Keep Your Professional Development Plan Simple

 

What comes to mind when you think about adding structure to your professional development? Does the very thought of it seem overwhelming, or do you struggle with finding a smart way to start?

At MAP, we are big proponents of professional development. We believe that growth has to begin with a solid plan. Done right, the professional development plan can be a blueprint for your career and your future, as well as a guide to the steps that will take you there. If you need more help putting structure to your plan, start thinking big instead of small. You need to decide on a goal, design the steps you need to achieve it, and then have the determination and dedication to follow through.

Here are three tips on making your professional development plan work for you:

1. Commit to do it.

Whether you’re checking in on your current plan, or designing one for the first time, be proactive and disciplined about this activity. Set a time, date and place, spend a few hours really focusing and thinking about your future. Put it on your calendar—make a meeting date with yourself! Choose a place where you can relax and not be interrupted by co-workers, family, or friends. Turn off your cell phone and avoid doing email. This is pure “me time." Eliminate distractions, give it your all, and you’ll get the most back from your labors.

2. Don’t strive for perfection.

Recognize that your professional development plan, like your future, is ever-evolving. Your plans are going to change over time, and your goals might, too. Work with and accept that fluidity. The exact words you use to describe your personal development aren’t as important as the actual activity, taking control of your growth and creating a plan. If you get hung up on the expectation for this to be perfect, you will find yourself struggling to finish (or even start!). Remember, you’re creating a guide. If there are aspects of it that you want to tweak or customize later, go for it—after all, it’s your future. Make it something you can own, something you can believe in, and honor. Create a solid, reliable, and credible blueprint with realistic steps and goals.

3. Share your plan.

All developing leaders need a trusted advisor or two. This could be a business partner, your MAP consultant, or a strong, supportive mentor. Turn to this person and share your plan. Get feedback, answer their questions, and build accountability with this person. You might even ask them to hold you accountable to the goals and action items you’ve listed. Set up periodic meetings (ideally, monthly) to review your status, revise where necessary, and identify opportunities to take corrective action. Celebrate your wins with them, and let them help you see the opportunities in your challenges. When sharing your plan, make sure to get advice from someone who has achieved some of the steps you’ve designed. Ask your mentor to push your comfort zone and help get you to the next level.


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