Many students who graduate with excellent grades from top undergraduate institutions seem unprepared to function in a professional environment. And with the skyrocketing costs of a college degree, many question its value if it is not preparing students to enter the workforce. This question about the value of a college education is not only about academic or vocational preparedness, but more importantly, it is about professional preparedness to join the workforce upon graduation.
I think it behooves college leaders to ensure that students are being prepared to enter the workforce the day they graduate. How best to do this? In addition to their didactic curriculum, students have to be armed with professional competencies that are not career specific, but rather those needed to function in a professional setting. These skills, also known as transferable skills, include proficiencies such as oral communication, writing skills, public speaking, conflict resolution, giving and receiving feedback, teamwork, management and leadership skills, organizational skills, and time management, among many others. Students also must be competent in setting goals and prioritizing.
One tool that educators and students can use to help ensure they acquire these transferable skills is to develop a Professional Individual Development Plan (PIDP) upon matriculation in college. This is a tool that helps enhance and improve academic and professional achievement by identifying goals, assessing strengths and weaknesses, defining the didactic, technical, and professional skills necessary to reach those goals. It also helps in locating the available opportunities to optimize reaching those goals, as well as the skills gaps that can derail goal-oriented strategies.
A PIDP identifies milestones and establishes deadlines to guide the student, as well as their advisors and mentors. Because of this, ongoing evaluation and assessment of the PIDP is essential. In other words, a PIDP is a dynamic process that is regularly reviewed and updated.
Stated a little differently, a PIDP developed upon matriculation can serve as a four-year strategic plan for the student in which they develop their vision and mission statements, conduct a self-assessment (SWOT analysis) to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, a PIDP can help students identify available opportunities and potential barriers to their success, set goals and priorities to fulfill their mission, and develop strategies and initiatives to reach their goals.
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 Bosch, C Gita “Professional Individual Development Plan” September 2012, Printed Scholar, http://printedscholar.com/drupal/node/67
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