How to Create a Professional Development Plan

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Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is the learning and development you undertake in order to carry out a current role or move into a new one. Many organisations have well-established CPD activities, but it’s still good to be proactive in order to: develop your current role, achieve greater satisfaction and effectiveness in your current work or take a new career direction.

If you’re serious about your own development, be prepared to:

  • put aside some protected time to reflect and take stock – if you don’t, things may not change and you might miss out on some good opportunities
  • be systematic, write a plan and regularly review it
  • find at least one person who can act as a ‘critical friend’. Consult them to  get feedback on your ideas or ask advice. This could be a colleague, friend, professional coach, or line-manager.

Step 1: Review

Look at any personal or careers development book or website or organisations’ professional development plan and they will cover similar key CPD stages: 

  1. What’s going on at the moment? What are the issues?
  2. What’s going well; what’s not?
  3. Think about where you want to be, what you want to develop. What are your goals?
  4. What are your areas for development

What next?

  • Find 30 minutes in the next week 
  • Decide how you are going to record your answers to these questions – for many people a really special folder makes a huge difference; really! 
  • Answer questions 1 to 4 on your own, then discuss your answers with a critical friend 

Step 2: Plan

Write your action plan focussing on each area for development in question 4. There are many ways to set this out, but the following should get you started:

Area for development:___________________

Learning and development needs

What do I need to do?

What resources do I need?

Who can help me?

What is my timescale?






Step 3: Take Action

Depending on your situation, you may be in a position to take some specific steps now. Here are some suggestions:

You want to improve your performance and satisfaction in your current role:

  • Make performance reviews or appraisals work for you, don’t just react to your line manager’s agenda
  • Look at courses you can do within and outside your organisation; if it’ll cost money, take time to make a case referencing your job description, targets, organisational strategy and staff development policy
  • Put aside time to follow-up any activity or course
  • Use your initiative: get feedback on what you do well from colleagues, clients, customers

You want to progress within your current organisation:

  • Check out what other people do: look at every job advertised; talk to colleagues; check organisational charts 
  • Speak with potential line-managers 
  • Do all of the above diplomatically! 
  • If you are at risk of redundancy or redeployment – become an expert on the policies and procedures – there may be more help than you think 

And don’t forget’s own resource, the  CPDe-guide at

Career Development Toolkit for Higher Education Professionals

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