Create a Professional Development Strategy (Part 2 of 2)

"What is the recipe for successful achievement? To my mind there are just four essential ingredients: Choose a career you love, give it the best there is in you, seize your opportunities, and be a member of the team.” -Benjamin Fairless

In my previous post, Create a Professional Development Strategy (Part 1), I talked about the importance of creating a professional development strategy to be engaged with your work and proactive about your career. We covered the first two steps, "The Vision" and "The What" (Knowledge, Skills, Talent and Experience). Now it is time to get down to business by putting your thoughts into action and focusing on "The How."

Step 3. The "How" If you haven't yet written down your answers to the questions in Part One, have no fear! I've created the following handy template which you can copy and use to record your answers. I've said it before and I'll say it again - write them down! This strategy is nothing if you can't refer back to it frequently. Back to the Part One recap: the first step is to articulate your big picture vision for where you want to be one year from now, then narrow your focus in terms of knowledge, skills, talents and experience.

Link: Professional Development Template (Go to File --> Copy to create a version for yourself)

Now we get to the how - time to write some measurable goals and come up with a plan for how you'll research and achieve those goals. I suggest the following five steps:

  1. Choose three key areas of development. Make sure they are broad and aggressive; don't sell yourself short or let yourself off easy! Stretch, think big, aim for the stars.
  2. Write a mini one-year vision statement for each area. Write as if you have already achieved success or made significant progress; for example, "Time Management: I am extremely efficient. Each morning I focus on completing my biggest task before answering emails. I prioritize my work on a daily and weekly basis, and make sure that 80% of my time is focused on the top 20% of my job in terms of strategic importance."
  3. Set benchmarks for yourself. If the development areas stretch over one year, what do you hope to achieve six months from now? Brainstorm a list of resources or action steps to reach your benchmarks. This may include any of the following:
    • Resources (blogs, books, videos, podcasts)
    • Trainings/Education (classes - online or in-person, formal education)
    • People to Talk to (Mentors, others strong in this area)
    • Other (journaling, scheduling weekly time for reflection, etc.)
  4. Develop a system to track your progress or use the sample template I created (I figure third time plugging this is the charm that will get you to put your plan to paper!).
  5. Engage others. Ask for feedback regularly, partner with someone who also wants to develop in one of the areas you have chosen. See my previous post on creating peer support networks.

"I am defeated, and know it, if I meet any human being from whom I find myself unable to learn anything." -George Herbert Palmer