How to Create a Professional Development Plan

Woman in business office
Copyright Buero Monaco / Taxi / Getty Images

Employers want to hire people who will take the initiative to grow and develop their skills in the years to come. Having even a tentative career path in place will help you respond to interview questions about your goals for the future, and assist you in determining the next phase of your career.

In order to gauge your potential, an employer may ask you about your professional development plans in a job interview.

In addition, new hires should definitely expect the question to come up during performance appraisals. Here's how to create a professional development plan.

Tips for Planning Professional Development

Gather Information

If a pay raise or advancement at your current employer is a priority, a good place to start with the process of formulating an effective plan is to meet with your supervisor. Ask her what areas of knowledge or skills you should develop to add the most value to the department.

If you have peers performing similar jobs in your department, examine the background of any stellar performers. Identify any skill or knowledge assets that contribute to their success and consider if it would benefit you to develop comparable strengths.   

Review Job Titles

Review typical job titles for your occupation. Here are lists of job titles for many different positions. Search major job sites like or for job titles like yours, or any jobs you would like to land.

 

Look for patterns in the qualifications that employers are seeking. Make a list of the most frequently referenced requirements, compare them to your strengths, and choose a few areas to target in your plan. 

Review Seminar Agendas

It can also be beneficial to review the agendas for workshops and seminars offered by your professional organization.

Identify areas of knowledge and skills that are cutting edge in your field.

Include at least one technology-related objective within your plan, since tech-savvy employees are often the most highly valued by employers whether the job is focused on technology, or not.

Create a Professional Development Plan

It's easier to achieve goals and objectives when they are written down. Compile all the information you have collected:

  • Skills Required
  • Knowledge Required
  • Job Requirements
  • Technology Requirements

Upgrade Your Skills

Then consider how and when you can get the skills you need for success in the future. The next step is to identify ways to acquire that knowledge or those skills.  Consult with your professional association about local, national, and online seminars, as well as workshops and tutorials related to your interests.

Ask your Human Resources and IT departments about any in-house resources. Review the offerings at local colleges and adult education programs for learning opportunities.

Plan a Career Trajectory Timeline

Then consider how and when you are going to get the skills you need:

  • What
  • How
  • When
  • Where

Can you take online classes or seminars? How about a boot camp on evenings or weekends? Are there professional association meetings or development workshops specifically for your occupation that you can attend?

Also consider general classes, especially for upgrading your tech skills.

Then decide how much time you want to invest in professional development. Balance your career needs with your lifestyle needs. Taking on too much at once is a good way to burn out fast. Allocate the time you have to spend on development, then figure out what activities will fit the time you have available.

Plan what you want to accomplish, how you will do it, and when you will do. Include a list of goals with tentative deadlines for each.

The Importance of Following Through

As with most plans, execution will be a critical determinant of your ultimate success.  Make sure you follow through and engage in as many professional development activities as possible, and you'll have a compelling story to tell during interviews and performance reviews.

Finally, be sure to update your LinkedIn profile and your resume each time you upgrade your skills. It's important to advertise your qualifications, especially when they are in-demand skills that employers are seeking.

Read More: 6 Ways to Keep Your Job Skills Current

Related Articles: 10 Things to Do For Your Job Search Today | How to Start a Job Search | Write Resumes and Cover Letters