Personal development planning for engineering
Personal development planning for engineering

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Personal development planning for engineering

Personal development planning for engineering

Introduction

This course is focused on your career as an engineer. It provides an opportunity to interrogate and scrutinise your career plans. This might be the first time you have really considered your future career as an engineer; although, particularly if you are already working in engineering, it won't be new at all. Even if you do already have strong career plans, don't think that these plans can't be reflected and improved upon. It might not be your first time considering and planning your career as an engineer, but it might be the first time you can do it without your boss or line manager peering over your shoulder.

A cartoon image of a man completing a plan at his desk while being observed by his boss
Figure 1 Quality reflection

In general, personal development planning, or PDP, encompasses the importance of recording, reflection and planning in helping you to manage your learning and development in an efficient and effective way. In the same vein, career development planning focuses on the principles and processes that are involved in effective career development, and examines the benefits of developing and/or updating a career plan during your studies and beyond. If you have already gone through the development planning process, you might have a current plan for development. If so, view this as an opportunity to review your current plans independently of people who might have a conflict of interest with regard to your career trajectory. It's always a good idea to periodically review whatever plans you have made.

As an introduction to career planning and thinking about your career in general, listen to Audio 1, which discusses the benefits of PDP for a career in engineering and considers how you might go about gathering evidence. Remember to make notes as and when you feel it is necessary.

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Transcript: Audio 1 PDP and career planning

Richard Moat
During a career as an engineer, it's important to keep a record of the projects you've been involved in and the tasks that you undertake so that when you need to find evidence of your skills it's readily available. Because when it comes to reflecting, if the evidence isn't readily available it can make the process more tiresome and far more difficult.
Narrator
That was Richard Moat, an author for T176. In this audio we're going to hear some views on why it's worth doing PDP, and how you may want to approach collecting evidence. But firstly, Mark Endean on why you are already in a great position.
Mark Endean
One of the real strengths of studying engineering at The Open University is being able to study alongside working. The two areas of activity interact with each other in a very positive way. The study provides like the conceptual, intellectual framework that you can use to make sense of what's happening in the workplace, and the workplace provides examples and experiences which can really illustrate and bring to life the things that you're studying.
Narrator
So, what is the value of doing PDP?
Richard Moat
By engaging in PDP you have the benefit that when it comes to promotion within your job, you can back up the statements you're making regarding deserving promotion with evidence. There's also the benefit that promotion often includes a pay rise. But probably more directly, the chance for you to become a Chartered Engineer or an Incorporated Engineer at one of the engineering institutions normally requires you to collect evidence of your skills as an engineer, and if you had to do this at the end of the process it would be far more complicated than if you collected evidence during your career as a student or as a junior engineer, and up to the point of trying to become Chartered.
Narrator
So career advancement and professional qualifications are a key motivation for tackling PDP now, but are there any other benefits? Mark Endean.
Mark Endean
There are two obvious benefits of reflective practice. One is about knowing what you're like as a person. Knowing the things you're good at is very important in working out how to achieve the goals that you set for yourself. The other thing is looking back over the recent past to add to and refine your toolbox – your collection of processes, of strategies. Being better as a professional person, as an engineer.
Narrator
Professor John Bouchard made well-thought-through choices at every stage in his career. How did he gather evidence and what did reflection mean to him?
John Bouchard
As part of my training for chartership I kept a career log. Following that, I've kept sort of key documents and I have from time to time looked ahead, trying to develop a plan. I think reflection is a very important part of controlling or directing one's own career, looking back to see where one's come from and thinking whether staying in the same situation is the right thing to do.
Narrator
So how can you start? Firstly, you need to gather evidence in order to help you reflect.
Richard Moat
Some examples of ways you could record your evidence could be in a paper notebook, where you note down tasks and skills that you've been developing; or in a more formal manner, you could get your supervisor or line manager to sign off documents which say you've been involved in certain projects or have done certain jobs; or you could put together a dot directory on your computer that you collect copies of all the documents you think might be useful for the future, for collecting evidence for your skills as an engineer.
Jon James
I would start with a blank Word document and just start to brainstorm, probably with a heading of myself and my own attributes, things I find difficult and things I find easy, strengths and weakness, history of what I've done and where I've been, and how I responded in each of those roles – start to consider the future and where I wanted to go.
Narrator
That was Jon James. In many jobs, career planning is formally structured. That's true if you are employed at The Open University.
Mark Endean
The formal career development appraisal process that we have encourages you to look back and use that to define where you want to go in the future, and also to align that with goals which are outside your own personal requirements – so to see that you're making a contribution to the organisation, that you're contributing to some larger imperatives.
Narrator
But when it comes to career planning, engineering is perhaps a special case – both because of the necessity of PDP for professional qualifications, but also because of common working structures.
Mark Endean
A lot of engineering practice is project focused, either with project teams within large organisations or as self-employed engineers going into businesses to do constrained tasks. And therefore it's really important to have a view of how you're motivated as an individual so that you can find the right roles, find the right place for yourself within the organisation, find the right approach to market yourself, to promote yourself to a client, a manager, a project leader, and to find other ways of exploiting your real strengths.
Narrator
But we should never close down opportunities because they don't fit the plan – it's a question of planning to allow for flexibility. This is what David Sharp found.
David Sharp
Thinking back on the earlier stages of my degree and my early career, I didn't necessarily know exactly where I was going. And I would just say that if opportunities arise that send you off in an unexpected direction, but it's a direction that interests you, then embrace that and follow it through.
Narrator
John Bouchard discovered that for him, a fundamental of his career plan was being proactive.
John Bouchard
In the 1990s I noted that some colleagues had an interesting life – they went to conferences and they got involved in international projects. And I thought, 'Yes, I'd like to do that'. I think the thing I learned from them was that you don't actually get to a conference unless you apply, and so from that point on I started to apply for conferences. It made me realise that it's on your own initiative that things can happen.
Narrator
But one of the most important outcomes of taking control of your career is being able to plan to maximise enjoyment and satisfaction in your working life. A final word from Mark Endean.
Mark Endean
We underestimate the importance of enjoyment and happiness at our peril. We all find ourselves doing things at times that make us unhappy, that we find unsatisfying one way or another, and they need to be balanced by a good dose of things that we gain real enjoyment out of, that make us feel really happy as people. And unless we take the time out to reflect on what we've done, we won't know what those things that make us happy really are.
End transcript: Audio 1 PDP and career planning
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Audio 1 PDP and career planning
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The activities you are asked to do here will require significant thought, so I would expect you to take approximately 10−12 hours to complete the course (including reading, contemplating and completing the activities). It is difficult to give guidelines for each individual activity because you may or may not have visited the topic in the past. Therefore, I suggest you keep in mind that there are a total of 12 activities and I expect you to take no more than approximately 12 hours to complete the entire course. Some activities require thought and reflection and might take 1.5 hours, while others simply require collection of information and might only take 10 minutes. You might want to spread your study over several days to give you time to reflect on your responses.

While working through this course you will need to log your progress. You will notice that on many occasions you are prompted to make an entry into your 'learning log'. This can take many forms. You can use a word processor or computer note pad or you can use an online journal or organiser, it could even take the form of a book in which you make hand written notes. However, for the purposes of creating evidence of completing this course, I recommend that you use some sort of electronic note-taking software (this could be Microsoft Word), that is capable of saving a document containing all your inputs when you have completed the different tasks.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course T176 Engineering: professions, practice and skills 1 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

T176_1

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