Planning for Success: Your Personal Development Plan

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

Success doesn’t just happen, it takes careful planning. You need to figure out what you want to achieve and, more crucially, how you want to get there. Personal development plans are the key to this success. If your current personal development plan is written on a scrappy piece of A4 paper and filed in the bottom of your drawer then you’re overlooking a key tool in your success toolkit.

Personal development plans are your pathway to future success. In fact they are more than that, they are also an organisation’s pathway to future success. Plans don’t just show you your end point they show you how to get there (your pathway).

What is a personal development plan anyway?

A personal development plan is a document that captures your goals and how you will go about achieving those goals.

For example, you might want to learn more about Wordpress by the end of the next quarter. The next step would be to define the level of learning your want to achieve (basic, intermediate or advanced). Then write down how you will get to that goal. Maybe you’ll attend an online workshop or learn from a colleague. All of this information creates a picture of where you are headed and how.

The importance of value

Most people think that success at work is just ‘being good at your job’, but that isn’t enough. ‘Being good at your job’ is the baseline expected standard. Success is actually about developing value for yourself and also for the organisation you work for.

Your value is the sum of your experience plus your skills and it should be growing all the time through learning experiences. This ever-changing state makes people enjoy their job more, which increases happiness and ultimately makes an organisation a better place to work.

8 questions to ask yourself when writing your own personal development plan

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, success doesn’t just happen - it takes careful planning.

So what should you be thinking about when writing your own personal development plan? The questions below are a good starting point and will help you start to explore who you are and what you want:

1. Where are you now?

What do you know already? What experience and skills do you have that you can use in the future?

2. In your current organisation what needs are there to be filled?

Speak to colleagues and your line manager if you are unsure. Don’t overlook your own personal development needs too.

3. What can you do in the short, medium and long term to fill those needs?

What can you achieve in 3 months, 6 months and a year?

4. What skills are needed to achieve those short, medium and long term needs?

Maybe you need to improve your project management, delegation or communication skills.

5. What strengths do you have already for those skills and what do you need to build on?

Fill the gap between where you are now and where you need to be.

6. How will you fill the gap i.e. what is the best way to develop your skills?

Consider attending workshops, self study and on the job experience

7. What is your learning style?

Choose methods of learning that appeal to you. If you like reading then buying some study books will be more appealing than attending an interactive workshop.

8. What time, energy, and financial constraints are there?

Be honest. Push yourself but don’t take on too much and set yourself up to fail.

Ways you can develop your skills

People learn in lots of different ways. Get creative. It’s not about just going to a training course.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Books – paper or electronic
  • Online courses
  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Networking groups
  • Pairing / buddying / shadowing

How to get started right now

Start by jotting down some answers to the eight questions above and then wait a day or so before coming back to them and redrafting your answers as necessary. Don’t rush. Take your time.

Next, start to build your personal development plan. There’s no official template but the basic headings you can use are: goal, date to achieve goal, how to achieve goal.

When you are happy with your plan it’s time to take action. This can often be the hardest part.

Here are three ways to stay on track:

1. Put your plan somewhere you can see it and then refer to it weekly.

2. Create a habit of taking action on your goals. For example, commit to spending one hour per day working on your goals. Schedule this time in your diary for first thing in the morning when your will power and energy levels are at their highest.

3. Create external accountability by sharing your plan with others and asking them to check in with you on your progress.

Good luck!

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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