Skills and competencies
career planning

Duration and scheduling
2–4 hours

Towards the end of their PhD journey, each student develop a professional development plan (PDP) – or re-visit one s/he developed earlier. The PDP documents a student’s goals, the skills and competencies s/he must develop to achieve these goals, and steps along path to continuous improvement and career development after graduation.


  • To reflect on her/his long-term career ambitions post-graduation
  • To revisit, review and refine the professional development plan s/he developed at the start of her/his PhD journey (OR to develop one for the first time)
  • To consider progress, challenges and necessary modifications of this plan
  • To learn to use material on the web for professional development

Source and distribute the Educause template for professional development plans

Find and review the professional development plan that they developed early on the PhD journey


1. Introduction
Give a short explanation of:

  • The form and purpose of a professional development plan
  • The idea of a mentor to support personal development
  • Invite students to discuss the difference in roles between mentors and supervisors

2. Develop individual professional development plans
Working individually with the template, students note their long-term ambitions and the knowledge and experience they will need to get there
Those who developed PDPs earlier modify them:

  • What has changed, for example in your ambitions for the future?
  • What additional skills and experience do you now realise that you will need?
  • What has proved, with time and experience, to be unnecessary?

In pairs, students describe their ambitions to each other, outlining what they need in order to achieve them
In plenary, students take turns to describe their discussion partner’s plan

By the end of this session, students should be able to:

  1. Identify long-term ambitions and ways to pursue them
  2. Use a template to develop their professional development plans

Students submit their professional development plans for assessment

You can download these guidance notes

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