How To Create an Individual Development Plan (With Template)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An individual development plan contains an overview of your career ambitions. It's an important document that helps you visualise how an employment opportunity can help you reach your full potential. During the job-seeking process, a personal development plan can aid you in finding a position that's a good fit for your talents and goals. In this article, we discuss what an individual development plan is, why it's important, how to write one with a template and example that you can make your own.

Related: How to Write a Self-Appraisal

What is an individual development plan?

An individual development plan is a personal document that outlines your strengths and weaknesses to determine how you can improve in line with your career ambitions. You can create this plan individually or with the help of your supervisor or mentor so that they can support your growth. Aside from professional development, these plans are also available in educational settings so that students can address their weaknesses. Typically, it's a snapshot of the resources you have available to you and the skills you need to build in order to enhance your performance and productivity.

Related: How to Create KPIs to Boost Performance

Why is a personal development plan important?

A personal development plan is important because it encourages you to evaluate your own performance and remain accountable. This way, you're always striving for growth, a characteristic that can significantly impact your organisation's performance and your career trajectory. Here are a few reasons explaining why a personal development plan is extremely essential:

Identifies your talents

Sometimes professionals can be unaware of their strengths. Thus, creating a personal development plan is also an opportunity for self-reflection. You can also ask a close co-worker, mentor or organisational counsellor to help you recognise your talents. This way, you can employ them to meet the demands of the situation and use them to compensate for your weaknesses effectively.

Targets your weaknesses

During this self-reflection process, identify projects or events where you felt under-prepared or overwhelmed. Think deeper to determine the skills, knowledge or characteristics you need to cultivate in order to improve your performance. This is a crucial benefit of a personal development plan because it ensures that you're growing in the right direction and not falling into a pattern of complacency.

Provides you with an action plan

At some point in your career, you might feel that there's little opportunity for you to grow in your current work situation. This is the perfect time to create a personal development plan. Not only does it encourage you to regain your focus, but it also helps you rethink your goals. People change over the course of their career and sometimes that could mean discovering a new purpose that excites you.

Boosts your motivation and productivity

Creating a personal development plan helps you realign yourself with your career ambitions. Thus, it can be a cathartic process that restores your motivation. When you regain clarity of your goals, you can be more conscious about the opportunities you say yes to. This can increase your job satisfaction, which ultimately leads to greater productivity, too.

How to write a personal development plan?

Review the following guide on how to create your own personal development plan:

1. Determine your professional goals

Before writing your personal development plan, reflect on what you want to achieve during your career. Create concrete goals, such as the position you want or the company you want to work for. Rather than creating financial objectives, focus on learning goals. These are more attainable and are a source of long-term satisfaction.

Next, break down your career ambition into smaller steps. For example, instead of stating that you want to be a marketing director in the next 10 years, create a timeline of promotions that you would like to aim towards. Remember to be adaptable in your approach as you discover new interests and goals.

Related: How to Write SMART Goals For Your Career (With Examples)

2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses

Analyse your performance over the last year objectively. The key to this stage is your honestly and accountability. The more open to feedback you are, the more you can improve. Look at both your successes and shortcomings and ask yourself, "why". This method gives you insight into the skills and knowledge you possess and the ones you lack.

3. Create action items to improve

Now that you've identified areas of improvement, you need a plan to support your growth. Think about workshops or courses you could attend to refresh your knowledge and upgrade your skills. Decide if an intensive program, such as a master's degree, can equip you with the leadership skills and strategic thinking techniques that can increase your chances of securing a promotion.

Finding role models whose career trajectory you can emulate is another method that can get you a step closer to your career ambitions. Identify their successes and learn from their mistakes. Better yet, enlist a mentor that you can discuss your career decisions.

Related: 10 Leadership Skills To Highlight In Your Resume

4. Try to be as detailed as possible

When writing your personal development plan, rather than simply stating your strengths, weaknesses and improvements, describe each action item in detail. The process stimulates your critical thinking skills. It helps you internalise strategies so that you remember to change your behaviour when a similar situation arises. The more descriptive you are, the more accountable you feel.

5. Ask a mentor for the advice

Share your personal development plan with a close colleague, mentor or family member that's familiar with your work style and career ambitions. This way, you can get an objective perspective on your strengths and weaknesses. Listen to their advice on how you can improve attentively. They might be able to suggest strategies you overlooked.

6. Implement your plan

Once you've created your plan, make a habit of improving your approach in practical work settings. For example, if your goal is to become a better team player, you can begin by acknowledging the effort of your colleagues more regularly. Getting into the rhythm as soon as possible ensures you remain accountable and on target with your goals.

Personal development plan template

The following is a development plan template you can use to reflect on your work performance:

[Your name]
[Job title]
[Date]

Professional goals and aspirations

[In this section, list your career ambitions in a bullet points.]

Strengths and talents

[Describe your strengths, why they're important to your career and how they can aid you at work.]

Weaknesses

[Identify your weaknesses, the circumstance they're most visible in and what you want to achieve by working on them.]

Development opportunities

[Identify projects and other opportunities where you can implement improvements on your skills and knowledge in order to meet your professional objectives successfully.]

Action plan

[Use a numbered list of specific actions you can take to achieve your professional goals. Try to implement a timeline with a target completion date for each line item.]

Personal development plan example

The following is a development plan example that uses the template introduced earlier.

James Wong
Primary school teacher
15 January 2021

Professional goals and aspirations

  1. Support students in their mission to achieve top grades to enter their desired secondary school

  2. Mentor students as they prepare to transition into high school life

  3. Secure promotion as primary six department head

Strengths and talents

  • Strong time management skills that allow me to multitask between teaching students, preparing lesson plans and grading their schoolwork

  • Creative content planning skills that drive student engagement in the classroom

  • Clear communication style that secures the attention of students and increases their comprehension of complex subjects

Weaknesses

  • Listen to students' questions attentively to identify gaps in their learning

  • Be more patient, especially with students with learning difficulties, in order to increase their understanding of maths and science subjects

  • Offer more one-on-one learning opportunities to cater to the individual needs of students, particularly during the exam preparation period

Development opportunities

  • Create lesson plans that dedicate more time to question-and-answer sessions

  • Create a schedule that includes one-on-one time with students

  • Use words of encouragement more regularly in the classroom to empower and motivate students

Action plan

  1. Spend two hours per week on individual student development sessions. The target completion date is Feb 2021.

  2. Dedicate three hours per week to individual student development during the examination period. The target completion date is April 2021.

  3. Spend five hours per month developing leadership skills through workshops. The target completion date is June 2021.

Explore more articles