Career Building

5 Steps to Write an Individual Professional Development Plan (+ Sample)

individual professional development plan IPDP

If you want to level up. Manage your career like a business. An Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) can help with that.  

Building a successful career won’t happen by chance. You’ll need to plan for it.

Creating an individual professional development plan is the first step to owning your career

Here’s what an IPDP is. And how to write one. 

What is an individual professional development plan?

An Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) is a series of actionable steps you take to improve your professional life.

An IPDP helps break down how to reach your goals and makes them feel attainable. Writing a professional development plan can be especially helpful if you’re a recent graduate, career changer, or job searching.  

The goal of an Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) is to offer clear step-by-step actions to help you achieve your career goals. 

What is included in an individual professional development plan?

An Individual Professional Development Plan includes a self-assessment, smart goals, resources needed to achieve your goals and ongoing measurement of your progress.

It is not a one-time activity. It should include regular touchpoints to track your progress. Every professional development plan is unique and depends on your long-term goals.  

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How to Write an Individual Professional Development Plan

Step 1. Assess what’s working and what’s not 

Start by reflecting on your current professional life. Make an honest assessment of what’s working and what’s not.

Taking an honest look at your current situation is a good place to start. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself: 

What professional skills do I have? 

What skills do I need to work on?

What are my strengths?

What am I constantly being complimented on? 

What type of feedback have I received at work? 

When was the last time I failed at something professionally? What was I working on?

What skills do I need to succeed in my dream job?

Gather information based on your responses. Make a note of any patterns and themes. Use this data in the next step to create your career goals. 

Step 2. Set Bold Goals

Now that you’re clear on what’s working and what’s not. Your next step is to set 1, 5, and 10-year career goals.

There are two things to keep in mind with goal setting. Your goals should be SMART and bold.

SMART goals will help hold you accountable. These are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive goals. 

Example of a SMART Goal:

Sample Goal —  I want to get promoted at work.   

How to make it SMART

  • Specific: I want to get promoted this year into a leadership role where I can lead projects and develop junior talent.
  • Measurable: I’ll use my professional development plan to track my growth and improve my areas of weakness.  
  • Achievable: I’ve led teams before, my feedback at work is promising, and I have 6 months to improve on my weaknesses. 
  • Relevant: I’ve always dreamed of becoming a leader and developing others!
  • Time-bound: I’ve scheduled a meeting with my boss to discuss my promotion in 6 months from now.

Challenge yourself to aim high when goal setting. Here’s a hint. If your goals don’t make you nervous. They’re too small. It’s okay to get a little uncomfortable. 

Be less afraid of setting high goals and missing them. And more fearful of setting low goals and achieving them.

Step 3. List what help you’ll need 

Admitting where you need help is part of leveling up. You don’t need to have all the answers. Just know where to look for them.  

Think about what resources would help you achieve your goals. Name the resources in your professional development plan. Here are a few examples. 

Examples of resources to include in your individual professional development plan:

Step 4. Create an Action Plan

Now let’s recap. By now, you’ve assessed what’s working and what’s not. 

You’ve created bold and SMART professional goals. You understand your limitations and have outlined what help you’ll need. 

Your next step is to create an action plan. The other steps won’t matter unless you’re willing to put in work. When it comes to your action plan.

Think of small consistent steps you can take over time. This way you’re not overwhelmed and give up too soon. 

Here’s what your action plan should include:

  1. Your SMART goals 
  2. The resources you’ll need to achieve those goals 
  3. The actions you’ll take to reach your goals 
individual professional development plan sample
How to create an individual professional development plan infographic

Step 5. Track Your Progress 

Writing an individual professional development plan is not a one-and-done. Professional development planning is ongoing.

You’ll need to revisit your goals as you or the world changes. 

Tracking your progress will help you measure what’s working and what still needs help. Here’s what you can do to stay on top of your IPDP.

Set a quarterly calendar reminder to review your professional development plan. Block out this time. You can give it a fun name to take the pressure off.  

This quarterly review will help you reflect on your progress and update your goals. 

Individual Professional Development Plan Sample

SMART GOALResources NeededAction Steps
Career Goal 1Resources for Goal 1Steps for Goal 1
Career Goal 2Resources for Goal 2Steps for Goal 2
Career Goal 3Resources for Goal 3Steps for Goal 2
individual professional development plan template

Getting started with your individual professional development plan

No one will care about your career as much as you. This is why creating an individual professional development plan is so important.

Hopefully, these five steps give you a starting point. 

Our professional development plan workbook can help take the guesswork out of it.

The workbook walks you through self-discovery activities to map out your career plans. It comes with a career planner, a performance review checklist, and many other career guides.

As a bonus, you’ll get networking email templates. Because leveling up isn’t something you can do alone. Grab the workbook at NetWerk® University

Over to You 

What professional goals are you working on this month? Head to our comments section on social @netwerkmovement and let us know. Share this with a future leader. 

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