As a sort of conclusion to our series of posts about learning, development, and advancement we would like to talk about planning for the future, specifically with professional development plan templates. They are a visual representation and reminder of your willingness to grow professionally. Let’s dive in, shall we?
The truth is that people like to get sidetracked. We all procrastinate sooner or later. A professional development plan template serves as a reminder of what you started, when you started it, and when you plan on finishing it. That reminder is both for you and for your managers to have an idea of what you plan to accomplish.
Apart from that, it also allows you to get a moire objective look at yourself, your skills, and goals. Let’s be honest, we all need that from time to time. A professional development plan template gives you that ability by asking you simple questions and making you answer them truthfully.
When you open up a professional development plan template you will have a lot of empty space that might seem too vague or too open at first, but the template itself usually guides you through itself. A good way to fill it out is to ask yourself the questions it poses and answer them truthfully and honestly.
The first question is always the hardest one. Here you need to provide yourself with an objective look at your current professional situation. What are some facts about your current position? Are you happy with where you are? How are your relationships with your colleagues? Are you performing at the level you want to?
All of these are questions you can pose yourself in order to best fulfill the professional development plan template and start your improvement journey.
The second hardest question is next. Where do you want to be? This can be anything. Do you want to get that promotion? Do you want to be a better colleague as a person? Do you want to expand the arsenal of your skills? Do you want to get better at one specific area of your work? Do you want to become a better communicator? These are all absolutely valid.
The important thing to remember here is that you put down a goal that you really care about because that means you will actually strive to accomplish it. The second thing you need to do is give yourself a timeframe. It’s not enough to say: “I’ll learn this skill.”, you have to say: “I’ll learn this skill in six months.” This time limit doesn’t have to be strict, you can absolutely be lenient with yourself, but you need to put it and stick to it. Thirdly, the goal in your professional development plan template needs to be SMART.
SMART is an acronym that stands for: specific, measurable or motivational, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s explain these by giving a bad example of a development goal.
I’ll get better at my job.
This goal is too vague, not specific enough. What part of your job? What skills? You could say that you want to get better at time management, or processes connected to your work, or skills, etc.
Next it is neither measurable nor motivational. If you’re just better how do you measure that. Productivity can be measured. Efficiency can be measured. How well you do your job is, again, to vague. It also does not motivate because you can think that you’re better at your job the next day.
Then comes achievable, and this is the only SMART criteria that’s fulfilled. You can get better at your job. We all can. It’s only a matter of if you want to put in the effort to learn and improve.
After that, we need to think about if it’s relevant. Since it’s so vague it is not relevant. You can bend the term better to mean writing more information in a single email. That’s not relevant to your work per se because it doesn’t affect the end product of your effort.
Lastly, we have something we already discussed and that’s setting a goal that is time-bound. Just saying become better without saying when means that you have no agency behind your words. You can do it whenever. Adding a time limit forces you to chase that goal.
All of this means that a good goal for a, let’s say, programmer would look something like this:
I want to improve my knowledge of Python within 5 months so that I can write more efficient code.
You have a specific goal, that can be measured, that’s closely related to your work, that’s possible to achieve through practice and it’s time-limited.
After setting your goal you need to think about skills or habits that you need to achieve it. Let’s continue with our example of getting better at Python. Maybe you need to improve your knowledge of Python frameworks or libraries so that your code is more efficient. Maybe your issue is not with knowledge but with attention. Maybe what you lack is focus and you make errors or create code that could be written in a sleeker way. Maybe it’s both.
Once you figure out what it is that you need, you need to put it all in the professional development plan template and then move on to step two.
This is the detailed part of the template. Here you put exactly how you plan on acquiring the skills you lack. Need more knowledge on libraries? Start reading up. Need to get better at focus? Do exercises that help with attention span.
You can put any way you plan on obtaining these skills. From personal, individual practice, reading up on things, attending workshops and seminars, and enrolling in courses. Doesn’t matter as long as you have a clear vision of how to go about it.
Lastly, as with setting career goals, so with smaller developmental goals. You need to add a time limit. Setting time limits on your developmental goals is important for a number of reasons:
Focus: When you set a deadline, it allows you to concentrate on what needs to be done. It helps you to prioritize tasks and focus your energy on achieving the goal.
Motivation: Deadlines create a sense of urgency. This can motivate you to start working towards your goal, instead of procrastinating or delaying.
Achievement: Setting and meeting deadlines gives a sense of accomplishment. Each met deadline is a step forward towards your overall goal.
Efficiency: Deadlines force you to be efficient. They make you plan, organize, and manage your time effectively.
Prevents Perfectionism: Without a deadline, there's always more time to tweak, adjust, or redo work in the pursuit of perfection, which can lead to never completing the task. A deadline forces you to aim for done over perfect.
Remember, as with all goals in your professional development plan template, the key is to set realistic and achievable deadlines. Setting overly ambitious deadlines may cause unnecessary stress and may be counterproductive