Professional Development

How To Write an Individual Professional Development Plan in 5 Steps

individual professional development plan

An Individual Professional Development Plan or IPDP can help you manage your career like a business.

If you want to change careers or get promoted. Having a professional development plan can set you up for success.

Let’s talk more about 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 many components. It has a self-assessment, smart goals, resources needed to achieve your goals and ongoing measurement of your progress.

It is not a one-time activity. And 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. 

Ask yourself the questions down below. 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. 

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?

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:

ORIGINAL GOAL —  I want to get promoted at work
SMART GOAL  —   Below is how to make this goal 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 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 a professional development plan is not a one-and-done. It’s an ongoing process. 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

Let’s face it. No one will care about your career as much as you.

That’s why having a plan is so important. Hopefully, these five steps give you a starting point.

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Here you’ll find dozens of helpful resources to upgrade your career. Head over now to download our freebies!

Over to You 

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

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