At MAP, we meet a lot of new clients who tell us they have some sort of professional development plan. But when we ask them where it is, they often sheepishly reply it’s in a drawer somewhere or collecting dust on a shelf. It’s no secret. A plan that’s not being used really isn’t a plan at all. It’s just a piece of paper. And yet regularly revisiting your plan can be a very important driver in your professional growth. When you make a point to check in—whether weekly, monthly or even quarterly—it supports that crucial accountability, giving you a chance to review your strategic activities, assess progress and successes, and identify where you need to course correct to get closer to your professional development goals.
Here’s how to get the most out of your professional development plan:
1. Make Your Plan Visible
Even the most well-intentioned, best-designed plans can get stowed on a shelf or in some forgotten computer file. Don’t give yourself a hard time about why you’ve put it there or overlooked it—just go get it out and put it somewhere visible and easily accessible. Tack it on a corkboard next to your desk. Or post it on the wall next to the office door where you can’t avoid seeing it as you come and go. Then, consider creating a new, perhaps inspiring habit around reviewing it. For example, every first Friday of the month, set aside a half hour to review the plan at your favorite coffee shop, which can serve as both an incentive and a reward. Put this event on your calendar and set up reminders to help you stay on track.
2. Keep Your Plan Fresh
It’s quite possible that your plan may be outdated or could contain certain aspects that need adjustments. After all, a person’s goals can change, as can the strategies and tactics that support them. Know this is normal—perfectly Ok even. And if you’re finding your plan doesn’t feel relevant anymore or that aspects of it aren’t actionable or sustainable, commit to revising and maintaining it. This may mean editing the timeline for certain goals. It could be deleting action items that have been achieved and adding new activities to support a current goal. Refreshing your plan is part of ensuring it’s a living document, or one that’s current and relevant to you today.
3. Know When To Ask For Help
Not everyone’s strength lies in professional planning. What’s more, not all of us have the self-motivation that’s required to see a plan manifest into results and success. If you struggle with your plan’s maintenance, find someone you trust, who has this skill set, and who can lend you a hand. It could be someone who volunteers to mentor or support you in this way. Or it could be someone you hire to be your coach, such as your MAP Consultant. Whomever you choose, make sure this person knows what he or she is doing and can either help hold you accountable to your commitments or assist you in creating accountability strategies you feel you can honor on your own.
What qualities do you look for in a mentor—or someone who can help hold you accountable to your professional development plan?