Taking Control of Your Career – The Personal Development Plan

Most of the time we harbor aspirations and dream dreams, yet we rarely stop and think about our future in detail. A personal development plan helps you know where you’re headed and how to get there, with specifics.
Vassilena Valchanova

This article draws on several articles, but primarily those of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI).

Wikipedia defines personal development planning as “the process of creating an action plan based on awareness, values, reflection, goal-setting and planning for personal development within the context of a career, education, relationship or for self-improvement” (citing Justine Chinoperekweyi, 2017).

More specific to career development, the Personal Development Plan (PDP) – also called a Personal Enterprise Plan or Action Plan – results from a planning process, as outlined by CMI, which includes:

  • Establishing aims and objectives (or goals) – What you want to achieve or where you want to go, in the short, medium or long-term in your career
  • Assessing current realities
  • Identifying needs for skills, knowledge or competence
  • Selecting appropriate development activities to meet those perceived needs

The PDP may be dreaded, and feared, by many managers, but Adrian Furnham argues for career development to be delegated to individuals to create a tailored and individual experience. Individuals may quickly appreciate that writing the plan is itself a developmental activity!

The varying cultures of organisations means that some take development more seriously than others, typically evidenced in the resources – human and financial – dedicated to the training / coaching / talent management / development department. While organisational development and personal development are linked, the focus here is on the latter – Personal development is about learning new (soft) skills, becoming more aware, being more open to change.

Development is essentially about learning, with the question of course being not only what to develop but how to develop people? There are numerous options available and different organisations appear to have their own preferences. What is thought to be efficacious, useful and acceptable differs from one group to another. This is often due to the personal preferences of the HR director or CEO who approve of certain methods but not others. Choices are frequently based upon preference and cost; very rarely on any sort of data.

But we all know we like to learn in different ways. If the goal is rather vague, then why not let individuals decide? For instance, people are awarded developmental opportunities which are seen to be positive (e.g. relating to promotion and salary).
The company offers a dedicated financial and time budget to all managers at or above a certain level. But they have to submit their own PDP – Describe the plan; explain the process, justify the cost, etc.. These are assessed by a committee and if found acceptable you have the funds and time-off to go and do your thing.

In evaluating the proposal, the best indices are arguably twofold. The description of what is gained through the activity – The specificity of the outcomes (knowledge, insight, process, experience) and a realistic understanding of how this will occur. Next there is the issue of value to the organisation – While personal development is largely for the individual’s benefit, it is also an investment for the company.

The CMI notes that employers are increasingly aware of the importance of investing in their staff and often have structures and processes in place to provide opportunities for their training and development. Nonetheless, managers also need to take personal responsibility for renewing and updating their skills and knowledge throughout their working lives.

Personal development is a continuous lifelong process of nurturing, shaping and improving skills and knowledge to ensure maximum effectiveness and ongoing employability.
Personal development does not necessarily imply upward movement; rather, it is about enabling individuals to improve their performance and reach their full potential at each stage of their career.

CMI has designed a PDP Template to help individuals structure their thinking and create a strategic plan for achieving their goals.

A handy PDP Action Checklist provided by CMI, can be summarised as follows:

  1. Establish your purpose or direction
  2. Identify development needs
  3. Identify learning opportunities
  4. Formulate an action plan
  5. Undertake the development
  6. Record the outcomes
  7. Evaluate and review


Afro Ant believes that good, effective management and leadership is equally, if not more, important than technical PM / BA / OCM skills. Afro Ant accordingly partnered with Next Level Impact to exclusively offer CMI internationally accredited Leadership and Management training in South Africa!
Look out for the next opportunity to ‘Maximise your potential’ – and make a difference in your organisation! – through the Next Level Leadership Programme!


Go to: Personal Development Plan: How to Take Control of Your Own Career(Adrian Furnham); “Personal Development Planning” (CMI Knowledge Bank); and 4 steps to a successful personal development plan” (Vassilena Valchanova) to read the key original articles.
A related helpful article by Vassilena Valchanova is her more detailed four stage guide, or system, based on experience, for professional development planning that integrates personal development.