If you're ready to move forward in your career, please take a seat!

If a shark stops swimming, they suffocate and die. Okay, so that's a common myth or, at least, only a half-truth (some sharks need to keep swimming to be able to breathe). But if we strategically ignore the inconvenient facts for a moment, it's a decent metaphor here.

Humans are geared toward personal development. When you stand still and do nothing, exactly nothing happens… and that can feel suffocating. To be happy with our daily lives, we need to aspire to, and work towards, a future that we love. Ready to get started? In this guide, we'll be talking about all things personal development and why it matters. 

What is personal development?

Personal development is about assessing where your life is now and pinpointing, then working towards, the aspects that you want to either change or improve upon. The first step in this process is creating a personal development plan and setting out goals that you want to reach. Once you've done that, you can work on “levelling up” certain aspects of your life. While this approach can apply to all aspects of your lifestyle, it's particularly key in your career. 

Why does personal development matter?

It's human nature to want to push forward. We're hardwired to want to develop and work to become the best version of ourselves we can be. If we take a look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, “self-actualisation” is the highest point on the pyramid. When all of your other needs have been met, you're free to start truly working on yourself. 

Now, if you were paying attention in psychology class, you'll know that the other needs on the pyramid are: physiological needs (e.g. food and shelter), safety needs (feeling personally secure), love and belonging (from friends or family), and esteem. Ahead of racing to the point of self-actualisation, you'll need to tick those four baseline boxes first.

Self-actualisation is categorised as the “desire to become the most that one can become.” In a workplace setting, that may mean reaching the top of the career ladder or becoming a senior leader. Of course, the term has a much wider meaning than you might expect.

According to Simply Psychology, the theory states that “a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms. In self-actualisation, a person comes to find a meaning in life that is important to them.” While there are many ways that you may find meaning in your everyday life, one of the clearest paths forward is personal development.

Benefits of investing in personal development 

Before we jump into how you can create a personal development plan, let's talk about the benefits you can expect. We won't beat around the bush - it's going to be hard work. For that reason, it's important to remind yourself why you need to be moving forward. Here are three benefits of personal development, to give you that surge of motivation that you need. 

Get more satisfaction from your job 

Are you satisfied with your current job? Over a third of Brits are unhappy with their work, according to a 2022 study from Indeed's Work Happiness Score. While few people wake up buzzing for the working week, if you're getting the “Sunday scaries” by Saturday night, there's a problem. Working on your personal development will help you to redefine your career. Finding a job that gives you a sense of satisfaction is half of the battle here. 

Create a position that aligns with you

What do you want from your working life? You may never have considered that question. However, it's important to know what your personal values are and what you hope to gain from your career. When you start working on your personal development, you'll see that you can gain a position that aligns with your personality, outlook, and what you believe. 

The truth is that many of us sleepwalk into a career. We start our first job and climb the most obvious career ladder in front of us. Before we know it, 10 years have passed and we're working in a role that doesn't inspire us at all. Should that sound familiar, it's important to look at your personal development goals. Creating a plan gives you more control over your professional life and allows you to start calling the shots for a change.

Gain more money, freedom, and responsibilities

It should come as no shock that the higher you are on your chosen career ladder, the more you will gain. We're talking about a higher salary, more freedom (i.e. workplace flexibility), and more responsibilities. If you want to put yourself in the driving seat when it comes to your career, there are few downsides to working on your personal development. 

Once you make a personal development plan, you can decide which of these gains you want to focus on. What do you want the most from your day job? What does your dream job actually look like? When you can start answering these questions honestly, it will allow you to understand the steps that you have to take in your professional life. 

How to create a personal development plan

Right, so how do you create a personal development plan then? While there's not a one-size-fits-all answer here, there are some approaches you can try. Everyone is different and will have their own methods of pushing things forward. However, here are some ways in which you can get started with your own personal development plan. 

Pinpoint what's not working for you

First things first, we need to take a look at what's not working for you. What do you hate about your current job? Be as honest as possible. If you work in administration and find it monotonous, say that. Write down everything that you want to eliminate from your life. 

Visualise the future that you want

Next, use the power of visualisation to imagine the future that you desire. What is it that you want here? If you could have any job in the world, what would it look like? It's important not to limit yourself here. Sure, you might not be able to be a rocket scientist, but that doesn't mean that you can't write it down. You can then look at similar roles that are within your reach. The bigger you think at this stage, the more options you have. 

Consider changing careers 

It's never too late to start chasing your dream job. The truth is that there are plenty of career transition strategies that you can use. When you've decided what job you want to go after, look at the ways that you can start doing so. The most effective approach is to break things down into smaller steps. What training do you need? What work experience do you need? How can you gain these things without hindering your everyday life?

Look into training opportunities 

While we're on the subject, training is a crucial part of personal development. Whether you want to stay in the same sector or take the leap and move, you should always be looking for opportunities. Now, you may find that your current workplace offers learning and development schemes that you can take advantage of. If not, you can also look at online courses, qualifications that you can undertake in your spare time, and night courses. 

Set a reasonable timeline for goals

Of course, a huge part of creating a personal development plan is setting goals and timelines. Make sure that you're being reasonable when you take this step. If you don't give yourself enough time for a certain target, chances are you will give up before you've even started. Figure out how long each task will take and allow the right period for it. 

Hold yourself accountable 

Are you a planner rather than a doer? This one's for you! If you find it all too easy to create a personal development plan but never follow through, you need a way to hold yourself accountable. That may mean speaking to a friend and letting them know what you're doing. You can ask them to check in on you (and maybe even do the same for them!).  Alternatively, you may want to look at using workflow software to time your goals. 

The takeaway 

Taking control when it comes to your personal development is always a strong move. If you want to get more out of your career and everyday life, it's important to put this at the forefront of all of your activities. In this guide, we've covered the basics. Consider the steps you can start taking when it comes to developing your career and levelling up.

Looking for a way to take your career to the next level? If you're on a personal development journey, make sure you revamp your CV along the way and then send it for a free CV review by our team of experts. We've helped over a million professionals to land more interviews and get hired faster. Why not give yourself the professional edge?

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