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The Importance of a Personal Development Plan

Written by: Charlotte Rogers
Published on: 19 Jul 2021

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You can take your career in any direction you want, if you work hard enough and have an outline of what you want to achieve, then anything is possible. It’s likely that, as an engineer, you already have some kind of development plan mapped out, but if you don’t, now might be the right time to think about what you want from you career. A personal development plan can help you think about what you want and outline the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goals. Not everyone may feel like they need one, but it can definitely help you become the engineer you want to be.

What is a personal development plan?

A personal development plan or a PDP is a plan that you can use to document your goals. It’s a document used to outline the strengths you already have; what you need to change or learn in order to reach your goals and what weaknesses you think you may have. It’s used to help you learn and overcome things you may feel need working on. A documented journey that is used to help you get where you want to be in your career.

Some PDP’s are started by your employer, but you can start your own one from the second you know what you want to do. It can be used to help motivate you throughout an apprenticeship or higher education and used well into your working life. It is always there to show you what your goals are and if you ever lose sight of them, having a PDP can help motivate you to keep moving forward. It’s a commitment you make to yourself, you are doing this for you and no one else.

You are not limited by anything, like most things in life, goals can change. The good thing about having a PDP is to show you where you began. You are constantly achieving things, regardless of how you may feel about a current situation. When your ambitions change, change your PDP. Nothing written means forever.

Why have a personal development plan?

Not only can it help drive motivation to achieve your goals, but it can help a lot of people bring their vision into a reality. Some people know exactly what they want in a career and in life, others simply do not. Those that have less guidance to where they want to be can sometimes feel lost and forget the things they have already managed to achieve. When you lose sight, it can help lead you back to where you want to be.

It’s not meant to be used just to highlight your achievements though, make sure to make a note of the things you may have failed at. Because sometimes, nothing drives a person more than failure.

It also helps your employer see where you want to be. If you start in a role with a company and they know that you want to grow and develop, they might be able to help you. Employers may give you their version of a PDP to help you hit company targets, so let them know about your own goals as well and they may help you incorporate them.

Helps you sharpen existing skills

Likelihood is, you already have a lot of valuable skills at your disposal already. By thinking about where you want to be and understanding your goals, you are able to know what skills you need to have to reach said goals. Think about what skills you already have, what can you do to improve them? Are you a good leader? A good communicator? Good with mathematics? We have an abundance of skills and we don’t use all of them every day. Having a brush up of these skills and staying in the loop with what is happening in your field of work can help you keep current and keep your skills in top shape.

Persuades you to learn new skills

A personal development plan not only outlines what we already know but it opens up your ability to see what you may need to learn. We don’t know everything, and engineering is changing every day. It’s not only important to keep up to date, but when needed, don’t be afraid to get out there and learn something new. If your employer is offering learning sessions for leadership or running courses to learn about the next new thing in your field, take the opportunity.

There are also hundreds of learning opportunities out there for you to find on the internet. Online engineering courses from the IET and other online providers that can help you learn new skills and provide qualifications.

What to include in your plan?

A PDP will differ between people, we all have our own goals and different ambitions we want to follow. So, it’s important to never compare yourself to the people around you. We all work and learn at different rates, so give yourself the time you need.

When setting your goals, the SMART method can help bring structure and make them easier to achieve.

Specific – Make sure you are specific in what you want to achieve

Measurable – Try and include a measurable amount of time to achieve your goal. Helping you stay motivated and have something to work towards.

Attainable – Set yourself up to actually achieve the goal. Make sure they are realistic, and you give yourself enough time to actually achieve it.

Relevant – Make sure your goals are relevant to you. Don’t include something because that’s what other people around you are doing. Ask yourself if it will help your career and make you happy.

Timely – You need a date or a deadline. Be realistic and it will help you prioritise.

Making a commitment is never easy and that is exactly what a PDP is. You are outlining your goals and how you are going to reach them. Nothing is going to be easy and it will take time to get where you want to be, but it will be so worth it in the long run.