Writing a Performance/Professional Development Plan

Every job I have had after graduation has required that I write a Performance Development Plan (PDP), sometimes called a Professional Development Plan. This outlines what I aim to achieve during the year, how these aims link with the strategic directions of my employer, and it enables that employer to review what I am doing.

There was however, very little guidance on writing one. This can be quite frustrating for a new graduate, with so much to learn already and every one expecting you to know about this strange PDP beast. Luckily, my recent employer sent me on a full day workshop to learn about writing these goals and targets.

So, a few tips 🙂

  1. Talk to your supervisor and find out their expectations – of you and of the PDP.
  2. Look at examples of other colleagues PDPs, follow this format and style (each workplace is different). Usually this involves writing a few (around 5-10) ‘work goals’ with targets to show you achieved this over-arching goal. And also some ‘career goals’ (around 2-4).
  3. Make a ‘to do’ list for the year ahead. Then look at the strategic/operational plan of your workplace. Decide where each task on your ‘to do’ list fits within these broader goals. I was then able to use their wording exactly for my ‘work goals’ and then place each task as a target to achieve that goal.
    • For example: Goal (from stategic plan) =”Continue to improve eLearning resources and programs.” Targets (one of many) = “Complete ‘Citing and referencing FAQ’ sub-tab in LibGuides with library team by (date)”.
  4. Look at your job description to consider relevant tasks for the year ahead. The ‘key responsibilities’ listed here will guide you.
  5. Look ahead to find any courses, training or conferences/events you might be interested in attending that will help you achieve your goals. But remember – there are many other ways to learn than with paid training: consider a mentor, free web tutorials, reading, observation etc.
  6. Try to find a balance – don’t put everything you could ever hope to achieve in the PDP, but don’t sell yourself short either. If you’re unsure that you can do everything listed, maybe try a slightly vaguer statement that gives a little wiggle room.
  7. It’s ok to not achieve everything in the PDP! It might be that the idea wasn’t appropriate in the end, or that time didn’t permit, or many other reasons. As long as you have a good reason you won’t look bad.
  8. Think about career goals as well as work goals. What will help you grow professionally? What do you want to learn? If you’re not sure, it can be helpful looking at the position description of a higher up job you would like one day. Work towards being able to fulfil the key selection criteria. Look to improve on weaknesses and expand on your strengths.
  9. Make SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely).
  10. Keep track of your progress so you don’t have to try to remember everything you achieved at the very end! You don’t want to forget anything great you’ve done. I keep a spreadsheet of tasks and examples that is really helpful.
  11. Keep evidence – many PDPs require something to prove what you are saying you did. Screenshots, emails, invoices etc.
  12. Ask for help and advice. Most of your colleagues would have written a LOT of these and will understand your confusion, they’re rarely straight forward to create, but after writing a few you’ll become an expert!

Good luck and happy learning (and documenting).

Michelle De Aizpurua


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