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Personal Development

Jen Mallow

5 tips for Creating an Individual Development Plan

Regardless of your career stage, developing a plan for success is often the difference between meeting goals and stagnating.  Taking a faculty role means learning a set of skills that your education didn’t include. All the opportunities seem interesting and you take every one of them! But, at the end of your term you have worked 60+ hours per week and feel like a juggler keeping 5 items in the air. You barely got your grading finished, regret the service commitments you took on, are behind on continuing education to keep your practice current, haven’t submitted an article that is in draft and waiting for you to finish, and feel guilty for enjoying a Saturday free from work! Developing an annual plan for meeting your own professional development can help.

Use institutional guidelines
It can be hard to decide how to spend precious time. Often, professional goals include promotion to the next rank and getting tenure. While the politics involved seem daunting, the University/College usually has clear expectations called something like “Guidelines for Faculty Promotion.” This is what mine look like. Gradually meeting these expectations over a defined number of years is required. Review your guidelines and pick several of them to meet for this year. Use assigned percent effort to decide how many from each category you will meet. For example, I am assigned 20% Teaching, 20% Service, and 60% Research. The majority of my goals for the year meet expectations for research.

Communicating your goals and plan
Creating your plan in isolation is a bad idea. We often think we can do more than we can.  In addition, we tend to focus on things we like to do. Plans made in isolation can often leave you in the same place, overwhelmed. Instead, develop a draft and show it to your mentors and those responsible for making your assignments. They will help you focus on activities that will lead to success. Because these are YOUR goals, you can negotiate. However, my advice is to listen to these people. They usually want what is best for you. One year, I developed a 9 page plan and presented it to my mentors. Here's the appropriate plan after being mentored.

Aligning teaching, practice, service, and scholarship
Marching in the same direction gets your further than marching in circles. When I first started teaching, I had undergrads in the hospital, service related to classroom curriculum, and my research and practice were in the community. In the process of communicating my goals with mentors, they gave me suggestions on how to align what I teach with my practice and research and to plan service to augment my goals. I finally feel like I’m marching in the same direction.  This path may be clearer to you. But if it’s not, seek input. Also, expect that these changes in assignment will happen over semesters and years, not immediately.  

Matching your plan with your calendar
Do not wait to find time. You won’t find it. You must schedule it! 
First, make a Long-term schedule for the entire semester with dates of your fixed commitments, both professional and personal (class times, meetings, kid activities, exercise, ect). Next, hold a weekly planning meeting with yourself. It takes about 20 minutes. I hold mine on Friday afternoon. That way, I can enjoy my weekend without guilt, knowing I have a plan to accomplish everything. Use your Long-term schedule so that you know the previously committed times, then make a list of everything you HAVE to accomplish that week. Now, assign yourself times during the week the and block that time off. Last, make a short-term schedule. At the end of your day, glance at what you’ve completed and adjust to what must be done for the next day.

I encourage you to find calendar buddies. A group you share your calendar with and they share theirs with you each week. Sharing your calendar helps keep you accountable to your schedule and shows you how others fit things into theirs. 

Reevaluate your plan
At the beginning of each semester, assess. Are you meeting your goals? If not, were they unrealistic or have you fallen off the schedule wagon? Talk to mentors and readjust. 
Then, once you’ve received your annual evaluation, make a plan for the next year to meet those goals!

Additional Reading
Campbell, J., Ladden, M. D., McBride, A. B., Cimino, A., Kostas-Polston, E., & Deming, K. (2017). Overview of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program. Nursing outlook65(3), 254-264.

Garand, L., Matthews, J. T., Courtney, K. L., Davies, M., Lingler, J. H., Schlenk, E. A., ... & Burke, L. E. (2010). Development and use of a tool to guide junior faculty in their progression toward promotion and tenure. Journal of Professional Nursing26(4), 207-213.

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