Create a professional development plan for your personal success

Create a professional development plan for your personal success

By William Cowie

Do you need to work on your professional development goals?

Not all careers require you to actively pursue professional development. Some careers have specific parameters that need to be met. People working in fields like law, medicine, nursing and veterinary practice often need to create a professional development plan and maintain a continuous schedule of professional development to keep up to date with changes to laws, technology and best practices in their field.

Do you need to work on your professional development goals?

Even if professional development isn’t mandatory in your field, you might want to set your own development goals. Developing your professional skills can keep you up to date with technology and techniques so you stay relevant in your industry. You might also want to be better or more confident in your job, so you could work on ‘soft’ skills like communication, time management, team building, and other general abilities that are useful in almost any job. The end results can be promotions, better paying jobs or the ability to seize interesting opportunities when they arise.

Professional and personal development goals can vary widely, depending on the field you work in and your interests. Creating your own professional development plan is the first step in pursuing your goals. When creating a professional development plan, you’ll find that your professional development goals can mostly be broken down into three broad categories:

Job Specific

Job specific goals are directly applicable to the work you are currently doing now. The goals you set depend entirely on your priorities and the job you are doing. Someone working in sales might try to make an extra 5 sales a week, while a teacher might try to mark 3 extra assignments an hour.

Employers sometimes offer incentives to reach particular goals, such as bonuses for sales people when they reach a certain number of sales in a month. Job specific goals often have a quantifiable result that you can see so you know if you’ve achieved what you set out to do.

Skill-set Specific

Rather than focus on a specific task that you do as part of your job, skill-set goals generally involve improving a broad or complex set of skills. Wanting to improve interpersonal communication skills would be an example of a skill-set goal. Interpersonal communication skills might encompass reading and writing skills, face-to-face and public speaking skills and your ability to listen to other people.

Breaking down complex skill-sets into smaller goals can help make them easier for you to achieve. As skill-set goals can be so broadly defined, it can be difficult to know if you’ve reached you goal; more often, developing your skill-set is an ongoing process throughout your life.


Your educational goals can be small. You might need a weekend course to get the certificate you need to operate a piece of machinery, or take self-paced, online classes in basic coding and website design for a few weeks so you can create a simple website for your own business.

Educational goals can also involve working towards major professional certifications and qualifications, such as Certificates, Diplomas and university degrees. Employers will, in some cases, help you reach educational goals by giving you time off work or funding part of your education, particularly if you are learning skills they need.

Many educational goals have a clearly defined end result; after 12 months completing all the requirements for your course, you get a nationally recognised qualification and a certificate that you can show to employers.


Be S.M.A.R.T.!

One commonly recommended method of developing professional development goals is the SMART method. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Make your goals .S.M.A.R.T: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timelyEducation and job specific goals are often easy to categorise under the SMART system. An example educational goal for someone getting into the training industry might be:

  • Specific: Complete the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.
  • Measurable: Certificate of achievement upon completion.
  • Achievable/Attainable: Enrol and complete all coursework to a satisfactory standard.
  • Relevant: The current mandatory vocational qualification for teaching in TAFEs & RTOs.
  • Timely: Qualification must be completed within the 12 month timeframe for the course.

Don’t forget to check out our full range of vocational qualifications when you’re setting your education goals. We have a variety of nationally recognised and accredited qualifications that can help you take your career to the next level or in a new direction, including essential and popular courses like the Certificate IV in Training and Assessment and Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety

Skill-set specific can be a bit more challenging. For example, “get better a communicating with other people” is not S-M-A-R-T.

A way of translating that ambition into a SMART goal would be:

  • Specific: Make a speech at the monthly meeting next week.
  • Measurable: Speech must cover points X, Y and Z and go for 3 minutes.
  • Achievable/Attainable: Write a speech, practice and then make the speech.
  • Relevant: Public speaking is a communication skill.
  • Timely: Speech must be given next week.


Think about how a professional development plan can help you

Professional development can be a challenge, especially finding the time, money and energy to do it! Think about where you want to go next with your career or what opportunities you’d like to be able to pursue. Maybe you want to be better at your job, be able to help more people or want to take home some extra money at the end of the week to pursue your personal passions.

Once you know where you want to go, you can work out how to get there. Create your own professional development plan, using a professional development template, so you know what educational, job specific and skill-set goals you’ll need to achieve. Prioritise and set about achieving each goal and you’ll discover you have the skills you need in no time at all.

Good luck with your planning! Professional development is a tool that can help you reach you personal and career goals – but don’t forget to be S.M.A.R.T.!


Oops! We could not locate your form.