Personal Development Plans

For many of us, it’s PDP time. Too often the PDP process is disengaging, bureaucratic and rushed. And too few people prioritise their own improvement, allowing the demands of the day-to-day to take precedence.

It doesn’t have to be this way! Done well, PDPs can support you to turn your career goals into a reality. In this article we explore common barriers to career planning and provide key tips for an effective PDP.

Common Barriers to Career Development

Career advisors identify four common career development challenges:

  1. The “when” challenge. Sounds like: I’ll get around to career development when I have the time. Career risk: Your development feels separate from your day job.
  1. The “who” challenge. Sounds like: I don’t have anyone who is helping me develop my skills. Career risk: Your progression becomes dependent on other people.
  1. The “what” challenge. Sounds like: I’m not sure what I want to develop in. Career risk: Searching for the one “right” answer stops you from getting started.
  1. The “where” challenge. Sounds like: There are no career development opportunities where I work. Career risk: You feel frustrated and lose motivation.

If any of these sound familiar, we recommend taking control of your PDP and your future.


Here are tips for creating an effective PDP, whether you’re looking to change career, build on your current skills, or learn something new.

  1. Reflect. Think about your progress over the last 12 months. What new projects have you taken on? What skills have you developed? How have you expanded your networks?
  2. Take stock. List your strengths and development needs.
  3. Envision. Begin with the end in mind. What’s your vision for your career? What impact do you want to have? What would you love to do and where?
  4. Backcast. (This is different to forecasting.) In backcasting, you work back from your vision to the present. Then identify the steps you need to take in the next year to achieve your career vision. Think about outcomes rather than inputs. Turn your vision into reality by creating SMART goals. Create three sets of goals: short-term (the next year), mid-term (2-3 years) and long-term (4+years).
  5. Action plan. List specific action steps for each short-term goal. Apply the 70-20-10 principle:
  6. 70% of learning is on-the-job: what projects or tasks could you take on? How might you increase the scope of your role? Might you act for your manager when they take leave?
  7. 20% of learning is through relationships. Might you get a coach or a mentor? How might you learn by observing or shadowing others?
  8. 10% of learning is through training. Have you thought of a career in sustainability? (Learn more about Green Jobs & Sustainability.) What formal courses could you do? What about doing a free MOOC (massive open online course) by one of the world’s leading universities? How about offering to deliver a training course?
  1. Get support. Share your plan with your manager and enlist their support. This might look like being given specific projects, time away from your regular work, additional tools, regular check-ins, or approval for training. Seek support from colleagues.
  2. Review. Transfer your plan into your schedule and review it regularly – at least quarterly.

In our leadership development programmes we support people leaders to have developmental conversations with their teams. This is a great process to use with your team to support them to take responsibility for their development.