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3 Tips for Creating Your First Professional Development Plan


You may have felt on top of the world during college or business school — but now that you've entered the game without any external structure, how should you keep track of your career development? Learn more about professional development plans, understand why you should write one of your own, and decide how to compose one that's both practical and realistic. JC Tax Services presents some tips below.

What Is a Professional Development Plan?

Have you always felt lost when you hear the phrase "career path?" Exactly what is this path, and how should you know which way to travel? A professional development plan serves as a map as it includes your career goals, the education you may need to complete these milestones, and any certifications you should obtain before you're able to move forward in your professional life.

If you work for an organization that values employee development, your manager may sit down with you to discuss your future and your goals. If you're an entrepreneur or you work alone, you might not have a mentor to guide the way.

3 Tips for Composing Your Plan

It's easy to be intimidated by the idea of writing a personal development plan even if you're working with a manager or mentor. Keep in mind that the plan you're writing isn't final — it should evolve and change with you as you grow professionally. Start by completing the following three tips.

1. Update Your Resume With Detailed Skill Sections

Perhaps you're in the market for a new position. Before you send out your resume, use a free template to ensure that your document is as updated, streamlined, and concise as possible. When choosing a template, you'll be able to choose from professionally designed outlines that allow you to add your own text, insert images and photos, and choose text colors. Try to keep your resume simple. Don't include every position you've ever held unless the role was relevant to the one you're seeking now. You may include a section for certifications and other skills as well.

2. Join a Professional Association

A national or regional association could be just the ticket to making connections in your field. If you're a brand-new MBA graduate, for example, you might join the Business Graduates Association — a large organization that boasts graduates from some of the top schools around the country and the world. You'll be able to network, ask senior members for advice, and gain tips for working on your hard and soft business skills.

3. Enroll in a Professional Development Course

A course can help you brush up on skills and fill the gaps in your professional knowledge. It can also help you reach the next level of your career goals. For example, if you're a project manager (or you'd like to advance your knowledge in the field), you can take a course to learn about platforms such as Scrum to help your team communicate on large-scale projects. You'll learn tactics and test your knowledge with the end-of-course assessment.

You may begin your plan by asking your manager for a meeting and an assessment. If you're working alone, follow the above steps to concretely outline your career goals and detail the steps you must take to achieve them. Whether you begin with completing a professional development course, joining an organization, or simply polishing your resume, be realistic with your timelines and always be willing to revise.