In last week’s post we discussed how to create a professional development plan when you aren’t sure how to turn ideas into concrete action steps. We discussed how to think through exactly how you’re going to make the shift you want to make. In this week’s blog post, we continue the discussion.
The first purpose of a professional development plan is to think through exactly how you’re going to make these shifts in your work to meet your goals. The second purpose of the plan is to use the plan to track how you’re doing. Each week at work presents opportunities for development and change—having a place to track and notice what is and isn’t shifting keeps your goals front and center, even when many things compete for your attention. You can put check-ins in your calendar to address areas of the plan, so they are scheduled as a part of your regular work.
Say you’re working on not interrupting people. In each of your interactions, you plan to pay attention to when the speaker is actually done before you interject. You notice how hard it is wait a couple more seconds before jumping in with your thoughts. Why is that? As you practice, you notice that the urgency to share your idea made sense in a past job where you had to fight for “airtime;” in your current situation, it’s unnecessary and actually shuts down other people. When you make the space to really notice how not interrupting others improves conversation dynamics, you’re more inclined to make non-interrupting the norm and only interrupt when the situation warrants it. You can feel the difference between your being in control of your behavior instead of it controlling you.
Development of just about anything takes time, and focus. A professional development plan clarifies what you will focus on, when you’ll do it, and how you think it will help you grow. Some aspects of your development plan may focus on tangible skill building. Others may require deeper shifts in your mindset, confidence and compassion for yourself and others.
Bootstrapping my own development is one of the best things I learned to do, whether the growth was learning how to read cash flow statements (skill level), or changing my overall relationship with money (mindset level). This has happened continually throughout my career. The requirements of the situation dictated where I needed to grow, then I worked on figuring out how—practicing, catching, correcting, and gradually getting better.
Profound professional development—that which requires us to restructure now only what we’re doing but how we do it—is not easy. But this type of development can be done, and can transform not only our work but our entire lives. I consider this a profound gift that the workplace offers us, if we choose to receive it.
The format of your plan doesn’t really matter. The content that comes from you—your decisions about how to go about it, and the results of your experiments in learning—is what matters most.
It’s challenging to get clear and focused enough on how to make the difficult shifts — I know. It has a feeling of being a mindset warrior — battling our previous ways of perceiving, cutting through our illusions, and literally building new capabilities, strengthening ourselves so that we can take care of our own needs and take care of others along our work and life journey.
And the ability to grow oneself is itself a very, very useful skill.
These shifts are possible. And they take work. A development plan is about showing your work, just like we used to have to do in math class. How are you planning to go about these career and mindset development moves? That is what the plan answers. And it gives you a convenient spot to keep tabs on your results.