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    Plan your professional development in four steps

    July 28, 2015 by Penny Robertshawe

    Do you know where you’re going with your career and how you’re going to get there? If the answer is no to either one or both of those questions, it’s time to make a plan for your professional development. Your plan can cover any period up to five years but probably no less than two. Where to start? We’ll show you in four steps:

    Step 1: Your destination

    If you’re going to make a plan you’ll need to decide first where you want to end up. Once you know that, you have a better idea about where to start. This part is also where you decide if your plan is going to be for two, three, four or five years into the future. Write a statement outlining where you plan to be and by what time.

    Step 2: Self assessment

    Now you need to assess your strengths and weaknesses to highlight areas that you will need to develop and build upon. Write these down in two columns. Just to be sure that you don’t have any blind spots, it’s always good to run your self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses by someone you can trust to be honest with you. They might see characteristics in you that you don’t.

    Step 3: Gap analysis

    Now that you’re clear about where you want to be and what your strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time to analyse how far away you are from reaching your destination. Do you need to undertake some short-term training or enroll into a course at college or university? Do you need to work on a portfolio of work?

    Perhaps you need to develop some ‘soft skills’ such as learning to communicate more effectively in writing or how to present well in front of a group of people. You might also need to network with people in the field you want to work, as well as form closer relationships with people who can help you.

    Step 4: Goals and action steps

    Based on your gap analysis, set yourself some goals and list the action steps that will help you meet them. Remember, goals need to be specific, time oriented, measurable and achievable, so make sure you have all this covered. Let’s say your goal is to do a course in bookkeeping. Will you study part time or full time? Online or face-to-face? How long will it take you to complete your studies?

    Once you know when you are likely to finish your course your first action step would be to research where you could study. Your second action step could be to apply to get into the course and your third would be to enroll and so on until you have reached your goal of graduating. Write all your action steps down next to your goals – they make up your plan.

    Once you have completed the four steps and created your professional development plan you’re not finished. What? Another step? Not really. It’s just that a professional development plan is not static – it’s a flexible document that changes as you change as a person and as your circumstances change. You can’t always predict what will happen to you in the future, so review your plan every six months, or sooner if necessary, so it’s still relevant to your situation.


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