Personal Development Plans
As part of the Capacity Strengthening Programme, personal development sessions were held during the consortium meetings from Year 1 on, with participants consisting of consortium members at different stages of their careers and backgrounds.
The sessions aimed at giving young African students and scientists the opportunity to gain the maximum benefit from participating in a project such as ScreenTB, by enabling the planning for personal development and next career steps. The key activity during the career development sessions was the preparation of Personal Development Plans (PDP). Lead investigators helped junior scientists and young researchers to develop their own PDPs in order to enable greater ownership of training opportunities.
Personal development planning is the process of creating an action plan based on awareness, values, reflection, goal setting and planning for personal development within the context of a career, education, relationship or for self-improvement. It supports individuals to document a process of self-analysis, personal reflection and honest appraisal of a young researcher’s strengths and weaknesses. It evaluates the value of the training one has received and to consider future development. The goal was also to help set realistic expectations of career growth and to suggest time frames for certain milestones to happen (e.g. promotions, graduation). A PDP can help identify areas that one needs to develop before becoming eligible for the next career milestone.
The PDP form used in the ScreenTB Capacity Strengthening programme asked to define short and long-term career goals, to prioritize goals and to set deadlines. The aim was also to analyse strengths and weaknesses, and to recognize opportunities and threats. Participants had to list which new skills they wanted to develop, how to take action and who to get support from. The ScreenTB PDP was also designed to measure the scientist’s progress over the course of a year until the next meeting.
The sessions were perceived as helpful and effective and served as a great basis for the mentorship scheme in which weaknesses and goals could be addressed and tackled. When asked for feedback, participants stressed that they appreciated the opportunity to spend time together as mentors and mentees to discuss their current goals and issues. Highlighting the effectiveness of the exercises performed during the career development sessions, one project member even said: “I have my Personal Development Plan from last year’s meeting pinned above my desk so that I can refer to it regularly – and I do!”.