Starting a Professional Development Plan:  

Having attended a number of SQL Saturday events, one of their great strengths is that they contain a healthy mix of both technical and non-technical content.  Every event that I’ve attended thus far has had at least a handful of professional development sessions on various topics generally geared toward managing your professional career on a non-technical level.

While I love the technical content — often choosing sessions based on new features or topics that are somewhat new to me, some of the most energizing and motivating sessions I’ve attended have been the professional development sessions.

Of the great Professional Development sessions I’ve attended, one stands out in particular:  Andy Warren’s (B | T) “Building Your Professional Development Plan.”

In his session, Andy gives an overview of what exactly a professional development plan is all about as well as why you’d want one in the first place.  A professional development plan, or PDP, is a document in which you can record short and mid range career goals and then track activities and progress toward accomplishing those goals within a set time frame.  The goals outlined in a professional development plan should be specific to your career goals, both at your current job as well as taking into account desired future jobs along your chosen career path.  A good professional development plan will incorporate both technical goals (such as learning new skills and techniques) as well as non-technical goals (such as networking or communication skills).

Following Andy’s session, I decided to take Andy’s challenge of creating a plan and trying it for a year.  I started by brainstorming various goals which I wanted to achieve over the next year and then began documenting them.  I next looked at my collection of goals and assigned realistic time and money budgets as well as goal dates and I was on my way.  As time has progressed and I’ve participated in activities which further my goals, I recorded them on my professional development plan.

I began by using Andy’s professional development plan template, found on his blog here.

I’ve since created my own professional development plan template based on Andy’s ideas which you’re welcome to borrow or use for ideas, found here.  (It may attempt to open in Google Docs, but paginates much better in true Excel).

At this point, I’m 8 months into Andy’s year long professional development plan challenge and I can already see this is a habit I plan to maintain throughout my career.  It really is motivating looking back at the training and development tasks you’ve performed over the course of the year.

I’ve only glossed the surface on what a professional development plan is all about.  For more information, I highly recommend you seek out Andy’s presentation on Building Your Professional Development plan which he frequently presents at SQL Saturdays in the central Florida area.  Andy is a great speaker and a I guarantee you’ll leave motivated!