My Professional Development Plan Toolkit

November 17, 2009

Posted in Higher Ed.

Higher ed loves conferences (as do I). My boss has been live-tweeting the AMA Higher Ed Marketing conference for the last day or two. We’ve sent people to eduWEB Conference, South by Southwest Interactive, CASE, EDUCAUSE, RubyConf, RailsConf, and plenty of others.

But these things cost money – travel, registration, food, per diem, etc. And they take time – sometimes you can’t afford a few days away from the office. For that matter, conferences aren’t the only way to learn and develop your skills.

Create a Plan

Seems obvious, but it’s not clear what a professional development plan includes. Doing a search brings up some great resources, including this guide to professional development from EDUCAUSE.

But I’m looking for something simple – something concrete. And I should be able to do this every year. So I’ve worked up a rubric that follows a basic process. I’d love your feedback, as I’m hoping to put this into practice right away.

1. List the skills needed to do the job.

I think these fall into three categories: core requirements, secondary requirements, and professional skills. Core and secondary requirements make up your job description. Professional skills are those abilities that aren’t necessarily part of the tasks you do, but are crucial to your success. They might include public speaking, project management, written communication skills, etc.

2. The employee rates himself/herself.

Next, the employee has a sense of what his/her strengths and weaknesses are. These may only be perceptions – but perceptions have a strong influence over how the work is done. Lack of confidence or over-confidence can lead to poor decisions.

3. The supervisor rates the employee.

The manager must also rate the employee’s skill levels. Sometimes employees do not see opportunities the way the manager does, or are not fully aware of their strengths. Ultimately, the manager is responsible for directing staff to develop in ways that improve performance and serve the department.

4. Prioritize the skills based on the ratings.

If you’re an 8 out of 10 for a core skill, but a 3 out of 10 for a secondary skill, the priority may be to improve the secondary skill because the benefits will be more noticeable. This is subjective, but it is the step that provides focus for where to invest professional development time and money.

5. List specific steps to improve.

Of course there are plenty of conferences, but you should also look to other ways to develop your skills. Depending on how you learn best, you might consider taking classes, reading books/blogs (self-teacher), finding a mentor (a la apprenticing), doing pro bono or test projects (practical application), presenting to someone (learning through teaching), etc. A combination of these is probably best, but it will depend on the skill, the employee, and unfortunately, the budget available.

Collaboration is Key

This isn’t a top-down, manager-drive process to change employees. This is a collaboration between the employee and the supervisor. It should serve the needs of both. By providing professional development, the manager has a more effective, efficient, and generally valuable employee. For the employee it creates new professional opportunities and should translate to merit-based pay increases, promotions, etc. It should be a win-win.

Sample Professional Development Plan

Professional Development Plan Rubric (Excel) or as a Blank (PDF)

So how do you manage your professional development? Any tweaks to this process? Please share in the comments.