Your individual development plan, sometimes called a professional development plan, is one of the most important components as you think about your career. In our last blog article, we talked about things you could quickly do to start the year off right from a career perspective. The focus today is updating (or possibly starting) your individual development plan.
Contrary to popular belief, your individual development plan doesn’t have to be formal or required by your employer. You should consider this a personal exercise and it should be done regardless of whether it’s a part of your company’s annual performance and development process. Remember, you can develop yourself with OR without the help and input of your manager.
So what are the components that should be included in your development plan? Here is a list of the “critical few” that should be included in anyone’s plan:
- Why – Some sort of statement about the intent behind your development planning. You may be revising your plan because you have your eyes on a new job or assignment. It might also be a simple update to your existing plan.
- Goals and values – If you are filling out the plan to get a different assignment, the goal should be clearly stated. When do you wan to make that move. You should also include a statement about what you value from the type of work you are doing, or want to do. Lastly, what is the time horizon this development plan covers.
- Strengths – This is a great time to stop and think about the things you are good at. Write down what those strengths are. Give specific examples of projects or work that you have completed that demonstrate those strengths.
- Development needs – What are the things that you need to be working on. Development needs fall into two categories. Short term and long term. Short term needs are the ones that need to be addressed to develop skills and abilities for the role you are in today, or for an impending assignment change. Long term development needs are the ones you have identified that will set you up for a role or assignment that is one year or more into the future.
- Action plans – This is the big one. It’s also the one that is often misunderstood. Many people think the action plan portion of their development plan needs to include a laundry list of training classes, college courses, or offsite seminars and conferences they need to intend. Studies have shown, however, that the best and most effective development happens through job assignments. As you think about your own development, think first about the types of projects or on the job activities that can help you develop the skill you are working on. There are projects happening all over the place, jump in and help on one that will stretch you a little bit. None of this is to say that training isn’t important. It just needs to be in the right proportion to other development activities. We use a development pyramid (like the food pyramid) to help explain. Job assignments make up the bulk. Followed by reading and other self education and training.
Those are the critical few. Now it’s up to you to take the time to start or update your own plan. If you would like a copy of On Target Talent’s development plan sample, We’ll be happy to send it to you for free.