10 tips for writing your PDP (personal development plan)

A personal development plan (PDP) is a structured framework used by an individual to understand their skills, learning and performance and make plans to develop these further in their career, and personal life.

I’ve learned first hand that developing your own PDP is crucial to helping you achieve your goals. It’s a structured way of helping you to think about, and unpick, what you are looking to achieve in your personal and professional life beyond the everyday stuff. It can help you to define your goals for the next 2 – 5 years and from there you can work out what skills and experiences you need to develop to be successful on your journey.

Many people who I ask have either never heard of a PDP, or have heard of it but don’t have one. Either way, I would urge you to be proactive and think about starting your own no matter what stage in your career you’re at as it’s such a useful tool.

Below, are my top 10 tips to get you started.

  1. It’s great to work from a template to help you structure your thoughts. If you’re company doesn’t have one or you’re in-between jobs then there are plenty of free templates online that you can use.
  2. Your PDP shouldn’t be limited to your current job and/or company. You should think more broadly about your aspirations and make this as personal to you as you can.
  3. I think the best place to start is to note down your interests and the things that excite you, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Using feedback from your peers and colleagues can be really useful to help inform your strengths and areas for development. If you haven’t had any feedback for a while (or previously) then choose a couple of people who you work closely with and ask them for their thoughts. I find that receiving regular feedback is crucial for development.
  5. Next, note down what you think your short (1 year), medium (2 years) and long-term (5 years) goals are. These could be progression in your role at work, moving into a new industry or it could even be to run your own farm (yes I’ve seen that)!
  6. Once you’ve figured out what your goals are you can work backwards from here, thinking about the necessary skills or experiences you might need to achieve them and why. For example, if you’re looking to get to manager and need to be able to demonstrate leadership skills so that you can lead a team, then you could seek out an opportunity or training that will help you with that.
  7. You can then cross check what you think you need to meet your goals, with your current experience and strengths and then map out the areas that you need to work on. These then become your development goals.
  8. Once you’ve listed out your core development goals, it’s good to spend some time thinking about these in detail. How will you achieve them? What training or experience do you need and how can you get it? In what timeframe are you looking to tick it off?
  9. If you can get all of the above in order then you’ll have a pretty robust PDP to start working from. I would share this with your colleagues or the people around you so that they are also aware of what you’re looking to achieve and can help you in any way possible.
  10. Your PDP should be a working document so review on a regular basis and adapt as necessary!

Hopefully sharing my approach to writing a PDP has been helpful, but I also get that for some people this might not work.

If you’re not the type of person who gets on with structure/templates/detail then another approach could be to sit down with someone you trust and ask them to help you think through what your goals could be. They can ask the questions to get you thinking and you’ll have some ideas on paper in no time. Then it’s just formatting this into something that works for you.

I’d also caveat that as much as I love a plan, you never know what opportunities are around the corner or how your circumstances might change so I’d go in to this with an open mind and some level of flexibility…

If you have any questions on this post or around writing your PDP then leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

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