A new year of professional development

A professional development plan is a good way to reflect on your career, argues Cat Shepherd.

When January comes around, people are inclined to look back on what they have achieved over the last year and set themselves resolutions - often unrealistic - for the next 12 months. But this reflective period is also the perfect time to review and update your professional development plan (PDP).

All RTPI members are required to spend at least an hour each year preparing a PDP identifying their development needs for the next two years and setting themselves goals. These goals can be designed to help you meet the needs of your current role, progress in your career or move into a different area of planning. They are personal to you and should be about your goals, not just those of your employer.

RTPI members often tell me how surprised they are to find how useful it is to prepare a PDP. However, if you think about your career as a project, probably the most important one you will lead, it makes sense to plan it to make sure you are working towards your goals.

Set aside at least an hour to write your PDP. The first thing to do is to ensure that you have your old plan together with your continuing professional development (CPD) record for the past two years. A good way to start is by looking at what you set out to achieve last year and then assess to what extent you were successful.

Ask yourself if you met your objectives. Were there any goals that you were unable to meet and do you still need to achieve them? Have your priorities changed since your last plan? This will start to get you thinking about what your goals might be for the next few years.

The next step is to think about your job or the job you aspire to have and consider the skills and knowledge you need to do that particular role. Then write down your strengths and weaknesses and see if there are gaps between what you need to be able to do and what you are good at.

Once you have spent some time thinking about your ambitions and development needs, you can set your development objectives. Write down each objective, the CPD activities you will do to get there, how you will know that you have achieved it and the date by which you want to reach it.

For example, a recent review of members' PDPs showed that gaining management skills was considered to be important for career progression and 42 per cent set it as one of their personal development objectives.

Cat Shepherd is RTPI lifelong learning officer. For further information and templates for your PDP and CPD record, please visit www.rtpi.org.uk/education_and_careers/lifelong_learning, email catherine.shepherd@rtpi. org.uk or phone 020 7929 8174 for an informal discussion about your PDP.

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