Professional Development Planning

A Professional Development Plan (PDP) is a written document that establishes both your career development goals and a strategy for meeting them.

From the N2025 Strategic Plan, “We believe in the power of every person. The most important asset at the University of Nebraska is its people — students, staff, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty.”

  • Aim:  Prioritize participation and professional development for all Nebraska students, staff, and faculty.
  • Strategy:  Ensure a means for all members of the university community to co-create an individualized professional development roadmap.
  • Expectation:  All faculty, post-doctoral fellows, staff, and graduate and professional students have a documented and individualized professional development plan. Your PDP is intended to be used as a part of your performance evaluation, or may be used on its own depending on unit process.

3 steps to creating a plan


Brainstorm your strengths, challenges, and visions. This will provide insight on areas of interest and focus for your plan. It is important to be as open and honest as possible when answering. You may use the Brainstorming Worksheet provided. The Self-Assessment section has questions to ask yourself to help you get started


Write down all possible resources and strategies, identifying what you need to be successful with your visions. This is also the time to consider any possible barriers or concerns you have in reaching your vision. E.g., time, budget, or support. You may use the Brainstorming Worksheet provided. 

You can find resources and strategies come from a variety of places and include more than just formal training. Employee growth typically comes from three main areas:

Formal professional development

  • University training and workshops
  • University e-learning portal
  • University classes with employee scholarships
  • Attend conferences, seminars, professional chapter meetings, and other presentations
  • Read journals, magazines, and books
  • Subscribe to newsletters in your field that are a good source of current information.
  • External course offerings

HR's Learning & Development

Interactions with others

  • Seeking feedback from direct reports, peers, or a critical friend
  • Maintain membership in professional organizations
  • Online networking opportunities, i.e., connecting with experts on LinkedIn or contributing to blogs and discussion boards
  • Mentoring
  • Communities of practice
  • Attend networking events
  • Establish a personal networking team to whom you can turn for advice, suggestions, assistance, and knowledge

On-the-job experiences

  • Taking on higher duties
  • Job rotations
  • Job shadowing
  • Cross-training
  • Request feedback on specific tasks to ensure accuracy
  • Site or campus visit learning opportunity
  • Stretch projects
  • Sign up for and participate in job-related committee work i.e. Wellness committee, UNOPA, Staff Senate, Safety committee



Before you begin to set your goals, you will need to narrow your focus and decide which vision(s) belong in your professional development plan. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What are your top priorities?
  • What is the most value-added goal for your unit?
  • What does your supervisor support?
  • What do you have time for?
  • What has the least barriers to accomplishment?

You may use the SMARTER Goals Worksheet provided to assist you in writing your goals that will be your professional development plan. 


Well defined, clear, and unambiguous.
Who is involved in this goal?
What do I want to accomplish?
Where is this goal to be achieved?
When do I want to achieve this goal?
Why do I want to achieve this goal?


Quantify an indicator of progress.
How many/much?
How do I know if I have reached my goal?
What is my indicator of progress?

Agreed-upon (Action)

Include the action-based steps that you will do to make the goal happen.
How will I achieve my goal?
What steps must I take to get what I need?

Resources & Realistic

Realistic standard to your position and your vision of your career's future.

Select the appropriate available resources to help you achieve your goal.

Does this align with the department, college, university, and overall system objectives?
Is this supportive of your current position or your future career goals?
Have others done it successfully before?
Do I have the resources to achieve my goal?
If not, what am I missing?


If the goal is not time-constrained, there will be no sense of urgency and, therefore, less motivation to achieve the goal.
Does my goal have a deadline?
By what date do I want to achieve my goal?


Besides yourself, identify who else will help hold you accountable in reaching your goal. Identify steps on how you will be evaluated to determine your success.
Who will help hold you accountable, Supervisor, employees, coworker?
What will indicate you have met this goal?


Recognize and celebrate your accomplishment.
What date did you achieve your goal?
How will you celebrate your accomplishment?