‘Hi Amy. Just booking in a slot for your performance review, let me know if this time suits.’
There are few emails in the workplace that evoke such a wide range of emotions than that of the cryptic message from your boss inviting you to sit down for an hour to discuss your performance.
But it doesn’t have to be a looming mark in your calendar. An effective Personal Development Plan (PDP) will help you discuss the progress you’ve made and show the steps you’ve taken to develop yourself. So when it comes to your review, you can let your development plan do the talking.
What is a PDP?
Of course, a PDP isn’t just a useful tool to bring to your 1-to-1’s and reviews. A PDP is one of the most effective ways to turn your goals into a reality. Whether you’re looking to change career, build on your current skills or simply learn something new, a PDP will help you to plan for the future and manage your own learning and development.
But what should you include in your PDP? And how do you get started? To help you, here are our top tips on creating, and maintaining, an effective PDP.
1. Think about the work you’ve already done
Before you start thinking about what it is that you want to achieve, spend some time thinking about your progress over the last 12 months. Not only will this help you get a sense of what’s going well and any areas that you can improve on, it will also help you to recognise the strengths and weaknesses in your skillset.
2. Write a list of your strengths and weaknesses
Do you often draw a blank when it comes to the common interview favourite ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’ If so, this section of your PDP will help.
Your strengths are a mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills. By getting an idea of what your strengths are, you’ll be able to identify activities where you can add value. And by recognising your weaknesses, you can start to get involved in work that allows you to develop gaps in your skills and knowledge.
One of the easiest ways to identify your strengths is to think of an activity, or aspect of your role, that you enjoy doing. More often than not, it’s because you’re good at it, so you’ll probably find those skills are the strongest in your skillset. The same goes with your weaknesses; we tend to avoid activities where we don’t have the skills needed to do it. Once you’ve identified what your strengths and weaknesses are, you can start to establish your goals.
3. Start setting your goals
Deciding what you want to achieve requires a lot of thought, so don’t be deterred if an answer doesn’t immediately spring to mind. These goals can be anything from short-term to long-term, big or small. If you’re stuck, ask yourself the following questions: Do I want to progress here? Would I be happier in another role? Are there any new skills I’d like to learn? Or any skills I could continue developing?
Whatever you decide you want to work towards, the key thing is to make sure that you’re setting goals based on what you want to achieve, not what you think your manager would like to see. Once you’ve set your goals, consider prioritising them – and try not to tackle too many at once.
4. Form a SMART action plan
Now that you have an understanding of what you want to achieve, it’s time to set some concrete actions. Think about what you’re working towards and then work backwards from there, outlining the steps you’ll need to take. This could range from reading up on a particular topic, shadowing a colleague, going on a secondment, or enrolling on a course to learn a new skill.
It’s also important that the actions you set for yourself are clear, measurable and obtainable. A great way to make sure of this is to follow the SMART method: keep them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed.
5. Set aside time to evaluate and update your PDP
For your PDP to be effective, it needs to be updated regularly. Setting a weekly reminder in your calendar is a great way to get yourself into the habit of spending time reviewing your progress and updating the areas of your PDP that you’ve been working on.
Remember, your PDP isn’t set in stone. If you write something down that you no longer want to do, just take it off and set yourself something new to work on!
And one last thing…
We all know the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’, and in this case, it’s true. Write a list of the people you think could help you, whether it’s your manager, a colleague or even a friend, and reach out to them for support or advice too. The support network around you is a valuable asset, so use it and don’t underestimate it.
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