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Personal development planning for engineering
Personal development planning for engineering

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1.2 The benefits of career development planning

Career development planning is a process that involves taking stock of where you are personally, academically and professionally, deciding where you want to be, and working out the best means of getting there. It may be helpful to think of career development planning as analogous to planning the route for a journey (Figure 2). You need to know your starting point, your end point and the places you wish to visit along the way. As with any journey, you need to work out the most efficient mode of transport given the resources at your disposal. Furthermore, while you are travelling the route, you can't just travel on 'autopilot'; you need to check periodically that you are still on course to reach your destination, and be prepared to overcome any obstacles you meet on the way. This is sometimes referred to as reflection-in-action: put simply, being aware of what you are doing while you're doing it.

Described image
Figure 2 Planning your route

For the moment, just keep hold of the notion that career development, as with PDP in general, is best carried out as a continuous process of recording, reflection, planning, action and monitoring. The following activity will help you with this.

Activity 1

Aim of this activity:

  • to discover the resources available to you as an OU student and to get to grips with the cyclic process of career planning.

Visit the following page of the OU's Careers Advisory Service website. Take 10 minutes or so to look over the content and to watch the short video clips. Then explore some of the links and make a table in your learning log of the services and resources available on the careers website, detailing what each resource provides and how you think it might be useful for your future career development.

By now I hope it is clear that applying the techniques underpinning PDP to your career can help you to get where you want to go. The next activity will help you to explore the benefits of career development planning in more depth.

Activity 2

Aim of this activity:

  • to review your career development experiences.

In your learning log, give up to four examples of previous career development activities you have undertaken. These might include work-related appraisals, discussions you have had with mentors and colleagues, or even just personal planning you have done off your own back. Comment on how useful each activity has been in your career development so far.


You may have struggled with this exercise. Perhaps you don't feel that the activities in which you have previously taken part were of any help to your career at all. But often, when people have negative experiences of PDP it's because it wasn't made clear to them what the benefits are. Maybe the focus appeared to be on keeping the employer happy rather than on the employee's own potential for improvement and fulfilment. Indeed, it is important to note that you are being asked to engage in career development planning for a particular purpose within the context of this course – it doesn't need to fit with your current job or role.

I hope you are beginning to see that for PDP to be a success, the focus must be on you: your abilities, your goals, and how you can achieve what you want to achieve – both as a learner and as an engineer. This is the topic I will turn to now.