The Blueprint for Crafting Your Professional Development Plan

Tegan Trovato

Some of the smartest people I know are naturally curious folks who resourcefully build their own developmental plans. Oftentimes, leaders and employees are mistaken in thinking that, if they want to strengthen a certain competency, they need to enroll in something: a degree program, certification course or webinar, for example, and that their company needs to support them in this endeavor.

As I have engaged more deeply in the talent management sphere, what I regularly hear from corporate citizens is that they recognize specific developmental needs, but their company “won’t pay for” the development.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credence to the value of formal learning, coaching and mentoring programs—after all, that is what I’ve spent the past few years building here at Cielo. It is refreshing, as a professional, to have your developmental journey laid out for you. But, what is an employee to do when they have a developmental need and no clear path? Their first thoughts should be around what they can do to help themselves!

Many of the hours I spent developing the aforementioned programs were dedicated to doing work that had me focusing on a specific topic, researching it in great depth, providing subject matter expertise and teaching others. Upon reflection, the reason I have been successful in doing this kind of work is because I have always done this kind of work. This process of researching, learning and leading has been my go-to methodology for my own development since I was in grade school! Only now applying the methodology pays much better.

Here are some tips on how you can create and employ your own professional developmental plan:

1. Clearly understand what you want to develop within yourself. One of my favorite resources for this is FYI: For Your Improvement (a book I frequently use to prep for my coaching engagements).

2. Make a list of resources that will help you educate yourself on this topic: blogs, books, hands-on experiences and mentors.

3. Become your own school teacher or professor: create your own lesson plan. How much time can you give to your development each week? What exactly are you going to spend your time on?

  • Example 1: I will spend 30 minutes, three days each week reading Book X, ensuring I read three chapters per week and finish the book by date/time.

  • Example 2: I will reach out to Tom in Finance whose career I admire and ask for his confidentiality in talking about my development on this topic. What experiences does he think I should seek out to improve my skill set? What blogs/resources does he read that keep him abreast of changes and discoveries in this space?

  • Example 3: I will set up online alerts or aggregators (feedly is a great tool) to automate the collection of blogs and publications on this topic. I will read feedly every morning while on the subway going to work.

4. Find out if any of your peer networks have interest in this topic. Having people to talk to and collaborate with while you learn is a fantastic value-add!

5. Calendaring is caring. Anyone who has taken my training courses on time management and communication knows my creed: if you care about it, put it on your calendar. In Corporate America, things are swept away unless you protect some time for it. Your self-development should never be an afterthought!

6. Be disciplined. Create the plan, work the plan and hone the plan. Your returns entirely depend on the effort you put in.

7. Make sure your boss knows what you are up to. You may not give them the logistics of how you are going about it (unless they ask), but once you’ve come up with and enacted your plan, do the following:

  • Tell your boss about your new “self-development plan,” and be clear that you have crafted something formal of your own volition and are excited to begin the journey.

  • Ask if they have any thoughts, insights or recommendations for things you should add or consider as you advance through your self-development plan.

  • If there are specific experiences you need in your job (i.e., project work, exposure to certain methodologies, etc.), ask for them.

  • Close the loop. When you have completed your formal lesson plan, bring it back to your leader and be prepared to discuss with him/her how this will make you better at your job and how else you envision it helping the organization.

  • Don’t be surprised if the conclusion of your self-development plan knocks your boss’s socks off! You may even inspire your leader to embark on a similar journey. Our own curiosity and discipline are often overlooked and underemployed when it comes to professional development.

8. Apply these steps any time you need them. Be your own best developmental resource for the rest of your career!

Post contributed by Tegan Trovato, Cielo Director of Excellence Initiatives.