Structuring your career thoughts into a personal development plan

Structuring your career thoughts into a personal development plan

Building your PDP - a 7 step building process

1.1 Develop your vision

Beginning a journey starts with an idea of the destination, the purpose: Where do I want to be in 3 years, in 5 years? What is the person I want to be? What is my purpose? Putting your thoughts on paper will help you to focus your ideas, clarify your motivations and give meaning to actions that will appear as conscious choices (you know what you are doing it for) and not as obligations.

1.2 Look at the present

To decide how to get from point A to point B and what areas you need to focus on, you first need to know your current situation. What are your skills? What is the gap between your current situation and your vision?

1.2.1 Do a SWOT analysis

A personal SWOT analysis can help you. It is a self-assessment method to help you evaluate where your career is and where it could go.

Please complete the table below using the questions as a guide, but do not limit yourself to them:


  • How do your education, skills, certifications, talents and relationships set you apart from your peers?
  • According to your N+1 or colleagues, what are your strengths?
  • What values or ethics do you have that your peers often lack?
  • What are the achievements you are most proud of?


  • What skills are missing from your palette?
  • According to your N+1 or colleagues, what are your weaknesses?
  • What are your negative work habits and personality traits?
  • What do you avoid because you lack confidence?


  • What trends are affecting your professional field?
  • In what areas is your business growing?
  • How could new technologies help you to progress?
  • How might your connections help you? Who in your network?


  • What obstacles do you currently face in your career?
  • Who is your competition?
  • Will new technologies or demands for certification slow your progress?
  • How is your job or industry changing in ways that affect your advancement?
  • Consider asking people who know you well and whom you trust (a spouse, friend or colleague) to look at your completed matrix and give you honest feedback. - Use your SWOT analysis to match your strengths to opportunities and take strong action in those areas. Or match your weaknesses with threats to discover situations you should avoid. You can use the information to convert weaknesses into strengths and threats into opportunities, where possible.

1.2.2 What are your values?

Knowing your values is essential: by aligning your values with your actions, you will be able to move forward in life in accordance with yourself, and therefore feel happy and fulfilled.

Think about this question: What is my list of values that are most important for me to be fulfilled at work?

Then fill in the table below according to the instructions:

1st column: list your five winning values in order of priority (e.g. autonomy, honesty, boldness, loyalty, ....)

2nd column: define next to your values in a few words what you mean by them, what this value means to you, as there is a great deal of subjectivity in understanding our values.

3rd column: for each value, write down two or three ideas for action to make this value more central to your daily life, whether at a personal or professional level. How can this value be linked to your strengths?

1.3 Clarify your milestones

Now that you know where you want to go (your vision) and you know the starting points (situation, assets, requirements...), define development goals.

Each goal should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (See the Toolkit: Setting Goals and Action Plans).

These objectives (and perhaps sub-objectives) will be the milestones of your journey, indicating your progress towards achieving your development project.

The success of your PDP depends on the relevance and diversity of the development actions in your plan. To be effective, it is advisable to define your milestones according to the 70-20-10 rule, and to compose your PDP of :

  • 70% learning activities integrated into workplace action ;
  • 20% learning activities through significant others (N+1, coach, peer, mentor, etc.);
  • 10% formal training activities (classroom or online training, workshops, seminars, etc.).

1.4 Create good habits

Think about setting up very specific actions, even small ones, repetitive tasks, which will become habits that will support your development actions. If one of your objectives for progress is "to dare more", a good habit could be to go and ask for or give constructive feedback every day, to a colleague, to your N+1, ....

Focus on one habit at a time.

1.5 Use the principle of paradoxical strategies

What is a paradoxical strategy? It is a rather surprising, but very effective technique to help you stay on track.

For example, if I want to be more productive, I know full well that I must not get distracted by going on social media. Or if I want to be punctual for my appointments, I know that I shouldn't leave the office too late.

The paradoxical strategy is to create a list of 10 actions that may prevent you from achieving your goal, but phrased positively!

Example: To be more productive, I make a note on my list:

  • I check my Facebook page (instead of "I must not check my page")
  • I respond to all solicitations* *I let the meeting drag on
  • I let the meeting drag on / I work without a schedule* *I am a perfectionist
  • I am a perfectionist* *I want to be right
  • I want to be right
  • I reread everything three times
  • I stay up very late ...

Put the list in a very visible place, where you cannot avoid it. By some "magic" mechanism in our brain, the list will help you keep your focus on your goal.

1.6 Celebrate your small successes

If you have achieved a goal, be satisfied and reward yourself. Being happy and proud is an essential step to success. The feeling of genuine achievement is a just gratification of the journey completed, it is a charge of positive energy that is good for us and sets us on the path to another goal.

1.7 Measure your progress

To know if your PDP is working, you need to track and measure your progress. Measuring helps to hold you accountable and can reveal weaknesses in your plan. A PDP is never rigid, you should be able to adjust your development plan whenever necessary.