What is professional development?

Professional development can be defined as any activity that enriches and enhances your professional skills. Professional development activities are often adjacent to your research; enhancing your skills will help you thrive not only during your research degree, but for your long term professional goals. The skill sets of each researcher is different, so it’s important to identify your own skills and areas for development. 

Do I need professional development?

Key professional skills including communication, leadership, teamwork, and project management will benefit you during your research degree and also are valued by employers across a wide range of sectors, including academia. Professional development is ongoing. Our personal and professional goals are always changing, so it’s important to ensure that your skillset is up to date.

How much time should I spend on professional development?

Generally, most people spend at least 10 days per year on their professional development.

What can I do to develop my skills?

Professional and personal development can look very different from person to person, so it’s important to create your own bespoke Professional Development Plan (PDP). The professional development resources available on the VLE are centred around a four step process:

  1. Take stock of existing skills, strengths and opportunities
    Use the Prompt List of Professional Development Opportunities
  2. Reflect on and consider future professional development opportunities
    Use our range of tools and activities to generate options and identify strengths and gaps in your skill set:
    1. PGR Career Journey 2023/24 (PDF , 120kb)
    2. The accompanying Career Ideas and Inspiration Padlet
    3. Browse the York Researcher Professional Development & Skills Programme to find links and resources
  3. Identify what additional experience, training, support and mentoring is needed
    Detail this in your Professional Development Plan (PDP)
  4. Share your PDP with your supervisor
    Discuss with them what opportunities are available or which skills could be developed to support your professional development.

Discussion and updating of your PDP can be done in your regular Progression and/or TAP meetings to ensure that you’re meeting your current goals but also setting new ones. Discussions around your development can include, for example, applying to conferences, becoming a Graduate Teaching Assistant, or taking part in University training courses.  

When should I create my professional development plan?

Ideally, you should perform a Training Needs Analysis in the first six months of your PhD and discuss the outcome with your supervisors. Following the initial TNA, you should engage with the 4-step process listed above and review your Professional Development Plan regularly (e.g. every six months) and continue to discuss your training needs with your supervisors.