Career Development

How to Create a Personal Development Plan

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If you have a vision for what you’d like your career to look like in the future, you should consider creating a personal development plan. Making a specific plan can help you to ensure that your goals become a reality. Learn more about what a personal development plan is and how you can create one to help you succeed in your career goals.

What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan is a set of goals and objectives you create to help you achieve the life you want. Creating a personal development plan involves setting goals, analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, creating objectives and reviewing your progress. You can use a personal development plan to help you work on achieving your desired career goals or your vision for any area of your life. 

What to include in a personal development plan

A personal development plan typically includes the following:

  • Statement of purpose or goals
  • List of strengths
  • List of areas to develop
  • Analysis of threats to development
  • List of development options or opportunities
  • Clear objectives
  • Deadlines
  • ‘Start doing’ and ‘Stop doing’ lists
  • List of people who can help
  • Benchmarks for reviewing success

Since personal development plans are based on your individual needs, you can include or delete any sections that you pref. Including these standard sections, however, helps guarantee that your plan is clear and complete.

How to create a personal development plan

Consider using these steps to make your personal development plan:

1. Firstly, determine your goals

The first step in creating a personal development plan is determining your long-term or end goals. You can do this by envisioning what success or happiness looks like to you, or asking yourself where you’d like to be in two, five or 10 years. Make a list of these goals as you think of them.

In writing down your vision for the future, you might end up with multiple goals for multiple areas of your life. It can help to create a mind map to categorize your personal development goals, such as dividing career goals, health goals and goals for other aspects of your personal life into different plans or sections of your overall plan. If you have many large goals listed after this step, you may need to prioritize what is most important and save some goals to work on at a later date. 

2. Secondly, identify your strengths and weaknesses

After deciding what your long-term goals are, perform a self-assessment to evaluate your current strengths and weaknesses. A thorough and honest assessment will help you create objectives to achieve your goals. You can use these lists to plan how to use your strengths as much as possible to achieve your goals and what areas you need to develop in order to be successful.

3. Thirdly, look for development opportunities

Once you know what your weaknesses are and what your areas of development are, you can begin to find ways to improve. If you need to learn a new skill, for instance, you could look for online classes, find a mentor, ask your supervisor for an opportunity to practice that skill or set aside time each day to spend learning it.

It is good to find as many learning or development opportunities as you can, and then you can determine which ones are best for you and set clear objectives for taking advantage of those opportunities. If any of them turn out not to be possible for you, you may still have other viable options left from your research.

4. Next, identify any threats

Just as important as identifying ways you can improve is being aware of anything that might hinder your improvement. Understanding any threats to your development can help you to include them in your plan and solve those problems before they occur to promote your best chance of success. Common threats to consider are time management, costs and the ability to maintain a work-life balance.

5. Fifthly, set clear objectives

After your analysis of your goals, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can determine specific objectives that will help you reach your goals. It is helpful to use SMART goal criteria for this step. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. These criteria help to ensure that you can and will achieve your objectives.

Many personal development plans include a ‘start doing’ and ‘stop doing’ list of actions during this step. As a result of your previous analysis, you can create a clear list of things you need to start doing and things you need to stop doing in order to achieve your goals. These lists should be in addition to your specific objectives.

An important part of creating objectives is determining a clear timeline or deadline for each one. Required or expected completion dates help motivate you to work and provide clear benchmarks to assess your progress. It can also help to plan small rewards for yourself as you achieve your objectives to give yourself motivation.

6. Then, consider seeking help

Personal development plans often include a list of people who might be able to help you with your development. Consider any friends, family members, colleagues, teachers and supervisors who might be able to mentor you, connect you with learning opportunities or check on your progress. Letting others know of your development goals and objectives can increase your motivation as well as provide you with opportunities, support and guidance.

7. Finally, review and refocus

In addition to setting deadlines for your objectives, you should set regular checkpoints in your personal development plan for you to assess your progress. Use these benchmarks to determine if your plan seems successful. If you are moving toward your goals faster or more slowly than you expected, you can then adjust and refocus the plan as necessary.

Personal development plan template

You can use this template as a starting point for creating your personal development plan:

Long-term goals

[Use bullet points or small paragraphs to clearly define what your end goals are.]

Priority

[If necessary, include this section to show which goal(s) you are focusing on first.]

Strengths

[Use bullet points to create a list of your strengths.]

Weaknesses

[Use bullet points to create a list of your weaknesses.]

Possible learning opportunities

[Use this section to record your research into opportunities for developing your goals or improving your weaknesses.]

Threats

[Make a list of anything that might prevent you from achieving your goals.]

Objectives

[In this section, write down clear objectives, or actions that you will take to achieve your goal. Include deadlines or timelines for each one. You should have a variety of objectives, such as how you will use your strengths, how you will improve your weaknesses and how you will circumvent any obstacles.]

Start doing

[Make a list of things you need to start doing to achieve your goals and objectives.]

Stop doing

[Make a list of things you need to stop doing to achieve your goals and objectives.]

People who can help me

[Include a list of people who can be resources of development or support for your plan.]

Review

[Leave room in your plan to assess and record your progress. You could make a list of what is working well and what might need to be changed.]