Personal Development Plan

I first saw the concept of a Personal Development Plan over at Mind Tools. I downloaded the work book about a year ago when I was in the middle of my search for a new job. I figured that was the perfect time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do, but I did what I do best – and procrastinated doing it. So, I went through the workbook today in preparation for this post, and I kinda wish that I had done it when I first downloaded it, but I didn’t.

The idea of a personal development plan is to create a game plan for your career (or life). You create a mission statement, list the goals necessary to make it happen, and determine the necessary skills and abilities you need to acquire to make it happen and then you set dates for completion of those goals and when you will have acquired those skills.

Are you ready to get started on creating your very own Personal Development Plan?

Great! Now grab a pen (or pencil) and some paper. I’ll wait right here for you …

Ready?

There are a couple of analyses you could go through to help you out: SWOT Analysis and PEST Analysis.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats)

Now, this is not as scary as it sounds, I promise.

You will first determine your strengths, the things that you are good at (ask your friends, co-workers, and supervisors if you can’t think of anything). For example, one of the strengths I listed was researching information.

Now it’s your turn. On that paper, make a list of everything your good at. Those things that your co-workers and managers notice that you tend to do better than others. What kinds of experiences or connections do you have that others may not?

Go ahead and take a few minutes, I’ll patiently wait over here …

Done?

Now let’s take a look at our weaknesses:

These are things that maybe we aren’t so great at. Those things that we struggle to do, maybe the personality traits that hold us back. What experience do you lack that others might have?

For me, I tend to procrastinate. I know that I should spend some time every day working on my blog (reading books or articles, writing posts, adding content topics to my editorial calendar, et cetera). And I allow myself to procrastinate because I currently work a swing shift schedule and when I get home at 12:30 in the morning the only thing I want to do is lay in bed and watch some Netflix till I fall asleep at 2 or 3 am and then I want to sleep until I have to get up and get ready to do it all again.

Your turn: Take a minute to list those things you may not want to face. What is it that you aren’t so good at? Come on back in a few minutes when you’re done.

Now, we get to look at the opportunities we face:

How can you take advantage of those strengths you listed a little while ago? How can these strengths open up your world if you were to take advantage of them? Dream a little bit with me and what would you do with these strengths?

You remember my strength from earlier? It was researching. What opportunity does researching present? Well, I can find information and share it with others.

How about you? Take a moment to list the opportunities your strengths can give you if you used them correctly?

Finally, we conquer those threats. Those things that may not be controllable, but can be appropriately planned for. What kinds of problems could be caused by not properly addressing your weaknesses? Could it cause setbacks?

My threats include: allowing myself to procrastinate and not move forward or getting so wrapped up in researching something that I never write another post.

Take another few moments now to determine your threats.

PEST Analysis

Now we get to examine the political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological environments that affect and influence your personal success.

Political factors you should consider are any laws or regulations that impact your opportunities. What policies can support them? Will they affect your ability to work within a specific area, limit your ability to make money, or otherwise be reasonably secure? Is a change in the government expected? What opportunities or threats do those changes present?

In my case, there is the first amendment regarding freedom of speech, but there are also copyright laws and plagiarism ethics to consider. I can’t exactly take something that someone else has written and claim it as my own without causing myself some unnecessary problems.

There seems to be a continued growth in online writing. The internet doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

I also must understand that not everyone is going to agree with the things that I have written and they may post some hurtful comments, but that comes with the world of blogging and and online writing.

Take a moment to think about the political factors that could affect your career decision. Do some research if you need. But don’t get lost in the research. I know how easy that can be.

Now let’s look at the Economic factors that could influence your decision.

What is the range of compensation in the career industry you are considering? Are these wages expected to rise, fall, or stay the same? Can you practically pay your bills and live “comfortably” based on this information?

What is the rate of employment in this industry? Is the employment rate going to rise, or is it expected to fall? What is the long-term forecast for people in this industry?

If I put some effort into blogging I can make a couple of thousand dollars a month in time. But the immediate need for money to pay the debt I want to pay off now and the seemingly mounting debt could potentially discourage me from putting in that necessary effort to could make this venture profitable.

Take a moment to consider these factors for yourself.

What are the Socio-Cultural factors that will influence the appeal of this prospective choice?

Are there educational requirements currently? Are these requirements expected to change? Do you have familial expectations you should consider when making this career decision? How will these expectations affect your opportunity to be successful?

With easy access to the internet, there seems to be a never-ending amount of information I can find about creating and growing my blog. Right now, it’s only my husband and I which makes the familial obligations smaller than if I also had children in the house. One day we’ll have children, but that will be at some point in the future. I’ve read blogs created and written by stay-at-home moms and they can do this blog thing and still be amazing moms. They are ROCKSTARS!

Finally, consider the technological factors that will affect your decision. Is it a field where technology is continually changing requiring you to be learning something new? Can parts of this job soon become automated or digitized in the next few years or decade eliminating that job you are considering? Is this really a job worth choosing? How is technology affecting the kind of work that you do now?

I’ve considered blogging before and it seems like things have changed in just the last couple of years. That is how quickly the internet has changed. It also seems like each and every blogger has their own idea of how growing a blog should work. It’s because sometimes different things work for different people.

Take some time to consider these factors for yourself.

Opportunity Analysis

Ok, now that you’ve completed your SWOT and PEST analyses, let’s conduct an Opportunity Analysis. That thing where you look back at all those opportunities you have considered up to this point. Those things that you’re getting excited about over there. And excited you should be!

On one of your sheets of paper make three columns. Label the far left one “Identified Opportunities”, the middle one will be the “Supporting Factors” that you identified in your SWOT and PEST analyses, and the far right one is the opposing factors.

Remember some of my opportunities? I like to research. Give me a laptop with internet access, a pen, some paper, and Pandora, then let me loose. I can practically write books about all the information I will find. Which is stellar for my highly-introverted personality! I love sitting alone in a room doing research.

My opposing factor would be that I tend to not put into practice the information I find. I know what it is that I need to do, but I tend to not go beyond finding out what I need to do (which I must learn improve that).

Take some time to look back at what you’ve written and fill in these columns.

What is your Career Objective?

Now that we’ve figured out our strengths and weaknesses, we need to determine our mission statement (yes, that thing that businesses have!).

What do you want to accomplish? Why is this accomplishment important to you? What values are at the core of this decision? When you do this, do you feel you’re making a substantial impact for others? What deep emotional meaning does this decision have for you?

Remember that this is more of a long-term vision, not an immediate action.

Mine is “To create and grow a blog about helping people find a new job or career.”

What’s yours?

What are your Career Goals?

Now that you know your mission, how do you get there? Well, by breaking it down into manageable pieces. What steps will you have to take to achieve your mission?

Do you have to continue your education? Will you be promoted above your current position? Do you need experience within a particular department? Do you need to move to a different organization or change industries? Do you need to master a new skill?

Goal Setting – SMART Goals

Set some SMART goals for yourself. Goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Focus on one outcome. Define the goal. The goal can be accomplished. The goal must relate to your mission statement. Give the goal a time frame. If it’s unspecific, immeasurable, unachievable, irrelevant, or not given a deadline – it simply won’t happen.

My first goal was to actually create the blog, “A Journey to a New Career”. I needed to obtain a domain, create an editorial calendar of posts for at least 3 months out (I am currently schedule until May!), and to schedule brainstorming days at least once per month (currently scheduled for the third Tuesday of every month beginning in February).

My next goal is to create social media accounts to promote my blog. At this moment, I have a Facebook page for A Journey to a New Career. Check it out!

Do a Skills Audit

This is where you take an honest look at your current situation and determine your skill and knowledge deficits that you need to conquer to do your job well. Once you do that, you will set more SMART goals to attend to these deficits and place yourself on the right path for success.

Start on a blank piece of paper and write your mission statement. (Create and grow a blog to help people find a new job or career).

Underneath that write out your career goals on separate lines with target dates. (Create blog January 8, 2017, create social media accounts: Facebook January 17, 2017).

Finally, list your skills/competencies that you will need to work on. Also, write either a letter or a number for the level of that skill (think something like an employee performance appraisal). For instance, 1 or A could mean that you have accomplished the skill, 2 or B means you have the skill, but it needs some improvement, 3 or C says that you need to improve the skill, 4 or D means you need to some considerable work to develop, and 5 or E means that you need to acquire the skill.

One of the skills I listed is “to procrastinate less/be more productive” and it’s now at a level 3/C. In about 6 months I should come back and re-evaluate whether I actually do procrastinate less and am more productive. Then I should come back in about 1 year and then in 3 years.

Take some time to look at your SWOT and PEST analyses from earlier. Remember your SMART goals? Write those down too!

What’s your Action Plan?

Those career goals you just determined, now’s the time to determine the steps that you need to take to ensure those goals can be met. List the specific actions you will perform. If you need education, find the right school and program that will fit your lifestyle.

Don’t forget to determine the obstacles you may need to overcome to complete your goal. If you need to go to school, but you can’t afford it, talk to the financial aid office about the different ways you can fund your education.

Remember my developmental goals: Procrastinate less, be more productive.

My action step for the first one was to “create a schedule” and the action step for number 2 is to “follow the schedule”. If the schedule isn’t working, I can change it, but only to ensure greater productivity and less procrastination.

 

Did you create your development plan? How do you feel now that you have one? Let me know in the comments below!

Job Search Checklist

About this time last year, I had been unemployed for about 2 months. Even though I had been completing all of the tasks that the Employment Department required of me, I felt hopeless that I would find a new job. I had sent in application after application. With all of those applications, I still received very few interview offers.

During the process of searching for a new job I found a lot of information out there about what to do. And it was overwhelming. That’s the thing about this information age, there is a lot of information that is easily accessible at your finger tips.

Clearly Identify Jobs you are Targeting and Develop Alternative Options

This is where you want to come up with specific job titles that you will be looking for, such as barista, computer networking, et cetera. And then make a list of similar job titles. Use sites like www.qualityinfo.org.

Just to warn you, this site is an Oregon Employment Department site, so it will have statistics for Oregon unemployment rates, and when you search for job titles, it will give you a list of Oregon-based employers trying to fill those specific positions. 

Ok, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

Let’s flow with the barista example for a moment:

You can scroll down the page to the ‘Occupation Profiles’ tool and enter the job title that you are thinking about. When you type in ‘barista’ and click search, it will bring up a report with loads of information.

In the left hand corner under ‘Report Options’ it will show a list of matching occupations. In this case, we get 1 matching occupation ‘Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concessions, and Coffee Shop’. As you scroll down the page, there are lists of all of the different employers and positions. Some of the job titles include: ‘barista’, ‘coffee kiosk barista’, ‘juice bar team member’, and ‘coffee attendant’. It also lists all of the certifications required (again, specific to the State of Oregon).

If you scroll all of the way down to the bottom of the page, the site will give you a list of related occupations: ‘combined food preparation and serving workers’, ‘bartenders’, ‘food servers’, ‘non-restaurant’, and ‘waiters and waitresses’.

Having these other, but related, occupations can help because you can easily transition to something else without completely having to retrain.

Identify Employers’ Needs

You will need to figure out what they’re looking for, hint: look at the job description. Knowing what the employer is looking for can help you write your resume and cover letter.

Relate your skills to the job description

Another helpful trick on the Quality Info website is that it will give you all of the likely knowledge skills, and abilities required for the job. You can scroll through and look at them to determine which of them you’ve used them before. The ones that you have, put them on your resume. The more of them that you can put down, the better you can look as a candidate.

Prepare your Resume

Open up your word processor and put your name and contact information at the top of the page (telephone number, address, email address, and any way they can get in touch with you).

You’ll want to include:

  • Education
  • Prior Relevant Employment Experience
  • Relevant Licenses and Certifications

You can consider including:

  • Career objectives
  • References

Write a Cover Letter

This is a way to tell your story in a different way than your resume ever could. In a cover letter you can actually string together sentences, whereas on your resume your writing more in sentence fragments.

You can fully explain your background and fully relate your skills to the job.

Whenever possible, write to a specific person within the company who is responsible for the hiring of new employees. Be personable.

Prepare for Interviews

To prepare for an interview, you’re going to want to be able to answer the questions that they may ask you.

But you’re also going to want to dress appropriately. Think about the type of job you will be doing, and dress one step above what is typical. Wear a nice blouse or button-down shirt and slacks or a skirt. Wear colors that suit you. If they wear a uniform, consider wearing the same colors they wear so that they can see you wearing their uniform.

If you choose to wear makeup, be conservative in what you put on.

Wear very little jewelry.

Unless, or until, you know the potential employers policy regarding tattoos, consider covering them up with what you choose to wear. But be honest about having them if they ask.

Consider writing an interview appreciation, or thank you, letter or email

After an interview, send the person you spoke with thank you letter. you can also take the time to ask any questions that you didn’t think of, or that weren’t answered, during the interview.

Network at Job Fairs / Use LinkedIn

If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, now’s the time to look into getting one. It’s free to join. It’s kind of like an online resume. But you can also look for specific employers, and people who work at those companies and get connected with them.

This is certainly not a comprehensive guide to searching for a new job, but it should get you started until next time.

 

What are your thoughts? What have you done in the past when looking for a new job?