Professional Development Plans

A professional development plan is a useful tool to help manage your professional development in the best way for you and your career, helping you to reach your full potential. They provide a structured way for you to think about your career goals and what you need to do to achieve them. Your professional development represents a commitment of time and effort, so your plan should provide a structure for documenting and reflecting on the development activities that you are undoubtedly doing anyway in the course of your career.

A good plan should clearly define your career goals and the objectives, time frames, competency development and other outcomes that will help you meet those goals. They should be specific, and include dates for you to review your progress, as well as any meetings with line managers. If you are looking to qualify as a Foundation or Registered member, then you should include meetings with your Mentor in your plan.  

You should review your plan regularly during the course of your career. This will help ensure you are prepared for the opportunities and obstacles that will arise during your working life. Follow these steps to create your ideal plan.

Step 1: Set your goal(s)

The purpose of your plan is to set out your career goal or goals over a one, two or three year period. You may decide to set yourself one goal, or several, but be realistic in what you think you can achieve. Ask yourself what do you want to do, or be, during the next two, three or five years.  What will you be able to do once you have achieved the goal? Is your focus to qualify as a Foundation, Registered or Fellow member? Are you interested in working for a specific employer, or sector? Are you considering setting up your own consultancy?

For some members the goal will be to broaden the experience they have gained and seek a promotion. For others it will be to specialise, or to develop new competencies that will enable them to move to managerial positions. Your goals are unique to you. You may find it helpful to undertake a SWOT analysis of your career to date, and identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Step 2: Set your objectives

Once you have decided on your goal(s) you can then plan what you need to do to meet them. Your objectives should sit below each goal, as they will specify what steps (objectives) you will take to achieve the goal.

Use the ARA’s competency framework to identify the competencies that you will need to develop in order to meet your career goals. By reviewing the three competency and levels documents, you can identify which competencies you already have experience in, and map that experience across to the competency level descriptions. This process is known as self-assessment, and when completed you will;

  • have a better understanding of your achievements and experience to date
  • understand how this experience relates to the competency levels (1-5) set out in the competency framework
  • have identified the level of competency you want to progress to (e.g level 1 to level 3)

Members who identify Foundation or Registered membership as their career goal should discuss their plan with their mentor to help ensure it is objective and achievable.

Additional information and guidance

There is a wealth of information available on professional development plans (also known as personal development plans). The two links below will help you learn more. Members who are employees might also consult with their employers’ human resource service.

Ask yourself:

  • Which aspects of this competency do I want to develop and why?
  • What will I do to achieve this?
  • What resources/support will I need?
  • How will I measure evidence and reflect on success?
  • What is my timescale?

Decide how you are going to record your answers to the above questions. You can use a simple grid pattern similar to the example below to help you plan your development, or find another way that suits you better.

Example of how to use a professional development plan approach when developing a competency from level one to level 3

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