A professional development plan is important to your career development because it lays out your career objectives and the path you'll take towards achieving them. It also sets up clear expectations between you and your manager.
Identify your career goals and objectives within your organization. Clearly write out one-year and five-year career goals and a plan to achieve them. If you need additional support from your management and peers, identify the people who will be keys to your career development.
Write down the additional work experience and skills you need to achieve your career objectives. Also identify any continuing education classes you need, conferences that you would like to attend and projects you would like to work on.
Frame you goals within the context of your current job, defining them to be beneficial for both you and your organization. If your goals are out of sync with what you can accomplish where you are, this is a signal to look for change.
Set up a career accomplishment timeline. Break down your goals into smaller tasks with well-defined timelines. Set up a calendar with target dates for each task.
Work with your manager to set up clear expectations. If you want to be promoted to a higher level within the next year, identify what is expected and how you can achieve that goal. If you want to work on a different project, tell management early on so that you can begin working on it in time. You should also project how your goal will benefit your work place.
Take the initiative. Once you have identified your career goals, it's your responsibility to do what it takes to accomplish them. Also be willing to adapt and modify your goals according to changing circumstances. Use feedback from your manager, colleagues and friends to constantly evolve your professional development plan. Sometimes external sources are better able to identify your strengths, weaknesses and areas for development.