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Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Business

Every business needs a business plan that maps out the process of identifying the target market, attracting interest, gaining customers and retaining them for future sales. A solid marketing plan is an integral part of the overall business plan, as it maps out objectives and the plan for achieving them.

What Does a Marketing Plan Contain?

An effective marketing plan is detailed with concise steps that will accomplish a defined goal. The plan should identify and discuss the target market with information about direct competition in the industry. It should include information about marketing activity used in the past with the effectiveness of these activities. Then, the marketing plan consists of a set of realistic goals with defined objectives along with deadlines for meeting these objectives. The plan must also include budgetary guidelines for the marketing activities as well as a plan for measuring the effectiveness of the activities. It’s important to make the marketing plan easy to maintain and update as a company evolves, too.

Marketing Planning Process

The process of making a marketing plan involves market research to assess trends, profile target customers, identify potential competition, outline products or services, find vendors, calculate costs and brainstorm all positive and negative impacts that could affect the business. The business should create a mission statement that defines the company, its vision and its priorities. Next, the plan needs to focus on specific strategies and methods that will generate sales, including product descriptions, calls to action, promotion and advertising methods and budget, product or service pricing, and a plan to monitor how effective the marketing strategies are performing for the company.

Questions to Ask Yourself

To succeed in any industry, a business needs to set itself apart to attract customers and compete successfully with similar businesses. Questions to ponder include:

  • Is this business model unique, and how is it unique? What need does the business meet?
  • Who makes up the target market that will buy the service or product?
  • What other companies currently exist that will compete for the target market? How can you prevail over this competition?
  • What message will you communicate to potential buyers? How will potential buyers find out about your service or product?
  • How will you deliver your service or product to your buyers?

Using a Marketing Plan Template

Some small business owners prefer to use a marketing plan template. Free marketing plan templates are available for download from the Internet. You can also use a marketing plan worksheet to help you brainstorm your ideas, goals and objectives. Once you have an outline of your marketing objectives, you can create an effective plan.

How Do I Write a Marketing Plan?

Make sure your marketing plan includes these points:

  • Start with a description of the business, including mission statement and overall intent. Include goals, the organization of the business, the products or services provided with branding, and the target market.
  • Outline results of market research, including identification of target market, customer demographics and profiles, market influences, economy, competition, customer satisfaction and identification of strengths and weaknesses the business may face.
  • Set pricing based on business and manufacturing costs, break-even point, profit analysis, competitive pricing and the amount buyers are willing to pay.
  • Include profiles of your target market, including demographics, their habits, qualities valued by customers, potential customers not being currently reached, ways to reach these customers and any changes customers might want.
  • Analyze the competition based on talking to their customers, visiting their business and checking out their website. Find out about their products, branding, advertising and marketing. Pinpoint how your product or service differs.
  • State goals that create a defined marketing direction. Plan objectives that outline specific actions that will achieve goals. Be as specific and realistic as possible, and describe how you will measure attainment of objectives and goals.
  • Make a plan to put objectives in action to attain goals. For example, if your goal is to increase product reorders by 25 percent in the next year, make an objective to contact clients by phone or email within one month of sales, offering a return-order discount.
  • Define your company’s distribution method such as direct sales, wholesale, print mail, telemarketing, advertising, networking, Internet marketing or a direct sales force.
  • Create a marketing budget, such as a specific percentage of revenue or a particular portion of your annual budget. Every product or service needs a budget. Determine how many products or services you will need to sell to make a profit.
  • Analyze the success of marketing efforts to determine what’s working and what’s not working. How many sales occurred? Are buyers happy? How many sales calls were necessary to make sales?

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Work with others to agree own personal development plan

Your Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a formal record of your learning and development, which is used to identify your learning needs and plans for the future.

When creating your own PDP it is essential that you work with others to select and prioritise the areas of learning that you wish to pursue.

Primarily, this will be with your manager during supervision because you will need to identify learning goals that are beneficial for both you and your employer. Your employer will need to address skills gaps in the workforce and suggest options for development that fit these needs. Your employer will also require that you undergo mandatory training so that you can perform your role safely and lawfully.

You may also involve others in your personal development planning. For example, the individuals that you work with may have needs that require additional training. And co-workers and other professionals may help you identify areas for improvement.

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A Personal Development Plan (PDP) Guide & Template

What is a personal development plan.

Personal development is an ongoing process that drives you to improve your knowledge, skills and experience, so that you can achieve your goals. A personal development plan (or PDP) is a method of focussing your goals into achievable steps, which helps you keep track of your personal development.

Download Free PDP Example/Template

Why Should I Create a Personal Development Plan?

Your plan may be aimed at your education, career or personal goal, or a mixture of all three – that is up to you to determine. Whatever the case may be, a good plan will provide you with a clear sense of focus. It helps you map out a path towards your goals, strategise a plan to achieve them, record the actionable steps you will take, and set a timeframe for completing them. Focussing your goals into a PDP helps you maintain your vision, keep on track to achieve your targets, and reflect on your progress.

Simply put, a PDP can help you build a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.

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A clear plan can also support your positive mental wellbeing and improve your level of satisfaction. It can provide a sense of direction, purposefulness and a feeling of success as you start to fulfil your potential. All of these can have very positive impacts on your mental health. 

Therefore, discovering what your goals are, getting organised and giving yourself a sense of direction can be incredibly beneficial. This article will give you an understanding of how to write a personal development plan, as well as provide you with a handy template to support your development journey.

How to Write a Personal Development Plan

There are seven steps to writing a PDP:

  • Set yourself goals.
  • Prioritise those goals.
  • Set yourself deadlines for when you want to achieve them.
  • Recognise threats and opportunities.
  • Develop your skills or increase your knowledge.
  • Use your support network.
  • Measure your progress.

person filling in PDP diary progress

1. Set Yourself Goals

The first step is to set yourself goals . Think about what you want to achieve, whether that’s within a few weeks, within a year, or over your lifetime.

Deciding what you want is not only the first step in planning, it’s also the hardest. Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, that goal will provide clear direction and a structure for your resulting plan.

At this stage, your goals will feel big. You might be wondering how you are ever going to achieve them. Don’t worry – the next step is to prioritise and turn those goals into smaller, actionable steps that will support you on your way to achieving them.

2. Prioritising Your Goals

Now that you have your goals, the next stage is to break them down into smaller steps. When doing this, it’s important that your goals are SMART:

  • Specific. Avoid large, ambiguous steps. These won’t support you on your way to achieving your goals. Insted, make sure that your goals are specific and clearly highlight the skill, knowledge or experience you want to develop.
  • Measureable. You need to be able to monitor and reflect on your progress. Therefore, your goals need to be measurable, such as by setting a goal to develop your SEO knowledge with a measurable target of growing your website traffic by a set, defined percentage.
  • Attainable. Your goals need to be achievable and realistic. You need to think about if it is something you can realistically achieve with the time and resources you have. If not, you will likely be setting yourself up for failure. 
  • Relevant. It’s important to keep your overall goal in mind and make sure that every step you take is supporting you to achieve it. You don’t want to be spending time doing things that don’t get you where you want to go.
  • Time-bound. Set yourself key targets to achieve and deadlines in which to achieve them. This will help you stay focussed on achieving your goals. However, it’s important to make sure you are realistic in what you can achieve in any given period. Don’t try to achieve everything all at once. It’s unrealistic and you won’t be setting yourself up well to achieve them. Remember that personal development is a journey – your PD plan can continue to grow and develop as you take those steps towards your goals.

Once you have your goals, you’ll need to prioritise them. 

In your PDP, you should be setting yourself mini goals to make the big ones happen.

For example, if you wish to pursue a career in academia as a senior lecturer and then a professor, a necessary step to succeeding in this goal is to achieve a PhD. So that would be one of your long-term goals. You then need to break it down into steps, such as:

  • Learn about the PhD application process.
  • Find a suitable university and supervisor for a PhD.
  • Look at routes for funding.
  • Find studentships to apply for or apply to your university of choice.
  • Write and submit your PhD application.

3. Set Yourself Deadlines

Knowing when you want to achieve a goal is crucial, and picturing your future is an important source of motivation and inspiration.

Having goals and a set deadline will drive your motivation to achieve them. For example, if your goal is to buy a home, knowing when you want to achieve it will help you calculate exactly how much money you need to save each year in order to get your deposit. The same is true for your skills, knowledge and experience development. As mentioned above, setting realistic and time-bound goals are essential to achieving them. 

One good way to understand more about achieving your goals is to speak to those who have previously trodden a similar path. Learning about  their experiences can help you understand key barriers to, or methods of, success that may also be applicable to your PDP.

typing up a personal development plan

4. Recognise Threats and Opportunities

When considering your goals, you should identify your own strengths, consider areas of weakness you can develop, look at the opportunities available to support you in achieving your goals, and any threats that may hinder you in your progress. This is called a SWOT analysis. Note that these threats may be external or they may be core skills that you can develop as part of your PDP.

For example, a lack of motivation could hinder your plans to apply for a PhD. However, once you’ve identified your tendency to procrastinate or lose focus, you can put in place methods that will keep you motivated.

There are also going to be things that you could do, and connections with people or resources you could take advantage of, that will help you on your way. These are your opportunities that you should commit to doing.

For example, if there’s a conference coming up, take advantage of that. Go along and network, stay up to date on the latest knowledge, or even present a paper. These are all opportunities that could help you achieve your goals.

5. Develop Yourself

Once you have an idea of what could help or hinder you, this is when you can capitalise on those opportunities you recognised. Make an action plan about how you’ll make that progress.

Whatever it is that hinders you, there’s a way to stop it. Your plan is the first step to making sure you stay on track. 

So, why not take a look at how to upskill yourself , develop transferable skills in today’s rapidly changing jobs market, or even discover an online learning opportunity .

6. Use Your Support Network

The next thing you need to realise is that:

You don’t have to do everything by yourself.

And you shouldn’t. The support network around you is a valuable asset, so use it and don’t underestimate it.

In your PDP, list the people who can help you. This could be a financial advisor, a friend, or a colleague. People are often so happy to help you, more than you might realise.

friends supporting PDP

7. Measure Progress

After you’ve achieved some progress, whether it’s big or small, take time to reflect on how far you’ve come.

Recognising what has gone well is an effective way to bolster your motivation and remain dedicated.

And after a setback, this is another time to take stock.

Wallowing – briefly – is a good way to feel what you need to without holding on to it. Holding onto sadness, anger or frustration, however, will only deter you. These emotions will take you nowhere and will only hinder you.

You should also spend a little time figuring out why it went wrong. Can you identify a skills or knowledge gap? 

 If you can, then you can get yourself back on track by focussing on your next step. This will reignite your sense of purpose and help you regain control, which is integral to making progress.

Continue to reflect on your progress. You can gain significant insight from your reflections and this can help you grow. Remember that you should update your plan where necessary. Don’t overload it at any one time but, once you have achieved your small steps, reflect and then update your plan to focus on your next move.

Free Personal Development Plan Example & Template

In this article, we have discussed how you can create your own personal development plan, so you should now feel ready to start considering your goals and developing your own plan. To help you produce an effective personal development plan, we have created an editable template that you can use. Take a look at our example PDP, and download your free template below:

Further Resources:

  • How to Upskill Yourself
  • What are Personal Development Goals for Work?
  • Using Key Phrases in Performance Reviews & Appraisals
  • Resilience Quiz
  • How to Stand Out in a Virtual Interview: Preparation Tips
  • What is CPD? A Guide to Continuing Professional Development
  • Business Essentials Courses

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  • How to Write a Personal Development Plan: A...

How to Write a Personal Development Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide with Templates & Examples

An open journal on a table with a pen. In the journal is written 'HOW TO WRITE A PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN: A step-by-step guide with templates and examples'. Also shown is the dsdweb.co.uk logo and domain name.

So you want to know how to write a Personal Development Plan (or PDP as it is sometimes abbreviated to)?

In this article I will:

  • Explain what a Personal Development Plan is and its purpose
  • Give you a step-by-step guide to creating your own awesome Personal Development Plan
  • Provide you with templates you can use for your own Personal Development Plan
  • Provide you with examples of completed Personal Development Plans to give you some ideas

NOTE: Although this website is specifically geared towards the UK Health and Social Care sector, the information, templates and examples contained herein may be used or adapted for use for any country or industry.

On this page

  • 1 So, what is a Personal Development Plan?
  • 2 Personal Development Plan vs Professional Development Plan
  • 3 5-Step Guide to Writing a Personal Development Plan
  • 4 A Word of Warning
  • 5 Personal Development Plan Templates
  • 6 Care Certificate & Diploma

So, what is a Personal Development Plan?

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” ~ Benjamin Franklin (supposedly!)

Planning is an essential ingredient to achievement and success. The quote above (which is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin although there is little evidence to corroborate it) basically means that without a plan, you are doomed to failure. Although this is not strictly always the case, people that have a plan are much more likely to succeed than those that don’t. And their journey will be easier, too.

Think about some of the things you’ve planned for in your life.

Maybe a holiday, a house move or even just a day out.

You probably did some planning beforehand, right?

For the holiday you may have booked your hotel room and plane tickets and then planned how you would get from the airport to your hotel. For the house move, you might have arranged when the removal truck will arrive and got everything packed up into boxes ready. For the day trip, you may have planned your route and prepared a picnic the night before.

Now think about what could have happened if you didn’t plan ahead.

What if you landed at your holiday destination in the early hours only to find that the next train between airport and your hotel was at 8am the following morning? Or the removal truck for your house move turns up but you haven’t packed your stuff ready to be loaded onto it? Or you go on your day trip and find the food prices extortionate and wish you’d made a picnic?

Plans stop us drifting aimlessly through life. They give us direction and goals to strive towards.

A Personal Development Plan is a written document that gives us a roadmap for our own personal growth and self-improvement. It is used to identify the skills or traits that you would like to develop and provides a clear path from getting where you are now to where you want to be. Not only does it organise your actions but it also organises your thinking as well as giving you confidence and motivation in moving forward.

Personal Development Plan vs Professional Development Plan

Technically, the difference between a Personal Development Plan and a Professional Development Plan is that the former is a plan for your own personal growth and the latter is a plan for your development in your work and career.

However, many organisations (especially in the health and social care sector) use the term Personal Development Plan to refer to formal plans for your growth and development within your work role.

No matter which term you use, your PDP should be relevant to the context in which you are writing it. For example, a PDP that has a goal of quitting your job would be fine for your own personal plan but probably not a good idea for a plan that you are writing at work and your manager will see!

The information and resources in this article can be used for both your own Personal Development Plan and your Professional Development Plan for work. They can also be used by managers to support employees with their personal development.

5-Step Guide to Writing a Personal Development Plan

Creating a great Personal Development Plan consists of these 5 simple steps:

  • Analyse – where are you now? what are your strengths? what are your weaknesses?
  • Identify Primary Goal  – what do you want to achieve? what do you want to change? SMART goals
  • Plan – how do you get from where you are now to where you want to be? write it down
  • Implement – follow your plan
  • Review – regularly review and update your plan

This is not a one-off process and should be performed regularly so that you can check your progress, add new goals and tick off completed goals.

Self-analysis is the starting point to creating a Personal Development Plan.

It involves taking a look at yourself and being honest and realistic about your strengths and weaknesses and the aspects of your life or work that you want to improve.

Some questions you may ask are:

  • where am I at the moment?
  • where would I like to be in 3 months? 6 months? a year?
  • what have I achieved so far this year?
  • what do I find difficult?
  • what do I find easy?
  • what are some of the things that I am happy/unhappy with in my life/work?

This step is primarily a thinking process, to give you an overall picture of your current situation. You don’t really need to go into specifics – that will be done in the next step – the important thing here is to spend a bit of time thinking about yourself, your needs and your desires and identifying general areas of your life or work that you would like to change.

It is useful to document your thoughts here, both to give yourself clarity and to refer back to in the future to see how far you have come. The best way I have found to do this is to begin your Personal Development Plan with a personal statement, which is basically just a paragraph or two about where you are currently, what you want to achieve, your current skills and any obstacles that may get in your way.

I’ve provided two examples of personal statements below and will be referring back to them throughout the rest of the article.

Example 1 is a personal development plan for JOHN, an individual that is unhappy in their current career in corporate IT and would like start their own website design business.

Example 2 is a personal development plan for a Support Worker called RANDEEP, who works with individuals with learning disabilities. She would like to increase her leadership skills and earn a promotion to Team Leader.

PERSONAL STATEMENT (Example 1 – John) I have worked in IT for large organisations for over 20 years and, although it pays very well, it just doesn’t give me any fulfillment any more. A lot of the work is tedious, the hours are long and I always have too many managers to report to.

I recently designed a website for a friend and very much enjoyed the process. I think I would like to do this full time as it gives me the opportunity to express myself creatively, which I feel has been suppressed in my IT career. I would also like to work for myself so that I can choose my own hours (and my own clients). It would be a drop in salary at first but I have plenty of money to fall back on until the business takes off.

I have the technical skills to design websites but do not currently have a lot of business acumen. I also only have one website in my design portfolio and no new clients in the pipeline.

PERSONAL STATEMENT (Example 2 – Randeep) I have been working as a Support Worker for two years and it is the best job I have ever had. I love every day!

I have been told that I am very good with the clients and manage my day-to-day tasks with ease. I would like to take the next step and become a Team Leader. I do not have any experience in management and leadership but I am eager to learn and work hard to achieve this.

I always find this step to be the most difficult in personal development planning so take your time and think very carefully.

2. Identify Primary Goal

Having completed your analysis, you should have a good general idea of where you are at the moment and where you want to be moving forward.

You will probably already have a very good idea of what your primary goal is and should write it in big and colourful letters on your Personal Development Plan. The reason for making it stand out is because this will be your main focus and should be the first thing you see when you pick up your PDP.

You should also set a specific and realistic timeframe for WHEN you want to achieve this goal by because, without a deadline, you are in danger of putting it off forever.

Let’s take a look at the primary goals in our examples:

MY PRIMARY GOAL (Example 1 – John) SET UP MY OWN WEB DESIGN AGENCY AND QUIT MY JOB WITHIN 6 MONTHS

MY PRIMARY GOAL (Example 2 – Randeep) Get promoted to a team leader or other supervisory role within 2 years

Although not necessary, you may also want to pick out one or two secondary goals that affect other aspects of your life. It is not recommended to have more than three goals altogether as this may cause you to become overwhelmed and lose focus. The fewer the better. Some examples of secondary goals are learning to skydive or take on some volunteer work to give back to your community.

Your secondary goals should be in totally different areas of your life to your primary goal so that they do not crossover into action plan objectives which will be covered in the next step. For example, Randeep may wish to participate in leadership training but this would be an objective for her primary goal rather than a goal in itself.

If you are completing a PDP with your manager as part of your work role, you will probably want to skip secondary goals altogether.

In our examples, Randeep does not have any secondary but John does:

MY SECONDARY GOALS (Example 1 – John) Learn to speak some basic German for my trip to Hamburg with the lads in 3 months.

Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty of your plan.

You’ve set your goals and know what you want to achieve but haven’t fleshed out how to get from point A (where you are now) to point B (where you want to be).

This is where your action plan comes into play.

An action plan is a list of objectives and milestones that you need to achieve to reach your goals. For example, if your primary goal is learn to swim within 2 months, you may have objectives of:

  • go to swimming lessons once a week for 8 weeks
  • go to the local pool to practice once a week for 8 weeks
  • swim 1 width of the local pool within 1 month
  • swim 1 length of the local pool within 2 months

You can also set milestones, which can be used to break larger objectives into smaller tasks. So, using the swimming example above you might want to set 8 milestones – one for each of the swimming lessons. Remember, objectives and milestones (like goals) should be realistic, attainable and have a timeframe attached.

The action plan that I like to use has four headers; goals, objectives, milestones and deadline.

Let’s take a look at the action plans for the individuals in our examples:

4. Implement

Now you know where you are at the moment, where you want to get to and how get there.

The penultimate step is to put your plan into action and start working towards your goals, objectives and milestones.

After completing your Personal Development Plan, it is vital that you keep referring back to it to review your progress, maintain your focus and keep it up to date.

I try to review my Personal Development Plan at least once a month and preferably more frequently. Even if it is to just have a quick look to remind yourself what you should be working on. You should decide for yourself how often you will review your PDP when you first create it and ensure your write it down on the plan itself. It is also advisable to make a note in your diary of the date when your next review is or set a reminder on your phone.

A lot of people (myself included) find that the things they spend the most time on are the things that are at the forefront of their mind. The grind of daily life can often get in the way of long-term plans because it is what is happening right now in front of your eyes. By regularly reading through your Personal Development Plan, you keep it fresh in your memory and are more likely to set aside time to work towards your goals.

You should also regularly update your PDP to record your progress.

To do this I use a review page that I append to the PDP that has a space for the date and any comments that I wish to make.

I also tick off each goal, objective and milestone on the action plan with a green highlighter plan when they are complete or cross them out with a red highlighter plan if they are no longer necessary. Then write the details of how it was completed or why it was removed on the review sheet.

Let’s take one last look at our examples. John and Randeep are one month into their PDP and have filled in their first review form:

PDP 1-MONTHLY REVIEW (Example 1 – John) 1. I got my first website design client but he was an absolute nightmare! He kept changing his mind about what he wanted and didn’t pay on time. In the end I had to terminate the agreement – I hope all clients aren’t like him!

2. I completed my business plan and it all looks financially viable.

3. My friend has offered to set me up with an accounting system and do my tax return at a good rate.

4. I have done a little research online and think I would set up as a ‘sole trader’ if I decide to continue with working for myself.

5. I’ve started my online German course and am really enjoying it.

6. I have also watched a couple of German speaking films although I had to switch to subtitles as I had no idea what they were saying!

7. I have added the objective to draw up a contract agreement that limits website design revisions and ensure I get 50% of my fee up front before taking on any more clients to prevent the issues I had with my first client.

PDP 1-MONTHLY REVIEW (Example 2 – Randeep) I spoke to my manager and she has given me the opportunity to take on extra responsibility and learn more senior tasks.

She said that she thinks I would make a great Team Leader and also offered to mentor me in management as well as giving me some suggestions for books to read. I have already started reading my first book.

In addition, my manager has booked me on a short Leadership and Management which I will be starting next month. I have added the completion of this as an objective on my action plan.

I have enrolled on my Level 3 Diploma in Care and completed 2 units, so far.

As you can see, everything is going great for Randeep. A new opportunity to help her towards her goal became available and she incorporated it into her action plan.

John, however, has had an obstacle thrown in his way in the form of an awkward client so he has added an objective to hopefully prevent it happening again. Everything else seems to be on schedule.

A Word of Warning

It is possible to get so hung up on the planning part that you never actually get around to the doing.

This is usually due to one of the following reasons:

  • You never feel like you have finished your plan
  • You feel that your plan is not perfect

It is paramount that you do not get stuck into this way of thinking. A Personal Development Plan is a working document that is constantly reviewed and updated. It will never be finished because it adapts and changes with you, so don’t worry about it being unfinished. Similarly, your plan will never be perfect. There will always be things you never thought of (John in our example didn’t foresee working with a difficult client a possibility until it happened) but you cannot let this stifle you from surging ahead.

Yes, planning is important, but if you do not actually DO anything, you won’t achieve anything either.

My advice: get your plan done quickly and start implementing it. You can always go back and change things as acquire more knowledge.

Personal Development Plan Templates

You can download my own Personal Development Plan templates for free below:

Personal Development Plan Blank Template (docx format)

Personal Development Plan Blank Template (PDF format)

John Personal Development Plan Example

Randeep Personal Development Plan Example

Care Certificate & Diploma

This article is a supporting document for the following Care Certificate and Care Diploma answers:

  • Describe the process for agreeing a Personal Development Plan and who should be involved
  • Contribute and agree to a Personal Development Plan
  • Show how to record progress in relation to personal development

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Unit 3: Personal development in health, social care, or children’s and young people’s settings

LO5: Be able to agree a personal development plan

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The best way to develop a personal growth plan is to work with others to come up with a plan that meets everyone’s needs. You’ll want to consider your individual strengths and weaknesses, as well as what you hope to achieve in the short and long term. You’ll also need to think about what’s realistic for you and what might be challenging but worth striving for.

Once you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish, start setting some specific goals and create a timeline for achieving them. Be sure to track your progress along the way so that you can make necessary adjustments as needed. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – there’s no shame in admitting that you don’t have all the answers.

Some people find it helpful to work in a group with other people who have issues similar to their own. Working together in a group can help you feel less isolated because you are connected with others who understand what you are going through. It is also good to be able to talk about your experiences with people who have had similar experiences. These groups can provide you with a sense of community and belonging.

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Please remember that this is only a guide, so take the time to tailor your personal growth plan to fit your own needs. The most important part of making changes in your life is being ready and willing to do what it takes.

One of the best things you can do for your personal growth is to develop a plan with specific goals and timelines, and then work with a partner or group to help hold you accountable.

One great way to do this is to join or start a mastermind group. A mastermind group is simply a small group of people who come together regularly to support each other in reaching their goals. The members of the group share their successes, challenges, and insights, and offer feedback and advice to one another.

The benefits of joining or starting a mastermind group include accountability, support, fresh perspectives, and motivation. So if you’re looking for some extra accountability and support in reaching your goals, consider joining or starting a mastermind group today.

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How to Create a Personal Development Plan: 3 Examples

Personal Development Plan

For successful change, it is vital that the client remains engaged, recognizing and identifying with the goals captured inside and outside sessions. A personal development plan (PDP) creates a focus for development while offering a guide for life and future success (Starr, 2021).

This article introduces and explores the value of personal development plans, offering tools, worksheets, and approaches to boost self-reflection and self-improvement.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free . These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

This Article Contains

What is personal development 7 theories, coaching in personal development and growth, how to create a personal development plan, 3 examples of personal development plans, defining goals and objectives: 10 tips and tools, fostering personal development skills, 3 inspiring books to read on the topic, resources from positivepsychology.com, a take-home message, frequently asked questions.

Personal development is a fundamental concept in psychology and encompasses the lifelong process of self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth. Crucial to coaching and counseling, it aims to enhance various aspects of clients’ lives, including their emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

Several psychological models underpin and support transformation. Together, they help us understand personal development in our clients and the mechanisms and approaches available to make positive life changes (Cox, 2018; Passmore, 2021).

The following psychological theories and frameworks underpin and influence the approach a mental health professional adopts.

1. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As a proponent of the humanistic or person-centered approach to helping people, Abraham Maslow (1970) suggested that individuals have a hierarchy of needs. Simply put, they begin with basic physiological and safety needs and progress through psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

Personal development is often found in or recognized by the pursuit of higher-level needs, such as self-esteem and self-actualization (Cox, 2018).

2. Erikson’s psychosocial development

Erik Erikson (1963) mapped out a series of eight psychosocial development stages that individuals go through across their lifespan.

Each one involves challenges and crises that once successfully navigated, contribute to personal growth and identity development.

3. Piaget’s cognitive development

The biologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget (1959) focused on cognitive development in children and how they construct their understanding of the world.

We can draw on insights from Piaget’s stages of cognitive development, including intellectual growth and adaptability, to inform our own and others’ personal development (Illeris, 2018).

4. Bandura’s social cognitive theory

Albert Bandura’s (1977) theory highlights the role of social learning and self-efficacy in personal development. It emphasizes that individuals can learn and grow through observation, imitation, and belief in their ability to effect change.

5. Self-determination theory

Ryan and Deci’s (2018) motivational self-determination theory recognizes the importance of autonomy, competence, and relatedness in personal development.

Their approach suggests that individuals are more likely to experience growth and wellbeing when such basic psychological needs are met.

6. Positive psychology

Positive psychology , developed by Martin Seligman (2011) and others, focuses on strengths, wellbeing, and the pursuit of happiness.

Seligman’s PERMA model offers a framework for personal development that emphasizes identifying and using our strengths while cultivating positive emotions and experiences (Lomas et al., 2014).

7. Cognitive-Behavioral Theory (CBT)

Developed by Aaron Beck (Beck & Haigh, 2014) and Albert Ellis (2000), CBT explores the relationship between thoughts, emotions, and behavior.

As such, the theory provides practical techniques for personal development, helping individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and behaviors (Beck, 2011).

Theories like the seven mentioned above offer valuable insights into many of the psychological processes underlying personal development. They provide a sound foundation for coaches and counselors to support their clients and help them better understand themselves, their motivations, and the paths they can take to foster positive change in their lives (Cox, 2018).

Coaching in Personal Development

The client–coach relationship is significant to successful growth and goal achievement.

Typically, the coach will focus on the following (Cox, 2018):

  • Actualizing tendency This supports a “universal human motivation resulting in growth, development and autonomy of the individual” (Cox, 2018, p. 53).
  • Building a relationship facilitating change Trust clients to find their own way while displaying empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard . The coach’s “outward responses consistently match their inner feelings towards a client,” and they display a warm acceptance that they are being how they need to be (Passmore, 2021, p. 162).
  • Adopting a positive psychological stance Recognize that the client has the potential and wish to become fully functioning (Cox, 2018).

Effective coaching for personal growth involves adopting and committing to a series of beliefs that remind the coach that the “coachee is responsible for the results they create” (Starr, 2021, p. 18) and help them recognize when they may be avoiding this idea.

The following principles are, therefore, helpful for coaching personal development and growth (Starr, 2021).

  • Stay committed to supporting the client. While initially strong, you may experience factors that reduce your sense of support for the individual’s challenges.
  • Coach nonjudgmentally. Our job is not to adopt a stance based on personal beliefs or judgment of others, but to help our clients form connections between behavior and results.
  • Maintain integrity, openness, and trust. The client must feel safe in your company and freely able to express themselves.
  • Responsibility does not equal blame. Clients who take on blame rather than responsibility will likely feel worse about something without acknowledging their influence on the situation.
  • The client can achieve better results. The client is always capable of doing and achieving more, especially in relation to their goals.
  • Focus on clients’ thoughts and experiences. Collaborative coaching is about supporting the growth and development of the client, getting them to where they want to go.
  • Clients can arrive at perfect solutions. “As a coach, you win when someone else does” (Starr, 2021, p. 34). The solution needs to be the client’s, not yours.
  • Coach as an equal partnership. Explore the way forward together collaboratively rather than from a parental or advisory perspective.

Creating a supportive and nonjudgmental environment helps clients explore their thoughts, feelings, and goals, creating an environment for personal development and flourishing (Passmore, 2021).

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A personal development plan is a powerful document “to create mutual clarity of the aims and focus of a coaching assignment” (Starr, 2021, p. 291). While it is valuable during coaching, it can also capture a client’s way forward once sessions have ended.

Crucially, it should have the following characteristics (Starr, 2021):

  • Short and succinct
  • Providing a quick reference or point of discussion
  • Current and fresh, regularly revised and updated

Key elements of a personal development plan include the following (Starr, 2021):

  • Area of development This is the general skill or competence to be worked on.
  • Development objectives or goals What does the client want to do? Examples might include reducing stress levels, improving diet, or managing work–life balance .
  • Behaviors to develop These comprise what the client will probably do more of when meeting their objectives, for example, practicing better coping mechanisms, eating more healthily, and better managing their day.
  • Actions to create progress What must the client do to action their objectives? For example, arrange a date to meet with their manager, sign up for a fitness class, or meet with a nutritionist.
  • Date to complete or review the objective Capture the dates for completing actions, meeting objectives, and checking progress.

Check out Lindsey Cooper’s excellent video for helpful guidance on action planning within personal development.

We can write and complete personal development plans in many ways. Ultimately, they should meet the needs of the client and leave them with a sense of connection to and ownership of their journey ahead (Starr, 2021).

  • Personal Development Plan – Areas of Development In this PDP , we draw on guidance from Starr (2021) to capture development opportunities and the behaviors and actions needed to achieve them.
  • Personal Development Plan – Opportunities for Development This template combines short- and long-term goal setting with a self-assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and development opportunities.
  • Personal Development Plan – Ideal Self In this PDP template , we focus on our vision of how our ideal self looks and setting goals to get there.
“The setting of a goal becomes the catalyst that drives the remainder of the coaching conversation.”

Passmore, 2021, p. 80

Defining goals and objectives is crucial to many coaching conversations and is usually seen as essential for personal development.

Check out this video on how you can design your life with your personal goals in mind.

The following coaching templates are helpful, containing a series of questions to complete Whitmore’s (2009) GROW model :

  • G stands for Goal : Where do you want to be?
  • R stands for Reality : Where are you right now with this goal?
  • O stands for Options : What are some options for reaching your goal?
  • W stands for Way forward : What is your first step forward?

Goal setting creates both direction and motivation for clients to work toward achieving something and meeting their objectives (Passmore, 2021).

The SMART goal-setting framework is another popular tool inside coaching and elsewhere.

S = Specific M = Measurable A = Attainable/ or Agreed upon R = Realistic T = Timely – allowing enough time for achievement

The SMART+ Goals Worksheet contains a series of prompts and spaces for answers to define goals and capture the steps toward achieving them.

We can summarize the five principles of goal setting (Passmore, 2021) as follows:

  • Goals must be clear and not open to interpretation.
  • Goals should be stretching yet achievable.
  • Clients must buy in to the goal from the outset.
  • Feedback is essential to keep the client on track.
  • Goals should be relatively straightforward. We can break down complex ones into manageable subgoals.

The following insightful articles are also helpful for setting and working toward goals.

  • What Is Goal Setting and How to Do it Well
  • The Science & Psychology of Goal-Setting 101

Fostering Personal Development Skills

1. People skills

Improving how we work with others benefits confidence, and with other’s support, we are more likely to achieve our objectives and goals. The following people skills can all be improved upon:

  • Developing rapport
  • Assertiveness and negotiation
  • Giving and receiving constructive criticism

2. Managing tasks and problem-solving

Inevitably, we encounter challenges on our path to development and growth. Managing our activities and time and solving issues as they surface are paramount.

Here are a few guidelines to help you manage:

  • Organize time and tasks effectively.
  • Learn fundamental problem-solving strategies.
  • Select and apply problem-solving strategies to tackle more complex tasks and challenges.
  • Develop planning skills, including identifying priorities, setting achievable targets, and finding practical solutions.
  • Acquire skills relevant to project management.
  • Familiarize yourself with concepts such as performance indicators and benchmarking.
  • Conduct self-audits to assess and enhance your personal competitiveness.

3. Cultivate confidence in your creative abilities

Confidence energizes our performance. Knowing we can perform creatively encourages us to develop novel solutions and be motivated to transform.

Consider the following:

  • Understand the fundamentals of how the mind works to enhance your thinking skills.
  • Explore a variety of activities to sharpen your creative thinking.
  • Embrace the belief that creativity is not limited to artists and performers but is crucial for problem-solving and task completion.
  • Learn to ignite the spark of creativity that helps generate innovative ideas when needed.
  • Apply creative thinking techniques to enhance your problem-solving and task completion abilities.
  • Recognize the role of creative thinking in finding the right ideas at the right time.

To aid you in building your confidence, we have a whole category of articles focused on Optimism and Mindset . Be sure to browse it for confidence-building inspiration.

With new techniques and technology, our understanding of the human brain continues to evolve. Identifying the vital elements involved in learning and connecting with others offers deep insights into how we function and develop as social beings. We handpicked a small but unique selection of books we believe you will enjoy.

1. The Coaching Manual: The Definitive Guide to the Process, Principles and Skills of Personal Coaching – Julie Starr

The Coaching Manual

This insightful book explores and explains the coaching journey from start to finish.

Starr’s book offers a range of free resources and gives clear guidance to support new and existing coaches in providing practical help to their clients.

Find the book on Amazon .

2. The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level – Gay Hendricks

The Big Leap

Delving into the “zone of genius” and the “zone of excellence,” Hendricks examines personal growth and our path to personal success.

This valuable book explores how we eliminate the barriers to reaching our goals that arise from false beliefs and fears.

3. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are – Brené Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Brown, a leading expert on shame, vulnerability, and authenticity, examines how we can engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

Use this book to learn how to build courage and compassion and realize the behaviors, skills, and mindset that lead to personal development.

We have many resources available for fostering personal development and supporting client transformation and growth.

Our free resources include:

  • Goal Planning and Achievement Tracker This is a valuable worksheet for capturing and reflecting on weekly goals while tracking emotions that surface.
  • Adopt a Growth Mindset Successful change is often accompanied by replacing a fixed mindset with a growth one .
  • FIRST Framework Questions Understanding a client’s developmental stage can help offer the most appropriate support for a career change.

More extensive versions of the following tools are available with a subscription to the Positive Psychology Toolkit© , but they are described briefly below:

  • Backward Goal Planning

Setting goals can build confidence and the skills for ongoing personal development.

Backward goal planning helps focus on the end goal, prevent procrastination, and decrease stress by ensuring we have enough time to complete each task.

Try out the following four simple steps:

  • Step one – Identify and visualize your end goal.
  • Step two – Reflect on and capture the steps required to reach the goal.
  • Step three – Focus on each step one by one.
  • Step four – Take action and record progress.
  • Boosting Motivation by Celebrating Micro Successes

Celebrating the small successes on our journey toward our goals is motivating and confidence building.

Practice the following:

  • Step one – Reflect momentarily on the goal you are working toward.
  • Step two – Consider each action being taken to reach that goal.
  • Step three – Record the completion of each action as a success.
  • Step four – Choose how to celebrate each success.

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others reach their goals, check out this collection of 17 validated motivation & goal achievement tools for practitioners . Use them to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques.

Personal development has a rich and long history. It is underpinned by various psychological theories and remains a vital aspect of creating fulfilling lives inside and outside coaching and counseling.

For many of us, self-improvement, self-awareness, and personal growth are vital aspects of who we are. Coaching can provide a vehicle to help clients along their journey, supporting their sense of autonomy and confidence and highlighting their potential (Cox, 2018).

Working with clients, therefore, requires an open, honest, and supportive relationship. The coach or counselor must believe the client can achieve better results and view them nonjudgmentally as equal partners.

Personal development plans become essential to that relationship and the overall coaching process. They capture areas for development, skills and behaviors required, and goals and objectives to work toward.

Use this article to recognize theoretical elements from psychology that underpin the process and use the skills, guidance, and worksheets to support personal development in clients, helping them remove obstacles along the way.

Ultimately, personal development is a lifelong process that boosts wellbeing and flourishing and creates a richer, more engaging environment for the individual and those around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free .

Personal development is vital, as it enables individuals to enhance various aspects of their lives, including emotional wellbeing, relationships, careers, and overall happiness.

It promotes self-awareness, self-improvement, and personal growth, helping individuals reach their full potential and lead fulfilling lives (Passmore, 2021; Starr, 2021).

Personal development is the journey we take to improve ourselves through conscious habits and activities and focusing on the goals that are important to us.

Personal development goals are specific objectives individuals set to improve themselves and their lives. Goals can encompass various areas, such as emotional intelligence, skill development, health, and career advancement, providing direction and motivation for personal growth (Cox, 2018; Starr, 2021).

A personal development plan typically comprises defining the area of development, setting development objectives, identifying behaviors to develop, planning actions for progress, and establishing completion dates. These five stages help individuals clarify their goals and track their progress (Starr, 2021).

  • Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory . Prentice-Hall.
  • Beck, A. T., & Haigh, E. P. (2014). Advances in cognitive therapy and therapy: The generic cognitive model. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology , 10 , 1–24.
  • Beck, J. S. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy: Basics and beyond . Guilford Press.
  • Cottrell, S. (2015). Skills for success: Personal development and employability . Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Cox, E. (2018). The complete handbook of coaching . SAGE.
  • Ellis, A. (2000). Can rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) be effectively used with people who have devout beliefs in God and religion? Professional Psychology-Research and Practice , 31 (1), 29–33.
  • Erikson, E. H. (1963). Youth: Change and challenge . Basic Books.
  • Illeris, K. (2018). An overview of the history of learning theory. European Journal of Education , 53 (1), 86–101.
  • Lomas, T., Hefferon, K., & Ivtzan, I. (2014). Applied positive psychology: Integrated positive practice . SAGE.
  • Maslow, A. H. (1970). Motivation and personalit y (2nd ed.). Harper & Row.
  • Passmore, J. (Ed.). (2021). The coaches’ handbook: The complete practitioner guide for professional coaches . Routledge.
  • Piaget, J. (1959): The Psychology of intelligence . Routledge.
  • Rose, C. (2018). The personal development group: The students’ guide . Routledge.
  • Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2018). Self-determination theory: Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness . Guilford Press.
  • Seligman, M. E. (2011). Authentic happiness using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment . Nicholas Brealey.
  • Starr, J. (2021). The coaching manual: The definitive guide to the process, principles and skills of personal coaching . Harlow: Pearson Education.
  • Whitmore, J. (2009). Coaching for performance . Nicholas Brealey.

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Work with others to agree own personal development plan

Qualification : Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator Unit : Unit 4.1: Engage in professional development Learning outcome : 3. Be able to use reflective practice to contribute to own professional development Assessment criteria : 3.5 Work with others to agree own personal development plan

  • A Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a written record of your learning and development goals and your progress towards achieving them
  • This should be developed in collaboration with your manager, usually during supervision
  • Other individuals, such as your tutor, may also be involved
  • You should record your personal development goals using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realisitic and time-bound) targets and timescale should be set for their completion
  • You should regulalrly review your PDP to check your progress and make any required adjustments

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2. Prioritising Your Goals

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5 Personal development plan

In the final activity, you will look at opportunities for taking your career further. In undertaking the reflective activities in this section, you made a start towards developing your own personal development plan (PDP). PDP promotes the idea that learning and development are lifelong activities and is a structured approach to building reflection into your practice and career planning.

Watch this video clip, What’s it all about? [ Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. ( Hide tip ) ] , which outlines the five stages that make up an effective personal development plan:

Now that you know what we mean by a personal development plan, use the five stages to draw up your own PDP. A good starting point would be to use the reflection from Activities 2 and 3 as a basis for thinking about future planning and action.

You may have already thought about your own learning and career development, but drawing up a personal development plan gives structure to this process and provides something to refer back to and build on over time.

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What is a personal development plan?

Last updated on 18th May 2023

What Is A Personal Development Plan

In this article

To achieve success and happiness in your education, career and personal life, you should continuously improve your knowledge, skills and experience. This is known as personal development, which is a continuous lifelong process.

Personal development is beneficial for you as an individual and also for businesses and society as a whole. If you are making the most of your abilities and skills, this will positively impact your life and others around you. According to the NHS , learning new skills can improve your mental wellbeing, as it gives you a sense of purpose and boosts your confidence.

A simple and effective way of keeping track of your personal development is by completing a personal development plan. If you don’t have a plan, it will make it difficult for you to focus, and you are unlikely to meet your goals – whatever these may be. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

It doesn’t matter how old you are or where you find yourself now. It is never too late to start your personal development plan. Most people have completed one at some point during their education or careers. If you haven’t, there is nothing to worry about, and there is no time like the present to start planning.

This article will help you learn what a personal development plan is and how a SWOT analysis can help you identify things that could help or hinder your progress. It will also give you tips on how to write a personal development plan and what to do after you have completed it.

SWOT Analysis Group Meeting

A personal development plan, which is also known as a PDP, is an action plan that you can use to identify:

  • Your individual goals and what you want to achieve.
  • Your strengths and weaknesses.
  • The areas you need to improve and develop to meet your goals.
  • What you need to do to achieve your goals.
  • Anything that could hinder your progress.

A PDP is a form of self-evaluation and self-reflection that is typically used in higher education and the workplace. However, it can also be a beneficial exercise in your personal life. For example, you may want to learn a new language before travelling overseas, and a PDP can help you achieve this goal.

In the workplace, a PDP is completed as part of an employee’s Continuing Professional Development ( CPD ), which is defined by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) as:

“A combination of approaches, ideas and techniques that will help you manage your own learning and growth”.

Employers will sometimes use PDPs as part of their appraisal process, which is known as a Performance Development Review (PDR).

Benefits of a PDP

The benefits of a PDP are:

  • It provides you with clear goals.
  • It helps you to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
  • It improves your employability.
  • It improves your performance.
  • It increases your motivation.
  • It helps track your progress.
  • It improves your sense of purpose.
  • It enhances your mental wellbeing and reduces stress.

Overall, a PDP gives you the best possible chance for success and maximises your potential.

Using a SWOT analysis

You can use a SWOT analysis as a starting point to help you create your PDP.  SWOT  stands for  S trengths,  W eaknesses,  O pportunities and  T hreats. You can use these four areas as a framework to identify what could help or hinder your personal development. If you don’t analyse your SWOT, it is unlikely you will succeed in achieving your goals.

When you are conducting your SWOT analysis, you should look at your current situation and ask yourself various questions relating to these four areas.

Some example questions are:

  • What are you good at?
  • What advantages do you have over others?
  • Do you have any resources available to you that others do not?
  • What do others say about your strengths?
  • Do you have any achievements you are proud of?
  • What skills do you struggle with?
  • What areas do you need to improve upon?
  • What holds you back?
  • Do you have any bad habits?
  • Do you avoid certain tasks due to a lack of confidence?
  • What do others say about your weaknesses?

Opportunities

  • Is the industry you are in/looking at in a promising position?
  • Is there an undeveloped niche in certain markets that you can tap into?
  • Do you have contacts in your network who could assist you?
  • Can you take advantage of the mistakes others are making?
  • Is there an opening for a position not advertised externally yet?
  • Is there a project you can assist with that will help you develop different skills?
  • What could derail your success? E.g. competition, finances, changes in technology and any other obstacles.
  • Is there a risk of your weaknesses becoming threats?
  • Are there any external changes beyond your control that could be a threat?

It is important to be as honest as possible when answering these questions, particularly when looking at your strengths and weaknesses.

How to carry out a SWOT analysis

The above is just an example, and you are likely to have far more detail in your own SWOT analysis.

  A SWOT analysis aims to:

  • Promote your strengths.
  • Reduce your weaknesses.
  • Exploit the opportunities available to you.
  • Minimise threats to your success.

You can learn more about SWOT analysis on the CIPD’s factsheet .

Someone Writing Out and Planning Their Personal Development Plan

How do I write a personal development plan?

All PDPs are different. How you write yours will depend on whether you are completing one for personal, education or work reasons. A PDP is also specific to you and based on your individual goals. Therefore, your PDP and what you include will be different from anyone else’s.

In education and work, PDPs are likely to be in a specified format. Employers may also have their own procedures and processes for conducting PDPs as part of an annual appraisal (PDR). In these instances, you should follow your employer’s procedures when completing your PDP.

Regardless of the reason why you are completing a PDP, here are some general steps you can follow to help you write yours:

Step 1 – Complete a SWOT analysis

You should complete a SWOT analysis as the first step of your PDP and as a self-assessment.

That way, you can:

  • Identify what could help or hinder you in achieving your goals.
  • Evaluate your existing skills, knowledge and interests.
  • Identify if you have any transferable skills that could help you achieve your goals.
  • Use the results when setting your goals.

You can use our free SWOT analysis template to help you. Please hyperlink here if you want to use the template and/or delete this sentence.

Step 2 – Set your goals

Think about the things you really want to achieve in your education, career or personal life. To meet your overall aims, you should set goals so that you can fulfil your objectives.

Make a list of your goals and ensure they are SMART, which means they should be:

  • Specific – Your goals should be specific and precise rather than generic. – You should state exactly what you want to achieve or change. – An example of a generic and weak goal would be – I want to be a better public speaker. – An example of a SMART goal would be – I will attend a training course on presenting to help me improve my public speaking skills, as I lack confidence in this area, and it’s holding me back.
  • Measurable – Having a quantifiable goal will make it easier to track and achieve. – For example, I will compare three different courses for content and price. I will enrol on my chosen course within one month.
  • Achievable – Your goals must be realistic and attainable. – Ask yourself whether you can achieve them in a certain timeframe. – For example, I have got the funds available to pay for the course. I also currently work part time, so I have enough time to study.
  • Relevant – Your goals should relate to your overall aims and longer-term ambitions. – For example, a lack of confidence in public speaking is one of my weaknesses, and I feel it is holding me back in my career and personal life.
  • Time-bound – Set realistic timescales to achieve your outcomes. – Ask yourself when you want to achieve your goals by. – Split your goals into short term, medium term and long term. – For example, I will complete my course within the next three months. I will also evaluate whether it has improved my public speaking skills.

Having SMART goals makes it easier for you to achieve them and updating your PDP when you have completed them.

Step 3 – Create your action plan

Once you have your clear SMART goals, you should break them down into action points, which will make them more manageable. You can put these points into an action plan with your priority goals at the top.

There is no requirement for your PDP action plan to be in any particular format. It can be handwritten or typed and tabulated or free-flowing text. Whatever format you choose, you should ensure that it is easy for you to produce, follow and update.

Step 4 – Detail the strategies and resources for achieving your goals

You now have your list of goals in your action plan, but how will you go about achieving them? Now you should write down your strategies and resources you need to achieve your goals.

It can include:

  • Further training, e.g. enrolling on a course.
  • Research, e.g. websites, journals and books.
  • Hands-on experience, e.g. volunteering.
  • Taking on new projects or responsibilities.
  • Professional advice, e.g. from a mentor.
  • Guidance and shadowing during supervision.
  • Speaking to people in different roles.
  • Time needed for the strategy to be effective.

Step 5 – Assessing your progress

Finally, you should note in your PDP how you will monitor and assess the progress of your goals. For example, you may be continually assessed throughout a course, and you would use the assessment results as milestones for achieving your goals.

Checkout our free PDP and SWOT templates below!

Download our free PDP template

Download our free SWOT Analysis template

What happens once I have completed my personal development plan?

Once you have completed your PDP, it doesn’t end there. You need to follow your plan and track whether you are achieving your outcomes or not. If you are not achieving your goals in your specified timeframe, you should identify the reasons why, rectify and update your plan. If you are successful in achieving your goals, you can tick them off and add new ones to your list. Remember, personal development is a lifelong process.

You may find that things do not go according to plan, but you should not worry or let this put you off. Your PDP is not set in stone. It is a flexible guide that you can adapt as and when the need arises. Ask yourself whether you are making the correct choices to get to where you want to be.

It is important to remember that a PDP is not a one-off exercise. It is a continuous process of development, and it should be a working document. You should regularly review and update your PDP to make the most of your personal development.

Personal development (whether it is for education, career or personal reasons) is important, as it helps you achieve your desires and fulfil your potential. If you are achieving what you want in life, it will improve your mental wellbeing and overall happiness, which will have a far-reaching positive impact.

Some, particularly in workplaces, will look at PDPs as an unnecessary exercise that cannot help them achieve what they want. In these cases, it is usually due to PDPs being used as a tick in the box when annual appraisals come around. To prevent this, employers must look at PDPs as an investment, as employee personal development will benefit their business. Employees should also use it as a good opportunity to improve their knowledge, skills and experience.

If you complete your PDP properly and use it in planning and achieving your goals, you are more likely to succeed in your career and life in general. If you don’t have a plan, you are likely to procrastinate and flounder. Remember what Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

Why not use our free PDP action plan template to help you. Please hyperlink here if you want to use the template and/or delete this sentence.

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About the author

Michelle Putter

Michelle Putter

Michelle graduated with an MSc in wildlife biology and conservation in 2012, but her career has taken quite a different turn to the one expected. She started in health and safety in 2009 and has worked in several industries such as electrical engineering, aviation and manufacturing. She has been working with CPD Online College since 2018 and became NEBOSH Diploma qualified in 2020. In her spare time, Michelle's passions are wildlife and her garden. She has volunteered for many conservation organisations and particularly enjoys biological recording. Michelle also likes hiking, jogging and cycling.

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