead to a bad habit, making it essential to disconnect from technology and focus on the task. Don’t waste learning opportunities, as they will be beneficial in the future.

#7. Track and evaluate your progress

Developing professionally and working towards the goals you have set for yourself is a challenging task. Because of this, it is important to keep track of your achievements and to commemorate them whenever possible along the path. Let’s imagine you master a piece of software that will help you advance in your work, and it’s a computer programme. Do something nice for yourself, like go out to eat or check something off your bucket list. This will keep you motivated to keep putting in the effort that you have put in.

A strategy for professional advancement is not set in stone. It should be beneficial and adaptable enough to deal with unforeseen circumstances. You may need to make some adjustments to your career plan as you get older, as your circumstances shift, and as your priorities shift. You should review your strategy once every six months and adjust it as required.

Related: 7 Steps to Create a Good Career Development Plan

Professional Development Plan vs Leadership Development Plan

A professional development plan and a leadership development plan are similar in that they both involve taking stock of one’s circumstances, formulating attainable objectives, and monitoring development. However, a leadership development plan focuses on specific skills needed to implement the plan, especially if the objectives involve advancing into a leadership role or developing existing leadership abilities. The first two phases include evaluating one’s current work situation and deciding what to achieve.

Participating in leadership development activities and refining existing leadership abilities is crucial, as is building and engaging with a network of others who share one’s values. Actively seeking input from these individuals is also essential for becoming a recognised and effective leader. The final phase involves acquiring or enhancing soft skills such as emotional intelligence, effective communication, and conflict resolution. These qualities are essential for achieving success in a leadership capacity and distinguishing a good leader from a great one.


A professional development plan (PDP) is a valuable tool for guiding your career progression and achieving your goals. It helps you set specific and actionable objectives, provides strategies for achieving those goals, and encourages regular review and update. By assessing your skills, setting SMART goals, identifying necessary resources, and staying focused, you can track and evaluate your progress and make necessary adjustments to your PDP. Remember that your professional development plan should be adaptable to changing circumstances and should be reviewed and adjusted regularly to ensure continued growth and success in your career.


What should be included in a professional development plan?

A professional development plan (PDP) is a systematic process that involves self-assessment, setting professional goals, developing strategies, creating a timeline, and regularly reviewing and adjusting it. It requires self-awareness, setting SMART goals, developing action plans, creating a timeline, and ensuring the plan is adaptable to changing circumstances. Regularly reviewing and adjusting the PDP is crucial for continuous improvement.

How do I write my professional development?

A professional development plan involves assessing your current situation, setting SMART goals, developing strategies, gathering resources, creating a timeline, and reviewing and revising the plan. It should be honest, realistic, and aligned with your vision, organisation’s mission, and career path. The plan should be flexible and adaptable, allowing you to adjust as your goals, surroundings, and priorities change.


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