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Writing a Professional Development Plan

Last updated by Dipen Dadhaniya on Apr 01, 2024 at 01:09 PM | Reading time: 17 minutes

"The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score." – Bill Copeland (American poet)

As a working professional, you should always be interested in bettering yourself. Be it in the workplace or in your personal life, it is quite necessary to set up goal posts for yourself, so that you can pat yourself on the back when you do score!

Setting a lot of good professional development goals makes life that much more interesting!

As a little child, Jessie was pretty goal-oriented. She was determined to see herself as the next Sheryl Sandberg. She loved her idol and wanted to become the head of one of the FAANG companies. But Jessie knew the process would be challenging. One day, she came across this novel idea called a PDP. A teacher at school introduced her to it.

PDP, known in full as a professional development plan, is a method by which you can make a workable professional development objective. These objectives help you to plan the exact path or road you will need to take to achieve your aims. You can revise and remake it at any time. Since it comes in the form of a document, a PDP feels a little legally binding and inspires you to set out on the quest to achieve every sub-task on the way to the final goal.

Jessie prepared her PDP assiduously. She wrote out all the certifications and the courses she would need to take to become a leader in any of the Silicon Valley or FAANG firms.

Once she was done with framing the PDP, she printed it and kept it in her diary. Every year, she would update the list to reflect what steps she had taken to come closer to her goal. If you want to become like Jessie and create a structure for your life, start by making a bespoke PDP today!

You will reap the benefits of doing this simple yet insightful exercise sooner or later.

  • What is a professional development plan?
  • Why should you write a Professional Development Plan?
  • Steps to create a professional development plan
  • How to write a professional development plan?
  • Career development goals examples
  • Career development plan examples

What is a professional development plan?

Put quite concisely, a professional development plan or employee development goals are a set of goals that you want to achieve during your work life. These goals may be short-term or long-term.

Here’s one of the career development goals examples for your better understanding. Suppose you want to become a data analyst; you will need to learn the language R or Python. So, you set up learning these languages as "goalposts" that you need to "score" in before you can set yourself up for the next goal, which is to become a data analyst.

While it takes time and effort to create an excellent professional development plan, once you do it, your career graph becomes apparent to you.

You can quickly identify what skills you will require, how much effort you will need to put in, and what sort of jobs to hunt for.

While career trends change over time and jobs become obsolete very quickly, always remember to update your PDP to reflect the present trends. Doing this will cause you not to be caught unawares. But you can update the gameplan according to the changes.

Keep your PDP sacrosanct. if you achieve certain goals, reward yourself; if you fail, do not be too hard on yourself but hold yourself accountable. Not only will this keep you pumped up to achieve goals, but it will also make you enjoy life all the more.

Why should you write a Professional Development Plan?

Setting several career development goals is not only useful, but it is also indispensable. Having an unstructured outlook to your work can often lead to feeling frustrated with your job and hating the work process with a deep-rooted loathing. In the words of Albert Einstein, when you tie yourself to a goal, your life becomes worth living, and that is why it is never too late to start planning out your career.

You can start planning your PDP in college, as a teenager, or even right now when you are on the cusp of looking for a job.

Some career development plan examples are working towards becoming your own boss or managing your own team. You could have so many plans and ideas that you want to work on and see them come to life.

Developing and maintaining professional and personal goals helps you to see how far along the road you have come and where you are going to go.

When you create your PDP, try to use many long term professional goals as well as short term ones since you can not predict the way your life is going to go. A right mix of goals will keep you cushioned if you fail to achieve any of the goals on the list.

Steps to create a professional development plan

In this section, we will explain the short process of how you can create a Professional Development Plan. Creating good professional development goals is the key to living a successful and productive life.

Here is how you can do it in five steps.

  • Step 1: Assess yourself meticulously

While you may have already set a professional goal, you could be one step behind the process by not having taken stock of your professional life. To get started on the PDP process, ask yourself a couple of questions like:

  • What computer languages do I know?
  • How many development frameworks am I proficient in?
  • What are my technical skills?
  • What are my soft skills?
  • Am I a good communicator or leader?

Once you have got the answers to these probing and in-depth questions, you can move on to the next stage of the PDP. Asking yourself these questions not only makes clear which professional development goals to commit to but also how you will go about achieving them. Since there is only going to be a shift towards computers, you can expect technical skills to be highly sought-after in the job industry.

  • Step 2: Goal setting with SMART

When setting career development goals, try to make them through the lens of SMART. SMART is a technique of goal setting that should be known to every job seeker no matter his/her age or position. In short, this way of making goals is by being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.

  • "Specific" means to be very detail-oriented in setting the goals.
  • "Measurable" means to have a scale where you can measure and track the progress of the plan.
  • "Achievable" means to have goals that are within your grasp and completely realistic.
  • "Relevant" means having goals that are complementary to your end game.
  • "Timely" means to have a timeline within which to achieve the goal.

There are several professional development goals examples, but SMART is the most tried and tested goal-setting technique.

  • Step 3: Create a strategy to imbibe knowledge

There are three ways to build a strategy for employee development goals. The first strategy is to learn while you are on the job. It refers to hands-on learning. Often, this is the best way to gain knowledge or insight into a problem. The second method is to learn from others, also known as exposure. The third and final process is education and reflection. With these three strategies for development, you can set and achieve any professional development objective.

  • Step 4: Finding the right resources for your objectives

When you settle on good professional development goals, the next thing you will be looking for is some resources to help you along the way to achieve them. These resources can be in the form of college degrees, certifications like PMP, qualifications, webinars, and perhaps, community college degrees. When you try to formulate the resources section of your PDP, try to allocate the finances for this step. For example, where is the money going to come from or how will you earn to pay for this course?

  • Step 5: Timelines

When you create a PDP for your professional goal, try to formulate a timeline for it. Doing this will help you to be accountable and careful with your time. You can set short-term goals, long-term goals as well as mid-term goals. All these will help you to track your progress in achieving your dreams.


Benjamin Franklin created 13 virtues or traits of self-development that he rigorously checked himself on for months.

How to write a professional development plan?

Since we have already discussed the quick way of preparing a PDP, now we will discuss a more in-depth method of having professional development goals.

There are so many professional development goals examples. One of them could be to become an expert on clouds or to develop an e-commerce site.

You could create a PDP as a blueprint to achieve any goal or dream that you may have. Here is the more detailed way in which you can create a PDP.

  • Make an assessment of where you are now

If you are starting on your professional development goals, ask yourself the all-important questions.

  • What have I achieved so far in my life?
  • What goals did I hope to reach that I failed to?
  • Where did you expect to be in your career by now?
  • What have you done to help your professional growth in the past five years?

Answer these questions. Was the last one negative?

Then, it is time to create some employee development goals. But, if this was not your answer, it is time to explore how efficient your system was. Rethink the way you approached making your goals.

  • Identify your specific career goals

When you want to set up some concrete career development goals, it is worth taking the time out to clearly write out what you want. So, sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and try to answer the following questions.

  • Define success in your own terms.
  • What are some of the activities that you enjoy doing? Are you already doing them, or are you looking to make a career change?
  • Is your definition of success measuring up in your job?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next five years or ten years?

Use SMART to list out all the goals for your future.

  • Gather information

After you have identified your long term professional goal as well as the short term ones, it is time to put in some research into the necessary qualifications and skills that you will require to achieve the goals.

For example, if you want to become a data analyst, may be a course in the subject could make your understanding of the subject better. Or, if you want to become a Java developer, you could consider taking a certification course from Oracle. No matter what field you choose to work in, having some professional development objective will greatly simplify matters.

You can also break your ultimate goal into several short-term goals, and that will help you to work manageably with the short term goals.

There are a variety of professional and personal goals that you can only achieve with due knowledge on the subject. That is why you need to make for yourself a list of all the skills that you need to pick up. Identify in brief all the certifications that you already have and the ones you need to acquire. Set about creating steps in which you will accomplish getting your new credentials and degree courses.

On the road to achieving your long term professional goal, there will be many short term goals that you might also need to complete. Now that you have identified which areas you need to work on, you need to come up with a strategy to accomplish your chosen goals. You could select an ongoing method to build up your knowledge base and gain all the skills that you need.

  • Develop a timeline for accomplishing your specific targets and goals.

When it comes to setting professional and personal goals, you need to attach a timeline to each goal. What this does is creates accountability and holds you firm to achieving the target. A deadline puts pressure on you in a good way, and helps you to screw your courage to the sticking point and get cracking on the task.

While creating your PDP, you should have a column for the timeline. Be very specific in your preparation of the timetable. Even when scheduling the tasks, you should make time out for how many hours a day you will spend on the job.

  • Write it all down

Some of the career development goals examples that we have explored above must have helped you to understand how you can go about achieving your goals. But the best way to keep your PDP relevant and a living breathing tool is when you make it a written document.

Having a written PDP document makes it binding on you to achieve the set goal. You do not have to write a PDP and forget about it. You should keep it on hand and update it as many times as it is necessary. Save the PDP on your personal computer and make changes to it whenever you have achieved some target mentioned on it.

  • Evaluate your plan

Once you have created your PDP, take some time to evaluate the plan. Your plan should follow the SMART technique and be achievable. One of the main reasons why people quit their PDP is because they do not make achievable targets. While it is absolutely commendable to have the sky as a limit, you will be better off making only those targets that you can achieve. Another tip to make a great PDP that is functional is to include a timeline so that you can create pressure on yourself.

Remember, goals are not castles that you build in air. If you want to live a fulfilling life, you have to make the most out of it. One of the ways to really grow and learn is in your career.

  • Measure your progress.

As you go through your career path, you need to measure your progress with the PDP. From time to time, tick off all the items that you have achieved. Update the PDP to reflect the changes. Plan changes.

You never know which way the job market will rise and fall; so, as you understand how the career trend is progressing, keep on altering and tinkering with the PDP.

To close with, we will leave you with some professional development plan examples.

These career development plan examples will give you an idea into how you should make your own PDP.

So, check out some samples and templates for professional development goals for managers and non-managers.

Career development goals examples

  • Self-assessment
  • Goals
  • Want to get a salary increase of up to 30%.
  • Want to be financially independent by 50 years of age.
  • Want to also become a project manager.
  • Strategies
  • Resources
  • Take courses at the community centre.
  • Sign up for online training on leadership.
  • Timeline
  • In one month: pick up two backend specific languages.
  • In two months: Find a mentor.
  • In three months: Ask for backend projects.
  • In one year: Become a full stack specialist.

Career development plan examples

Long term goals: Become a full-stack developer

What are the steps you will take to achieve the long term goal?

(Name the short-term goals): Learn the languages for a full-stack development, Accept projects on full-stack, Become proficient in full-stack development

Name the critical skills required to achieve the various short-term goals: Need to learn the languages for back-end development, Confidence in full-stack programming, Develop coding skills

What are the skills that you will need to work on? Programming Language skills

What steps will you take to achieve the skills? Take some training on learning languages, Proactively ask for small portions on back-end programming, Accept projects on full-stack development

Timeline: 1 month, 3 months, 1 year


Dipen Dadhaniya

Engineering Manager at Interview Kickstart

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