Business & Leadership

A Guide to Create a Professional Development Plan

In order to be successful in your life, you must have personal development and professional growth. Follow this guide to create a professional development plan.

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If you have big dreams for your career or business — or you’re feeling “stuck” and are looking for a way to find the happiness and fulfillment you desire — then a professional development plan is what you need to make your career or business goals a reality!  

I have used short- and long-term professional development plans throughout my 40-year-career to achieve incredible success and create a life I truly love. 

Knowing how to write a good development plan is what helped me go from being an inner-city high school teacher, to a successful business consultant working with Fortune 500 companies and a New York Times bestselling author. 

And I’ve continued on to be an internationally renowned personal growth expert who has helped millions of people around the world create lives they love!

If professional development planning worked for me, it can work for you too. Here’s what you need to know to make it happen. 

What is a Professional Development Plan?

A professional development plan – also known as a PDP – is a roadmap that details the steps you need to take to achieve your long-term personal and professional goals. PDPs are generally career-related, but they also work for business owners who want to grow their businesses

Your professional growth plan will be unique to your specific life and career goals. It includes both long-term career strategy as well short-term goals that keep your forward momentum going strong. 

What is a Professional Development Plan?

You can also include your big personal goals within your plan to ensure they’re aligned with your professional goals so you can fulfill success in all areas of your life. 

Personal vs Professional Growth

The line between personal and professional growth can be blurry.

It helps if you think of it this way: personal growth refers to improving your mental and social skills, while professional growth is focused on growing your knowledge and skills to succeed at work. 

Both personal and professional growth feed into your personal brand (and by “brand,” I mean, how you show up in the world and how people perceive you based on your words and actions.)

You’re building your personal brand every time you interact with people – whether in person or online – so I encourage you to put some effort into strategically creating your personal brand so that it aligns with your intentions and purpose, as well as your long-term professional goals.

Personal vs Professional Growth

Importance of Professional Development

Professional development isn’t a “one-and-done” sort of thing. Achievement of any big goal — personal or professional — takes time. 

Doctors don’t graduate from medical school and think they’ve learned all they need to know for the rest of their careers. And professional tennis players don’t perfect their serve once and then never work on it again. They are committed to doing the ongoing work required to reach their highest potential. 

That’s the importance of professional development.

Knowing how to write a good development plan will give you the blueprint you need to continuously learn and self-improve a major focus of your life. 

Benefits of Continuous Learning

Ongoing learning is essential to living a successful and fulfilling life because it helps you: 

  • Boost your confidence: With each new skill or experience you acquire, you move to expand your sense of what you are capable of achieving. You prove to yourself that you are capable of taking on new challenges and succeeding at them – and that will inspire you to take even bigger risks, with bigger rewards!
  • Establish your credibility: Gaining new skills and experiences proves to your colleagues and employers that you have the focus, drive, and willpower to accomplish incredible things – and as a result, they will have more confidence in your abilities and be more eager to work or collaborate with you. 
  • Elevate your expertise: Every new skill or piece of knowledge you acquire builds a depth and breadth of expertise you cannot hack, fake, or fast-forward through. Your relentless commitment to learning will give you the readiness and confidence you need to jump on new opportunities when they arise!
  • Increases your value as an employee: Ongoing professional development increases both your job satisfaction and the value you provide to your employer and/or clients. This will put you in a better position to qualify for promotions, acquire higher-paying clients, or get higher-paying jobs with other companies if you choose to further your career path elsewhere. 
  • Boosts your productivity & e/efficiency: When you invest further into learning how to do your job better, guess what? You do better. You’re able to deliver high-quality work in less time, resulting in free time to take on new challenges or focus on what matters most. 
  • Makes it easier for you & your organization to succeed: The more you learn, the better you become at anticipating and avoiding potential obstacles in your path. Your elevated credibility and reputation will also make it easier for you to get the support you need to overcome obstacles faster.  
  • Opens doors to further career opportunities in your career: Continual professional development will introduce you to new people, resources, and opportunities you otherwise might never have encountered. They expand your universe and your realm of influence, exposing you to exciting new opportunities for success.  

Get Ready To Transform Yourself For Success… One Day At A Time with my   12-Month Success Planner.

How to Write a PD Plan in 6 Steps

Follow these steps to create your own professional growth plan for the year ahead. 

Step 1: Assess Your Skills 

Begin by evaluating your “blue-sky” professional goals as well as your current skills and knowledge. What do you want to achieve in your career — and are those goals aligned with your true purpose in life to ensure a lifetime of happiness and fulfillment? 

If yes, what strengths will help you reach those goals, and what weaknesses are standing in the way? What are the gaps between where you currently are now? And what needs to happen to eliminate those gaps? 

If these questions are challenging for you, I encourage you to create a vision board and put it somewhere you can see it every day. 

A vision board is a powerful tool that will help you gain deeper clarity into what you really want your personal and professional life to look like so you can maintain focus on your goals as you live your day-to-day life. 

Step 2: Set SMART Goals

Once you’ve clarified your long-term goals and assessed your current skillset and expertise, your next step is to set clear goals that determine your path forward and move you in the direction of your dreams. 

Be sure that the goals you set are “SMART” – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely – to guarantee that they are realistic and doable. 

I also encourage you to get really clear on your ambitious long-term goals first so that you can then chunk them down into short-term milestones that keep you moving in the right direction. 

Step 3: Create Your PDP Strategy

Your professional development plan isn’t just about goal-setting – it also details the specific steps you will use to reach those goals and make consistent progress toward your dreams. As you create your PDP strategy, consider the approach that will work best for you. 

Do you need to gain hands-on experience in the field? 

Will signing up for an online course give you the learning you require? 

Or would you benefit from finding a mentor who can monitor your progress and give you the feedback you need to get better results faster?  

Step 4: Focus Your Mind

Identifying your goals and strategy is just the beginning… because the key to your success all comes down to your MINDSET. If you lack the confidence and willpower to relentlessly pursue your goals, the best-written professional plan in the world won’t help you! 

focus your mind

So if you are serious about your dreams, I encourage you to put in the effort to cultivate a success-focused mindset. Eliminate any distractions that pull you in the wrong direction or keep you from devoting your time and energy to what really matters most. 

Meditation is a powerful tool for this. Meditating for as little as 10 minutes a day can help you maintain a positive mindset and cultivate the relentless focus you need to keep moving forward despite any distractions or obstacles that appear on your path.

Step 5: Lean Into It & Take Action!

It doesn’t matter how ambitious or well-written your personal development plan is if you don’t take action on it! That’s why this is the most critical step of all. 

It’s important to recognize, however, that taking action requires you to step outside your comfort zone and take risks that might scare you or make you nervous (such as approaching your manager for a promotion or learning a challenging new skill). 

It’s normal to feel a bit of fear or apprehension. But if you want to succeed, you’ve got to lean into your fear and take action anyway. 

It doesn’t matter if you can’t see the complete path ahead of you. Just like when you drive at night, as you keep moving forward, the road ahead will make itself known. 

What matters most is taking that first step! And then the next, and the next…

And remember that there is a multitude of resources out there that can help you with your professional growth, allowing you to accelerate along your career path. 

Step 6: Reflect & Grow

Your PDP is a work in progress. Because its purpose is to identify your long-term vision for your life and career while detailing the path forward, it evidently isn’t something that can be completed overnight. 

But if you create a strong professional development plan and consult it regularly to ensure your ongoing actions are leading you in the direction of your dreams, you will be amazed at what you’re able to accomplish! 

The key lies in consulting your PDP regularly. I encourage you to review it on a weekly or daily basis to make sure you keep your goals always top of mind. 

Building in this kind of rhythm allows you to reflect on your actions and what you’ve accomplished. It will help you understand what’s working and what’s not so you can adapt your strategy accordingly.  

My Professional Development Plan Example

Here’s a professional development plan example you can use to get your goals and strategies down on paper. Answer the questions below to get clear on what you want to achieve professionally in the next year or two, and the steps you plan to take to make your goals a reality. 


Where are you currently in terms of your position, skill set, and career – and where do you hope to be?

  • What is your current job/role?
  • Where would you like to be 12 months from now? How about 24 months from now? 
  • What steps do you need to take to make that happen?
  • What are your current strengths? 
  • What are your current weaknesses? 
  • What steps can you take to strengthen those weak areas?
  • What else can you do to make yourself more valuable to the people you work for?  

12-month Goals

What specific professional development goals would you like to achieve in the next 52 weeks? 

  • What do you want your income to be one year from now? Put a specific number to it. 
  • What kind of promotions or new positions do you want to attain? 
  • Where do you want to work – and in what circumstances? (E.g., do you want to get a job with a different company, start working remotely, or get that sweet corner office? Or do you want to go out on your own and start your own business?)
  • What new “claims to fame” do you want to achieve? (E.g., new accreditation, lucrative new clients, sales targets executed) 

Success Strategies

What steps must you take to attain those 12-month professional development goals?

  • What new skills must you learn? 
  • What courses/programs/training do you need to take? 
  • What experience do you need?
  • What meetings or discussions do you need to have?
  • What opportunities do you need to pursue? 


What tools, resources, and support do you require to implement your strategies and reach your goals? 

  • What technology tools (hardware, software) do you need? 
  • What online resources can you leverage? 
  • Who can you find to mentor you so you can reach your goals faster?
  • Who can you add to your support team? (E.g., to help with tasks that take up too much time and aren’t your key area of expertise?) 


Break down your annual goals into monthly, weekly, and quarterly goals.

  • What are the major goals you want to accomplish this year? 
  • To achieve those goals, what steps do you have to complete in…
    • The next 6 months? 
    • The next 3 months? 
    • The next 30 days? 
    • This week?  
  • Then add these tasks to your planner and make sure you complete them on schedule. 

By answering the questions above, you will gain valuable clarity into your professional development journey and the steps you need to take to accomplish your career goals and create a life you love. 

Create Your PD Plan Today

Ready to take it further? I’ve got you covered! 

The Success Principles: 12-Month Success Planner is a FREE downloadable tool that you can use to schedule your weekly, monthly, and yearly goals using my time-tested and life-changing Success Principles. 

The simple “fill-in-the-blank” templates help you plan exactly how you can achieve your goals and tackle daily challenges, while the daily guidelines and inspirational quotes will ensure you live each day with passion and purpose!

Put this FREE planner to use to transform your life beyond your wildest dreams!  The Success Principles: 12-Month Success Planner.

Meet Jack Canfield

For over 40 years, he has been teaching entrepreneurs, educators, corporate leaders, and people from all walks of life how to create the life they desire.

As the beloved originator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul(r) series, he's taught millions of individuals his modernized formulas for success, and has trained and certified over 2,700 students to teach his content and methodology in 107 countries around the world.