Where do you see yourself in five years’ time? It’s a question that many people struggle to answer. But if you want to get a handle on your career and aspirations for the future, creating a personal development plan (PDP) could provide the steer you need.

Here, we’re taking a look at personal development planning, from what it is, and why you should do it, to what to include in a PDP document. We’ve also created a free PDP template, so you can start putting the right plans in place for your future today.

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What is a personal development plan, and why should you create one?

A personal development plan sets out your goals and aspirations, and how you’ll reach them. You can use a PDP to roadmap all sorts of things, whether it’s your education, career or your personal finances.

The purpose of a personal development plan is to set out your goals, and align them with your strengths and weaknesses. From there, you can plan what you’ll need to do to achieve your goals, with clear steps in place to help get you there.

Think of a personal development plan like a project strategy. You’re looking to define your route to success, whether that means training, courses, practical experience, working on developing soft skills, or a return to formal education.

How your PDP will look depends on your goals for the future. If it’s a specific career you’re after, developing a plan will be simpler, with clear milestones in the form of qualifications and certificates. If, on the other hand, you’re working towards a promotion, you may need to develop other areas, such as soft skills, alongside gaining additional qualifications.

It’s for this reason that a personal development plan is so valuable. Roadmapping how you’ll achieve your goals gives you total clarity over your development and progress, meaning you stand to reach your goals faster.

What does personal development involve?

Personal development can sound fluffy and intangible, but the reality is that it happens with every step forward – whether that’s in education, the workplace, or your personal life. Creating a PDP is just a means of documenting that development, so you can make sure you’re on a path which aligns with your aspirations for the future.

Building a personal development plan isn’t just about landing that dream job; your CV should do that for you. Instead, it’s about making sure you’re a well-rounded candidate with a clear vision of what you’d like from your future.

That means developing in all areas of your life, not just in the form of qualifications and certificates. Employers understand that, while qualifications are a prerequisite, there’s more to recruitment than box-ticking, and that soft skills and character are important attributes in prospective candidates.

So, how does this affect your plans for personal development? It means that rather than simply focusing on gaining qualifications, you need to address other facets too – from communication skills to how effectively you work, and how you collaborate in a team.

And it goes further than that. By setting out your route for the future, you’ll be happier, more motivated and productive, knowing that with every step forward, you’re closer to achieving your goals. This is a boon for both you and potential employers, who will be seeking candidates with genuine drive and enthusiasm, and a clear understanding of where their career is taking them.

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What to include in a personal development plan?

Given they’re based on individual goals and objectives, personal development plans vary in their structure and content. That said, most share common similarities, particularly things like a list of your strengths and weaknesses, aspirations for the future, and key areas for personal development and growth.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes a good personal development plan.

Goals

The first thing most people collate when creating a personal development plan is a list of top-line goals and objectives. This provides a steer for the rest of the document, ensuring that the right steps and milestones are in place to get you from point A to point B.

When coming up with a list of goals, don’t be afraid to dream big. You’ll want to list both short and long-term objectives, with the smaller, more practical and feasible goals contributing towards the pursuit of your top-line targets for the future.

Priority

The great thing about a PDP is that it allows you to prioritise your goals, so you know you’re always taking the right actions at the right time. Consider which goals need to happen first, and how achieving them will affect other aspirations along your roadmap.

Prioritising goals can seem intimidating. But if you have a clear idea of what you’d like to do in the future, and what’s required to get you there, you can start putting milestones in place that will see you reach your target.

Approximate milestone dates

This is where creating a personal development roadmap can really start to pay off. By having provisional deadlines in place for when you’ll complete key objectives, you can see how and when you’ll get to where you want to be.

Milestones can take many forms; here are a few examples of things people typically include in their PDP document:

  • I want to be in a managerial position by 28
  • By 2024, I want to be a qualified solicitor
  • I want to save £15,000 by the time I’m 32

People’s goals, milestones and objectives vary, so whatever your aspirations for the future, be sure to list them here.

Making a personal development plan

Challenges and limitations

What challenges, limitations or restrictions could hinder your development? And what unforeseen events may prevent you from achieving your goals within your preferred timescale?

Creating a PDP document is a positive step, but it needs to be realistic. Lots of challenges and issues can arise which will slow your progress, so consider what changes in your life could obstruct your development.

Here are some examples:

  • Family emergencies
  • Not getting the right grades
  • Lack of motivation or uncertainty
  • Other personal circumstances

Actions

Here, it’s time to list the actions and steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goals. This is where the most research is likely to happen when creating your personal development plan; you need to be clear on the ‘how’ of achieving your objectives.

There are lots of ways to reach your PDP milestones, but here are a few examples to consider:

  • Completing a distance learning course
  • Completing a college or sixth form course
  • In-work training or courses
  • Hands-on experience in a voluntary position
  • Setting up alerts on major job search sites

Progress

To ensure you’re using your PDP, it’s worth including a progress tab where you can tick off completed elements, and keep a record of your progress. That way, you’ll be in a better position to keep abreast of your milestones and objectives, ensuring that everything remains on course.

Download a free personal development plan template

Ready to start building your personal development plan? We’ve created a free PDP template to help you track and record your progress, so you can put your best foot forward, and take control of your future.

The template is free to download and fill out.

Goal-Planner.pdf

We hope this guide on personal development planning helps you take the right next step on your career journey. At Oxbridge, our distance learning courses help thousands of people realise their potential, whatever stage of their career they’re at. For more information or to explore our full course range, visit the homepage or give one of our experienced course advisors a call on 0121 630 3000.