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Taking Control of your Personal Development Plan


by Hannah Cottam | 26 January 2017

Whether you are just starting out or have had extensive experience in your career, Personal Development Plans (PDPs) are an excellent method of encouraging continual development, both personally and professionally. Having a PDP in place can allow you to assess where you want to be as opposed to where you are currently, and put a strategy in place to get you there.

A PDP allows you to take ownership of your future. The aim is to set yourself goals to work towards, either to further your career or to enrich your day-to-day life, setting the measures you need to take in order to achieve these goals, and recording your progress against them. Creating a PDP is a great way of increasing your self-awareness and being inquisitive about the direction in which your life or career is heading.

If you have never made a personal development plan (PDP) before, the New Year is a great time to start! You can present your PDP in a number of ways, and there are thousands of templates available online that you can use. Alternatively you could use a table, a spreadsheet, a mind-map, or create your own format. Find the layout which works best for you and which will encourage you to use it.

What to include in your PDP

For a general PDP, you could include the following areas of focus: 

  • What do you want or need to learn?
  • What will you do to achieve this?
  • What resources or support do you need?
  • What will your success criteria be?
  • Target dates for review and completion

Top tips for creating your PDP 

  • Include professional and personal targets – Are you looking to get promoted within the next 12 months? Are you aiming to pass your driving test, or get a mortgage within the next three years? By having a mixture of personal and professional targets, it makes the plan more personal to you, and allows you to prioritise your plans accordingly.
  • When setting your goals, follow the SMART rule – Is the goal Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely?
  • There is no right or wrong way to format your PDP – Some people like the visual aspect of a graph, charting their progress alongside their plan.
  • Get your employer involved – By showing that you are committed to your own development, this reflects really well on you and your attitude towards work.
  • You could carry over some elements of your PDP into your regular performance reviews with work. For example, if you want to learn a particular process, by demonstrating that you have investigated how you will learn this and the support you will require to do so, it shows your employer that it is important to you and you have put thought into how to incorporate it into your current role. This not only increases the likelihood of them investing further training in you, but it also makes their job easier when it comes to implementing the changes.
  • Remember that your PDP is personal, and you don’t necessarily need to it with anyone else, so don't be embarrassed about anything you put in your plan; if it's important to you, add it in!
  • Be self-critical – Be really honest with yourself if you have not met a particular goal. Is it that other issues may have arisen meaning you put your development on hold, or could you have worked harder towards your goal? If the latter is the case, treat it as a learning opportunity and reset the goal with a later review date, amending the previous strategy accordingly.
  • Review dates are crucial – Regularly check the progress of your goals. Are you on target to hit them or do you need extra support?
  • Celebrate your success! – Your PDP is a tangible way to monitor your progress and improvement. By owning your own personal development, you are much more likely to reach these goals, and the sense of achievement you will feel when you hit them is really fulfilling.

Do you currently use a Personal Development Plan? It would be great to hear how you make yours work for you in the comment box below. Alternatively, browse through our candidate resources for additional advice on how to progress in your career.