Personal Development Planning: What’s it all About?
How to Use this Guide
Transferable Skills at Cambridge
Using PDP to Identify Skills
Reﬂection in Action
Goals and Planning
Personal Development Plan
Reﬂective Questions List
Time Line Planner
How Do I Know if it’s Working?
Job Applications and Interviews
Using PDP to Prepare for Job Applications and Interviews
About Behavioural Interviewing
4. My Files
Major Skills Training and Support Organisations within the University
Get Involved in Your Community
Skills and Personal Development Directory
6. Intro: Personal Development Planning: What’s it all About?
As you read this, in the rush of Michaelmas Term, it is worth bearing in mind that what lies ahead
of you will almost certainly prove to be one of the most important experiences of your life. Your
academic studies are the primary part of this experience, but they are not the “whole package” of a
Cambridge education. Some of the most signiﬁcant changes that occur over the three or four-year
period of your degree will be in the area of personal development. If this is your ﬁrst time away from
home, living and studying in Cambridge should encourage you to be more independent, more self-
conﬁdent, more resourceful, and probably more assertive, better at managing your time and your
money, and better at working with others. In a word, more mature. Your horizons – geographical,
cultural and intellectual – will be broadened by the experience of studying in Cambridge’s international
environment, and by the extra-curricular activities and opportunities you choose to pursue.
No doubt you have already started thinking about how to spend your ﬁrst few months, and planning is
the ﬁrst step towards making the most of your time here. To get the very best out of your Cambridge
experience, there are also another couple of things you might like to consider doing. These are:
record your experiences; and reﬂect on them. This is the essence of Personal Development
Planning. The pace of College life can be hectic. You will ﬁnd it helps to navigate a steady course
if you can prioritise and plan effectively. And you will enjoy term-time more if you can train yourself
to slow down, once in a while, and take stock of the bigger picture. When the year is over and you
are looking to the future, you will ﬁnd it helpful to have a record, even a basic one, of how you spent
Because life goes on after your studies, and in career planning, job-seeking and your professional
career in general you should still be able to draw on the experiences gained during your degree for
many years to come. Your degree will provide a wealth of material to enrich your CV, as well as a
valuable bank of experiences you can refer to when asked by an interviewing panel to demonstrate
how you have risen to challenges and dealt with tricky situations. Your University education has
intrinsic intellectual value. However, your education will also make you more employable, and will
equip you with a wide range of life skills and transferable skills (e.g. communication, working
independently, working with others) that will be needed throughout your working and studying life.
This guide explains more about Personal development Planning and provides some tools for your
own planning. Use it according to your needs and experience. If you are a mature student, you are
already likely to have some experience of skills mapping, reﬂective practice, learning styles, career
planning, CV and interview technique. The decision to return to education may have been step one
of your career plan. It is still of beneﬁt to reassess your goals from time to time and adapt your plans
7. accordingly. If you are a student with a disability, use this guide to help you to pull together all the
experience you have accumulated in one place and set new goals for the future. Taking a fresh look
at your skills competencies can only increase your conﬁdence. Some of the examples provided may
not seem relevant to your personal circumstances. But in analysing your strengths, think laterally:
juggling personal / family life, studies, and extra-curricular activities shows commitment, organisation,
time-management and adaptability—all important skills.
The University is very aware of the personal development that students undergo during their
education, and is equally aware that students do not always articulate and take full advantage of
the variety of skills and experiences they have acquired. The University is therefore keen to help
students to capitalise on their experience as much as they possibly can. The notes that follow outline
the support for PDP that Cambridge offers, what will be expected of you, and what you can expect
to gain from taking part.
Going through the process of PDP is really what will make a difference to your experience of
Cambridge and life in general. Nevertheless it’s also the intention that you will also leave Cambridge
with a tangible output of the process – your PDP Portfolio. This can be in whatever form you
choose: computer ﬁle, loose-leaf folder, notebook, etc. This guide is both a source of information
and a place to start to record your experiences, skills, reﬂections. It can form the basis of your PDP
portfolio, which could also contain information like your supervision reports, exam tanscripts, CV,
and so on (see ‘My Files’, page 45). It will also contain any PD Plans that you make (see Personal
Development Plan, page 17).
A PDP Portfolio is a folder (hardcopy or electronic) that contains information about you: reports,
CV, reﬂections, PD plans.
A PD Plan is a structured plan that you have drawn up to help you to meet objectives, such as
development of particular skills.
8. Intro: How to Use this Guide
Remember, the point of PDP is to encourage you to identify your experiences, reﬂect on what
you have learned from them, and then record the information so you can plan towards your goals
The set of materials included in this Guide includes tools to help you in this process:
Skills audit questionnaire Reﬂective questions list
Personal development plan Skills Feedback form
SWOT and STAR self-appraisal forms Timeline planner
Learning Styles framework
The Guide outlines the Cambridge approach to transferable skills training and personal
development. It includes key information, reference materials, and self-assessment forms for you
to complete in your own time. Personal Development Planning, or PDP, is not assessed by the
Colleges or the University as a formal part of your degree. How much you do, and how often, is up
As a minimum, you should expect to discuss PDP with your Personal Tutor or Tutor, at least once
a year. You will have received this information just before the start of the academic year. The ﬁrst
time you meet with your Tutor, usually during Michaelmas Term, take along these PDP materials
and make sure that you understand how the system works. As you begin to build up your portfolio
and PD Plans in subsequent terms, be prepared to discuss them with your Tutor. Talk about your
plans and goals for the year: academic aims, certainly, but also your personal, career, and life
goals. It is a good idea to revise or update your PD Plan after these meetings, or on a regular
basis such as once per Term.
Remember to keep all your PDP ﬁles together in a safe place. It is your responsibility to keep
copies of all your PDP ﬁles; for example, updates to your Personal Development Plan.
Your PDP is private. Any materials that you complete relating to PDP are conﬁdential and you do
not have to show them to anyone. No one has the right to view PDP documents that belong to you
without your permission.
That said, you will ﬁnd it helps you to stay motivated if you are able to receive regular feedback
on your PDP. You may ask your Tutor for feedback, but there are many other people who can
offer useful help and advice: other students, parents, family friends, your DOS, supervisors, your
College chaplain, or by appointment with Careers Service advisers.
9. Your Tutor or DoS will also ﬁnd the information in your PDP Portfolio very useful when they come
to write references for you. So when the need arises you might want to consider whether and how
you want to share the information with them.
Work through the materials in the Guide at your own pace. The important thing to remember is that
personal development planning is a process. You will get the most out of PDP if you do a little bit
at a time, a few times during the year. Then you will be able to look back on your responses over
time, and see how far you have come.
10. Intro: Why Bother?
PDP (Personal Development Planning) offers you:
A place to record skills, collect evidence, reﬂect on achievements
Opportunities to reﬂect on your life, activities, and skills
Ways to get the most out of regular meetings with your personal
Tutor, DOS, supervisor, or mentor
Help when you are changing direction, or making future plans
Techniques to help you perform well in job applications and interviews
Opportunities to develop connections with other students and academic staff
Practical Scenarios for PDP
A few situations for when PDP could help…
Your supervisor gave you a much lower mark than you expected for your essay
You’re studying NatSci, and can’t decide whether to focus on biological or physical sciences
for Part II/III
You’re an Arts student, and you’re trying to put together a job application for a big
You’re having problems getting your work handed in on time
You’d like to do an internship, but you’re not sure which industry to target
You’re trying to get your teammates to cooperate on a design project
You’re involved in a college play, and you want to capture your role in the experience
You’re trying to focus your ideas for your third-year long essay
You want to start a CUSU campaign
You’ve completed some volunteering or schools outreach work, and you want to record
what you’ve achieved
We do not learn from experience...
we learn from reﬂecting on experience
11. Four contexts for PDP
Meetings with your Planning and goal- Time management Personal Development
Personal Tutor / Tutor setting; recording
Meetings with your Helping with transition Planning longer-term Prioritising work and
DOS, supervisor, or within the University projects (long essays, preparing for exams
mentor (eg. completing Tripos research projects,
Parts, changing from design projects)
one Tripos to another)
Careers and Job Search
Job applications: Help with creative Getting good Writing CVs
giving evidence of your thinking or changing references
Informal and Experiential Learning
Recording experiences Year Abroad; Volunteering and Extracurricular
and reﬂecting on new exchange schools outreach activities (JCR, music,
skills programmes; summer sports, societies…)
12. My Skills
13. My Skills: Transferable Skills at Cambridge
What are Transferable Skills?
Transferable Skills are, quite simply, the skills learned in one context that are useful in another.
They may be learnt in an academic setting, or outside study, often through informal or experiential
learning contexts (like volunteering, student societies, or community participation).
Transferable Skills can help you to study more effectively, and may help to promote academic
achievement. They are also highly valued by employers. There is no deﬁnitive list, but the category
The ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data, and information
The ability to identify and solve problems
Analytical and evaluative thinking
The ability to engage in lateral thinking, openness to creative thinking
The ability to present material orally in a clear and effective way
The ability to present written material clearly and appropriately
Management of time and resources
Working creatively, ﬂexibly and adaptably with others
Formulating and meeting team objectives
Interacting successfully on a one-to-one basis
14. Which Transferable Skills can I expect to gain from my degree?
Skills that could be developed by all students
Intellectual Skills (e.g. critical, analytical, synthesising and problem-solving skills)
Communication skills (written and oral)
Organisational Skills (e.g. working independently, taking initiative, time-management)
Interpersonal Skills ( e.g. working with or motivating others, ﬂexibility/adaptability)
Skills which are essential for and speciﬁcally developed by certain courses, but which
remain desirable for all students, and available to them through various routes
Research Skills Computer Literacy
Numeracy (e.g. statistical skills, data handling) Foreign Language Skills
The individual perspective…
“Transferable Skills: An Interactive Guide” is a website designed to give students access to
essential information about transferable skills at Cambridge. The site is designed so that you can
search it for information tailored to your needs. The site also gives case study examples of how
students from different Triposes have used their skills:
The subject perspective…
If you are interested in learning more about the skills that are developed speciﬁcally through
your Tripos studies, ask your DOS, or check your Department website. Many Departments have
developed detailed Statements on Transferable Skills, showing exactly how the different activities
that make up your course develop skills.
Alternatively, see the Senior Tutor’s Committee webpage for information about the University’s
perspective on Transferable Skills:
15. The vocational/careers perspective…
The Cambridge Careers Service has developed a guide to transferable skills, focused on careers
and job searching: “What has Cambridge done for me?” It is available on their website:
My Skills: Using PDP to Identify Skills
16. My Skills: Using PDP to Identify Skills
PDP can help you to identify and develop your Transferable Skills. Use PDP techniques such
as the Skills Audit (See page 13) to identify the skills that you have already developed, skills
that you wish to develop further, and skills that you do not yet possess. Then, use your Personal
Development Plan (See page 17), to decide which steps you need to follow in order to acquire
But before we get to that stage you need to be aware that the link between skills awareness and
personal development planning is: reﬂection.
Reﬂection is itself a kind of transferable skill, but the ability to reﬂect, honestly and accurately,
on your life and work—and especially, to reﬂect on any particular problems or challenges you
may experience—will enhance all the transferable skills you choose to develop. What’s more,
reﬂection, and self-awareness more generally, will help you to identify skills you didn’t even know
What is reﬂection?
Reﬂection is the basic concept behind much PDP. The idea, based on well-established educational
research, is that reﬂection promotes learners’ self-awareness and self-motivation. Research also
indicates that the incorporation of reﬂective processes into teaching actively enhances student
Reﬂection is a search for connections
(James R. Zull)
Reﬂection is a form of mental processing – like a form of thinking – that we use to fulﬁl a purpose
or to achieve some anticipated outcome. It is applied to relatively complicated or unstructured
ideas for which there is not an obvious solution and is largely based on further processing of
knowledge and understanding, and possibly emotions, that we already possess.
(Helen Barrett, quoting Jennifer Moon)
17. Reﬂection is the basic concept behind much PDP. The idea, based on well-established educational
research, is that reﬂection promotes learners’ self-awareness and self-motivation. Research also
indicates that the incorporation of reﬂective processes into teaching actively enhances student
Reﬂection involves “metacognition”, or the awareness individuals have of their own mental
processes. Undertaking reﬂective activities helps you to move from the activity of learning, to a
deeper understanding of how you learn. It also helps to integrate learning, by enabling you to
group together a set of experiences and identify the common elements they share.
The best way to get to grips with reﬂection is to start using the record of activities and reﬂective
questions contained in your PDP portfolio. As you become more experienced, you may wish to
add other, less structured, approaches (weblog or “blog”, journal, informal discussions with friends,
or your Tutor).
Some observations about reﬂection:
Some students ﬁnd reﬂection comes naturally, others do not
The potential personal ‘exposure’ of reﬂection can be uncomfortable and, particularly for
international students, contrary to cultural norms
There is no “one right way” to reﬂect
You will never be evaluated or judged on your reﬂections; they are private and personal to
you, unless you choose to share them with others
Reﬂection is a process, not a single event
For a busy student, the discipline of writing on a regular basis can be difﬁcult to establish
Sharing reﬂections can help with motivation
application of observations
the concepts in a and
new situation reﬂections
generalisations Kolb’s Learning Cycle
18. My Skills: Reﬂection in Action
Start with one special or signiﬁcant thing:
an experience, an action, a person, a memory, a feeling, an observation.
“Signiﬁcant” in this context just means that your object of reﬂection has a personal meaning: it is
signiﬁcant to you.
Your experience does not have to be a clear-cut thing; in fact, it is often more valuable to reﬂect
on experiences or situations that are unstructured, messy, and closer to “real life”. There may be
emotions attached to the experience, positive or negative, but there do not have to be.
Use one or more of the following techniques to reﬂect on your experience.
Use SWOT or STAR techniques to analyse the components of the experience
Brainstorm the most important things about that experience or thing
Talk to your Tutor, DOS, Chaplain, family, mentor, College parent, or friend about the
Question yourself about the experience (there are no “right” answers – the beneﬁt lies in the
Use the Timeline planner and locate your experience upon it
Write a trial job application and refer to your experience, stating what you learnt from it
Write down your thoughts and feelings about the experience
Make a map, concept map, or drawing that expresses your experience
Take action: do something about it!
Build on your reﬂections by seeking feedback from others.
Update your Personal Development Plan.
Ask yourself: do your reﬂections contribute any knowledge or information that changes your plan
or makes it redundant? Do your reﬂections alter your plans in any way? What do you need to do
19. Goals and Planning
20. Goals and Planning: Skills Audit
There are seven categories of skill in the Skills Audit. Rate yourself according to the scale shown
for all the statements in each skills category.
The skills listed here are based on the University’s policy statement on Transferable Skills for
Undergraduate Students. This list is not exhaustive and there are certain transferable skills that
are not included here, but which you may acquire through study or your extra-curricular activities
and life experiences. If you feel that you possess a particular skill that is not listed here, you should
feel free to include it in your Audit.
The evidence you provide to support your ratings is very important. Participation in an activity or
event generally involves multiple skills, so it is likely that you may use one piece of evidence to
support more than one skills statement.
You may wish to show a copy of your Skills Audit to a potential referee. The details included here
will help to ﬂesh out any other information you provide, for example, a CV. Don’t forget to give him
or her a copy of your Skills Feedback Form, too. Both of these forms can be downloaded from the
Use the following to rate yourself against each of the skills in the Skills Audit:
A I can use this skill very well
B I can use this skill well but some improvements could be made
C I need to improve this skill
D I need to put in considerable work to develop this skill
E I have not had the opportunity to develop this skill
21. Name: Date:
Rating: A B C D E
Rating: A B C D E
Rating: A B C D E
22. Skill: Research
Rating: A B C D E
Rating: A B C D E
Skill: Computer Literacy
Rating: A B C D E
23. Skill: Foreign Languages
Rating: A B C D E
Rating: A B C D E
Skill: Fill in as appropriate
Rating: A B C D E
24. Goals and Planning: Personal Development Plan
Use this plan to review your progress to date and to help you to identify any skills gaps or areas
that you need to develop further.
When you meet with your Personal Tutor or Tutor, have your plan ready in advance to show him or
her, and be prepared to discuss it and to receive feedback.
How to Use the Personal Development Plan
1. Reﬂect on your work and progress. Ask yourself: Have I progressed as well as I would have
hoped? What problems or difﬁculties have I experienced? Use tools like the Skills Audit
(page 13) in this guide to help you get started. It is important to think about how things
are going in general, as well as for each subject or paper you are taking.
2. If the answer is yes—great! If not – start having some ideas of your own for improvement
and be prepared to discuss these with your Tutor.
3. Fill in the Personal Development Plan.
4. Show your Personal Development Plan to your Tutor from time to time, and seek feedback
from him or her. If you would like further feedback on your Plan, there are others you can
call on: including close friends / family, your College Dean or Chaplain, and the advisors at
the Disability Resource Centre.
5. Keep track of your progress. Refer to your Plan so you can build on what you’ve
Using your Personal Development Plan should have the following outcomes:
- Greater understanding of how much progress you’ve made in all areas of your course
- Better understanding of any strengths and weaknesses by both you and your Tutor
- Clearer understanding of what you need to do next
25. - Agreement on setting goals and targets
- An Action Plan that summarises all this
26. Personal Development Plan
Name: Tripos Subject:
General Direction: You will learn best if your course, subjects or programme ﬁt into the general
direction of where you want to go in future. Write down a list of your subjects, papers or courses
and whether you think they ﬁt in with your study and/or future plans. Check with your Tutor about
any of which you are unsure.
Subject / Paper / Course Enjoying it? Fits in?
27. Achievements: Think of a piece of work or an activity that you feel particularly pleased and proud
of. Make a note of this here.
Areas for Improvement: Write down any areas in which you are experiencing difﬁculties or
any skills that you would like to develop, eg. “Meet all my deadlines”, “Set some career goals by
Easter”, “Learn to use Powerpoint.”
Action Plan: These are the concrete steps you are going to take in order to reach your goals.
Break your plan down into concrete steps and make sure each step is realistic. Set yourself a
deadline, to motivate yourself to get started.
Step 1: Date:
Step 2: Date:
Step 3: Date:
28. Goals and Targets: Complete the questions on this chart. This will give you something to
measure your progress against at your next tutorial meeting. Your aim is to be able to tick all the
I have set myself some goals that say what I want to achieve by my next tutorial meeting
I have a plan to help me improve on my learning and personal development
I have identiﬁed action points to help me reach my targets
29. Goals and Planning: SWOT
SWOT analysis is a useful method to aid understanding and decision-making in any situation.
SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. SWOT analysis
has its origins in research on corporate planning, conducted at the Stanford Research Institute in the
1960s and 1970s. SWOT analysis is widely used today in business and management, but it is also
useful as a tool for learning and personal development.
A SWOT analysis is a personal, subjective assessment of information that is organized by the SWOT
format into a logical order that helps understanding, presentation, discussion and decision-making.
The SWOT analysis template is normally presented as a grid, comprising four sections, one for each
of the SWOT headings: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When you do a SWOT
analysis, begin by clearly identifying the situation to which the SWOT analysis relates. Then ﬁll in
each of the SWOT grid areas, according to the details of that situation.
How to do SWOT:
On a post-it note (which you can attach to an object or item)
On a piece of scrap paper
With colour highlighters or pencils
On the computer / laptop
Using the SWOT template in this guide
Voice recording (using a Dictaphone, voicemail, mp3 recorder, etc.)
In a journal, learning log, or diary
While chatting with a friend
When to do SWOT:
Straight after a supervision, lab session, lecture, group meeting
At the start of a study or revision session
At the end of the day / when you ﬁnish studying
First thing in the morning
In a break between lectures
Before you ﬁll in a job application
30. Translating SWOT analysis into action
SWOT analysis provides a framework by which relevant issues can be identiﬁed, classiﬁed, and
understood. Moving from SWOT analysis to action, however, can be something of a leap!
As far as identifying actions from SWOT issues goes, it all very much depends on your reasons and
aims for using SWOT, and also your position with respect to others who may be implicated in the
issues you identify—you can make decisions for yourself, but not necessarily for others.
The other pivotal part in the process is ﬁnding the motivation to follow through. The key point is to
translate the items you place in each SWOT category into decisions or actions that you are prepared
to take on board:
Strengths (maintain and extend) Weaknesses (address and / or seek advice)
Opportunities (prioritise and optimise) Threats (counter and / or seek help)
Situation to which this SWOT analysis relates: Date:
31. Goals and Planning: STAR
STAR (the acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Response), is a method to help you analyse
and reﬂect on your role in a given situation. Use the form below to help you to unpack the ways in
which you contributed to a situation, action, or event.
The STAR method works best when you use it to focus on active participation—the concrete
things you did in order to make something happen. Those “concrete things” could mean strategic
planning: taking a decision, changing direction, or creating a plan. Or it could mean problem
solving or creative thinking: coming up with a solution to a particular problem, or trying a new
way of doing things. Or it could mean following a method: going through a process, step-by-step,
in order to complete a task. Or it could mean working with people: organising others, motivating
peers, working in a group or team.
Identifying the actions you took, and showing how they contributed to a result or outcome, offers
a powerful demonstration of your skills. STAR is therefore an excellent technique to use when
preparing for job interviews.
STAR will also help you to prepare for any kind of application or interview (formal or informal)
where you have to give examples from your experience, in order to substantiate any claims you
make about your skills and abilities.
32. Goals and Planning: Reﬂective Questions
Use this list of questions to kick-start the reﬂective process.
Try picking two or three questions at random, and then just jot down your thoughts as they
occur to you.
Think laterally, and don’t censor yourself. There are no “right answers”.
Thinking creatively is itself a useful skill to develop. Edward de Bono’s “Thinking Hats” is a well
known approach to creative reﬂection and problem solving. The basic premise is that you try
thinking about an issue, problem, or situation from different perspectives, as if you were
wearing different “hats” (e.g. the social perspective, the “big-picture” perspective, the detail
oriented perspective). Try it out.
33. What speciﬁc goals, not related to your study, have you established for the next year?
What do you see yourself doing ﬁve years from now?
What do you really want to do in life?
What are your long-range career objectives?
How would you describe yourself?
How has your University experience prepared you for a career?
What two or three accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction? Why?
Describe your most rewarding experience.
What academic subjects do you like best? Why?
What academic subjects do you like least? Why?
Do you have plans for continued study? An advanced degree?
What have you learned from participation in extracurricular activities?
In what kind of environment are you most comfortable?
Can you give an example of where you had to inﬂuence someone to take action?
What major problem have you encountered and how did you deal with it?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Why did you decide to apply to Cambridge?
Do you prefer working alone or with others? Why?
If you could start your University studies again what would you do differently?
34. Goals and Planning: Learning Styles
Educational psychologists and researchers in the ﬁelds of human cognition and student learning
have developed various schemes to classify and characterise learners’ educational preferences.
These are usually known as “learning styles”.
This section of your Guide gives you an overview of three key Learning Styles theories and explains
why they might be useful for personal development.
What are Learning Styles?
The concept of Learning Styles is intended to explain observable differences in learners’ methods
(“how” we learn), as well as differences in motivations or choices (“why” we learn). Sometimes,
advocates of learning styles connect learning preferences to learner identities, arguing that the
learning methods people use, together with the learning choices they make, are bound up with “who”
they are. The identity-centred versions of Learning Styles can be similar to systems that claim to
reveal psychological “personality types” (such as Myers-Briggs). Personality type proﬁles are widely
used by businesses and corporate recruiters, so it is useful for you to know about this variation.
The most signiﬁcant theorists of Learning Styles are: Allinson & Hayes, Entwistle, Herrmann, Honey
& Mumford, Kolb, Kolody, and Vermunt.
How can I use Learning Styles?
Advocates of Learning Styles believe that, by analysing your personal learning modes and preferences,
you can start to learn more effectively and get more from your education. The idea is that, if you
understand the circumstances in which you are most productive, you can begin consciously to seek
out opportunities in your environment and study sessions that suit you best.
The most familiar Learning Styles technique is probably the questionnaire. Learning Styles theorists
have designed various questionnaires to enhance self-management and “personal productivity”.
If you are interested in ﬁnding out more about Learning Styles and psychological proﬁling, the
University Careers Service offers a wide variety of questionnaires and self-testing instruments for
you to try.
35. Three Learning Styles Frameworks
Pragmatist Concrete experience
Reﬂector Observing and reﬂecting
Theorist Abstract conceptualisation
Activist Active experimentation
Honey and Mumford
Diverging These people are able to look at things from different perspectives. They are
sensitive. They prefer to watch rather than do, tending to gather information and
using imagination to solve problems.
Assimilating The Assimilating learning preference is for a concise, logical approach. Ideas and
abstract concepts are more important than people. In formal learning situations,
people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and
having time to think things through.
Converging A Converging style enables specialist and technology abilities. They are best
at ﬁnding practical uses for ideas and theories. People with this style like to
experiment with new ideas, to simulate, and to work with practical applications.
Accommodating The Accommodating learning style is ‘hands-on’, and relies on intuition rather
than logic. These people rely on others’ analysis, and prefer to work in teams to
complete tasks. They set targets and actively work in the ﬁeld.
36. Style Focus
Navigators Locating, structuring, and using information
Monitors Organisation; making learning plans; studying at ﬁxed times
Critical thinkers Individual and creative thinking; open-ended questions and problem-solving
Engagers Group dynamics; work that is based on personal interests
Networkers Discussion and debate with peers and lecturers; brainstorming and teamwork
Kolody et. al.
37. Goals and Planning: Skills Feedback
Present this feedback form to a suitable person(s) with a copy of your Skills Audit. They do not have
to ﬁll in every section; indeed, you may ﬁnd it useful to ask for feedback from a range of people.
They should state their relationship to you (i.e. personal tutor, project supervisor, fellow student etc.)
in the space provided.
39. Skill: Communication
Skill: Computer Literacy
Skill: Foreign Languages
40. Skill: Fill in as appropriate
41. Goals and Planning: Time Line Planner
Time Line Planning is a powerful way to identify the most signiﬁcant events in your life. The context
does not matter: whether they are personal, study-related, family-related, work-related, or connected
to your social life, the events you choose to include will be the ones that stand out for you.
The proforma below gives one example of a time line planner. It covers a single year, and the section
labels are focused on the academic year. Your version might be much broader and more detailed in
Try drawing a bigger version on a piece of graph paper, extending the line to include your past and
future (before you came to Cambridge, and after you graduate).
Failures are important, as well as successes. This is a private plan and you are not competing
against anyone when you ﬁll it in. The point is to reﬂect on the most important and striking events
that have affected your life. We all fail at things from time to time and there is no shame in this, the
point is to understand the implications and learn from the experience.
42. Date you completed this Plan:
Year this Plan relates to:
(Possible events: Date of matriculation? Joined college parent scheme? Survived ﬁrst supervision?
Lost ﬁrst football match? Elected to JCR committee?)
(Possible events: Got ﬁrst low mark on essay? Spoke at a Union debate? Organised Society dinner?
Experienced Sixth Week Blues? First article published in Varsity?)
(Possible events: Panicked about exams? Rowed in Bumps? Made the May Ball Survivors Photo?
Created ﬁrst job CV?)
(Possible events: First company internship? Trekking in Morocco? Volunteered on an environmental
project? Worked for a local business?)
43. Goals and Planning: How do I Know if it’s Working?
Checklist for reﬂection
PDP will only be effective if it works for you. Every person is different and not everyone will do
PDP at the same times or in the same way.
You can use this checklist to measure the usefulness of your approach to reﬂection in PDP.
1. Am I clear what my role is?
Think about the different roles you occupy: e.g. peer interactions with supervision partners
/ lab partners / study group; leader or participant in a sports team / choral society /
environmental campaign; future employee or worker for employers / internship programmes
/ volunteering opportunities etc.
2. Have I considered the wider context?
Identify the context for your actions. University? College? Church group? Volunteer
organization? Company? Who are you responsible to: friends? family? Other students? An
organization? Your DOS?
3. Have I identiﬁed my contribution?
In what way or ways did you participate? Is there a purpose—where is it leading?
4. Have I identiﬁed and reﬂected upon positive developments?
What have you achieved? What are you most proud of?
5. Have I identiﬁed and reﬂected upon any difﬁculties and issues?
What stumbling blocks are there? What gets in the way?
6. Have I identiﬁed key learning points?
What moments were most signiﬁcant to you? When did you learn most?
7. Have I got a clear action plan for the future?
What is your strategy? What are you going to do now?
44. Job Applications and
45. Job Applications and Interviews
PDP can help you to develop useful skills for tackling job applications, and, in particular, job
interviews. If you can learn to articulate your skills and abilities effectively, giving examples that
show how you use them in a range of contexts (inside and outside your study environment), then
you will be well-prepared to answer questions such as how your study relates to your career plans,
or what expertise you can bring to a company or employer.
Using PDP to Prepare for Job Applications and Interviews
PDP techniques such as the Skills Appraisal, STAR, or SWOT can help you to prepare effectively
for job applications and interviews. All of these techniques are designed to get you to think
creatively, honestly, and reﬂectively about your experience and skills. They are especially suited to
eliciting those elusive or “invisible” skills that you have gained informally from your participation in
different activities outside formal study.
Use the Skills Appraisal form to identify the skills that you have developed most fully. During a job
application or interview, these will be the skills that you can most usefully highlight in order to “sell”
yourself to an employer.
Use STAR to help you select the life experiences or work-related experiences that will be your
touchstone during the job interview. Your choice of examples should be designed to showcase
your main skills and achievements. If you can, try to choose examples that demonstrate how you
behaved in a range of contexts.
Use SWOT to prepare your personal “vision statement”. Where are you now, and where do you
want to be in 2, 5, or 10 years’ time? SWOT analysis is also a good way to identify the areas that
you want to develop further (or skills that you ﬁnd difﬁcult to practise). It is perfectly acceptable
to mention to an employer that there are areas you want to work on and improve; as this shows
personal self-awareness and self-direction, two qualities that employers value highly. It will be
obvious to employers that you are at the beginning of your career, and they will not expect you to
be an expert at everything. That said, a little humility goes a long way in job interviews. Remember
to focus on your strengths.
46. STAR Analysis Example #1. May Week Stage Production: Creative Thinking
Situation or “I worked backstage for a student Shakespeare production in May
Week. The production was set in the 1920s “Jazz Age”. With a limited
Task budget, we had to create a period ‘look’ for the cast but leave enough
money over to promote the event.”
Action you took “I approached local charity stores and offered to donate a proportion
of our proﬁts from the play if they would in return set aside for us any
donated clothes that were appropriate for the image we were trying to
Results you achieved “The response from the charities was positive and we got three hats, two
tuxes and enough feather boas to supply an ostrich farm… Our play was
well-reviewed by the student newspapers and the costumes received
a special mention. The downside was that our play just broke even,
and we didn’t make any proﬁt. But we were able to square that with the
charities by giving them lots of free publicity.”
STAR Analysis Example #2. Engineering Design Project: Problem Solving
Situation or “A major part of the ﬁnal year assessment for my degree is the Fourth
Year Project. I chose to look at the issue of computer-based facial
Task recognition. Developing a better technology for this process has many
commercial applications. The challenge was to choose a technical
solution with potential but to design a project that was feasible to
complete given the short timescale involved.”
Action you took “I decided to look at an image compression technology called complex
wavelets. I wrote a computer programme that uses wavelets to
synthesise image texture.”
Results you achieved “I discovered that there are technical limitations to the computer
algorithm I was using. Computer processing times were also very
long, so it was difﬁcult to collect enough data. However, I raised these
problems in my project milestone report and received useful feedback
from my lecturers. And the work I achieved can form the basis for further
research in this area.”
47. STAR Analysis Example #3. Boat Club Cox: Persistence and Teamwork
Situation or “I’d never tried coxing before or even been on a boat. So when I came
to Cambridge, rowing was the last thing I thought I’d do. But then I
Task was approached by some people from the college boat club and they
encouraged me to get involved. Our boat was bottom of the division and
the aim was to move up three or four places by the end of Bumps.”
Action you took “We started training every morning at the crack of dawn, ﬁve or six days
a week. It was tough, demanded a lot of concentration, and at ﬁrst I had
to nap in the afternoons to catch up on sleep … and once I coxed the
boat straight into the bank! But I kept at it and made it to Bumps.”
Results you achieved “We managed to move up two places. So we didn’t quite make our
original goal, but we saved our pride. I learnt how to avoid hitting the
bank. And I learnt a lot about teamwork.”
About Behavioural Interviewing
Many if not most formal job interviews these days rely on a technique known as “behavioural
interviewing”. The basis for behavioural interviews is that past behaviour is a more accurate way
of predicting future behaviour; far more accurate than simply asking interviewees to make general
statements about their main achievements or their perceptions of what is required.
In behavioural interviews, general statements are not enough to answer a question. Interviewees
are expected to give speciﬁc examples of when they demonstrated a particular behaviour or skill.
For example, a typical behavioural interviewing question is: “Tell me about a time where you
experienced conﬂict in your job.” This question is designed to elicit information about how an
interviewee actually handles workplace stress. Phrased differently, as “What is the best way to deal
with conﬂict in the workplace?”, an answer would probably reveal an interviewee’s perceptions of
ideal behaviour, but not his or her actual tendencies or attitude. Employers are not stupid: they
know that interviewees are out to impress them. Interviewees will be on their best behaviour, and
they are looking to give an employer the answers they think the employer wants to hear. The
questions that behavioural interviewers ask are much more difﬁcult to fudge or gloss over.
48. Some typical behavioural interviewing questions:
Give me an example of a time when you set a goal and were able to meet or achieve it.
Give me a speciﬁc example of a time when you had to conform to a policy with which you
did not agree.
Please discuss an important written document you were required to complete.
Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a
Tell me about a time when you had too many things to do and you were required to
prioritize your tasks.
Tell me about a difﬁcult decision you’ve made in the last year.
Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish and failed.
Give me an example of when you showed initiative and took the lead.
Tell me about a recent situation in which you had to deal with a very upset customer or co-
The good news is that it is perfectly possible to prepare for behavioural interviews. There are
techniques that you can use to improve your ability to cope with the types of questions that
behavioural interviewers ask—and what’s more, these will have beneﬁts for all stages of a job
application. PDP has speciﬁc methods to help you develop these skills.
Participating in PDP, even at the level of once-a-year discussions with your Tutor, will develop your
general self-awareness and your ability to reﬂect on your experience. This will in turn help you to
write convincing application letters and to perform well in job interview situations. Or you can try
using more formal PDP activities. For example, you might try to complete a self-appraisal, SWOT
or STAR analysis when you start to work on a new job application (or set of applications), or before
you attend an interview. This will help you to clarify your plans and expectations, and will show you
which skill areas really stand out for you. You can also use the reﬂective questions list as a way to
help you think about your overall perspective on careers.
Whichever approach you choose to follow, is important to note that PDP is NOT about training
you to rehearse a series of “set-piece” answers to be rattled off at interview. There is a high risk
that you could appear fake and over-rehearsed if you were to do this. Moreover, this approach is
ultimately counter-productive. It may sound cheesy, but employers really do want you to be honest
about your skills and ambitions. It is in the interests of employers to ensure that their new recruits
are a good match for their organisation. To be blunt, unhappy employees result in absenteeism
49. and low productivity, and this costs companies money. Many employers, particularly corporate
recruiters, now rely on not one but a series of interviews. Frequently, this will include participation
in work-based scenarios, where employers have the opportunity to see you put your words into
practice. It is much harder to sustain an illusion over several interviews. Be honest, and save
yourself the trouble.
Tips for Dealing With Behavioural Interviews
Think carefully before responding to a question. It is acceptable to ask for a few moments to
collect your thoughts, so long as this does not result in lengthy silences.
Be speciﬁc, not general or vague.
Give examples of how you actually behaved in a given situation, not how you think you would
behave. It’s a good idea to go into an interview, having prepared 6-8 examples of situations that
you think demonstrate your skills. That will help you to avoid repeating yourself.
Be honest. If you have no experience in a particular situation, say so. An effective follow-up
would be to suggest that the skills you have acquired in a different area (returning to a speciﬁc
experience, or experiences, and giving examples) may be relevant to dealing with that situation.
This shows that you are ﬂexible, and can think creatively. But keep it realistic.
Recognise the conventions. Understand that questions in behavioural interviews are often
phrased as statements, or leading questions. This does not mean that you are being asked to
agree with the statement concerned. For example, your interviewees would be surprised to hear
you agree with a statement such as “Managers tend to abuse their position of power, wouldn’t
Don’t get personal. If you are asked a “negative” question about former colleagues—for
example, about communication problems and difﬁcult colleagues—never get personal. Describe
the person’s behaviour, but don’t label it. And don’t over-emphasise it. The recruiter is looking
for examples of how you handle setbacks, not how “bad” that person was. Always talk about the
efforts you made to overcome the negative situation.
50. Address the key issues. Before you leave the interview room, make sure that you have
addressed the things that really matter to the employer. Almost all employers are looking to hire
someone who possesses skills in the following ﬁve areas:
Attention to detail
If you reach the end of the interview, and you don’t think you’ve covered the key areas, use the
question time to make sure that you have stated your main skills clearly and succinctly.
Do your research. How do you know which skills are most important to the employer? Careful
preparation before the interview. Look at the company website; read their literature; go to careers
talks or fairs and talk to representatives; ask friends and family; use any contacts you may have;
investigate similar companies.
Further Resources on Careers, Job Applications, Interviews
The Cambridge Careers Service has an extensive range of resources on careers, job
applications, and interview preparation. In addition to careers fairs, job announcement lists and
employer talks, they offer CV workshops, a professional network of Cambridge graduates, a mock
interview service, and the opportunity to speak to qualiﬁed careers advisers.
The Quintessential Careers website has a series of excellent resources on Behavioural
Interviewing, including this article by Katherine Hansen:
The University of Melbourne, Australia, has developed a helpful guide to preparing for
51. My Files
52. My Files
Use your Personal Development Planner to keep ﬁles, notes and clippings relating to your
personal development and skills development.
The ﬁles you keep here will help to create a unique, personal record of your University experience.
They will also help you to tailor your CV when it comes to making applications for jobs or further
It is up to you what you choose to include in this section. You may wish to consider:
An up-to-date version of your CV
Supervision Reports (printed from CamCORS)
Copy of Student Transcript
Sample of Work (e.g.: an essay, problem set, ﬁeldwork writeup, design project etc.)
Computer-based ﬁles (e.g. webpages you authored, extracts from your weblog, URLs,
video, powerpoint presentations, computer scripts or programmes etc.)
Training Record (a note of any courses, talks, and seminars you attended: e.g. languages,
IT, exam skills etc.)
Careers File (interesting job advertisements, employer info, application forms etc.)
Cambridge is outstandingly rich in opportunities to help you build your skills and personal
development. A host of organisations and programs are available to you within the Colleges and
the broader University. Many, if not most, services are available free, or low-cost, to Cambridge
It is important to take the broadest possible view of opportunities for skills development. Apart
from the speciﬁc opportunities listed below, many Tripos courses contain skills development
programmes that are built-in to the course structure. These programmes (often in the form of short
courses, seminars, or workshops) are usually focused on helping you with your academic studies
(e.g. technical or lab skills, report writing skills), but many will also be of relevance to your broader
Major Skills Training and Support Organisations within the University:
Careers Service www.careers.cam.ac.uk/
Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning www.entrepreneurs.jims.cam.ac.uk/
CMI – Cambridge-MIT Institute www.cambridge-mit.org/
Community Liaison Ofﬁce www.clo.cam.ac.uk/community/
Computing Service www.cam.ac.uk/cs/
Counselling Service www.counselling.cam.ac.uk/
Disability Resource Centre www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/disability/
Individual Cambridge Colleges www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/colleges.html
Language Centre www.langcen.cam.ac.uk/
Volunteering at Cambridge www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/volunteering/info.html
55. Get Involved in Your Community
Student outreach and volunteering programmes have an important role to play in bringing
students’ valuable skills and experience to the wider community.
Student volunteers at Cambridge have been involved in projects as diverse as:
Training excluded young people in ice hockey skills
Going to local schools to talk about geology or ﬁrst aid
Developing emergency shelters for disaster relief situations
Helping out at a Saturday school for black and minority ethnic young people
The skills acquired by recent student volunteers have included: media skills, ﬁrst aid and health
and safety, communication, project planning, practical engineering skills, language skills, ﬁnancial
planning, teamwork, and management skills!
Student volunteers made the following comments about their experiences:
“The tour was physically hard work and ﬁnding different ways of explaining the experiments to ﬁt
different groups of children was an ongoing challenge, but at the end of a fortnight I really felt we’d
made a difference. There were whole families, often with parents who had not enjoyed science
at school whose attitudes I think we signiﬁcantly affected. All our volunteers do this because they
enjoy it and think it is important. Several members of the society are looking to go into science
communication as a career following on from experiences with CHAOS”
(Cambridge Hands On Science)
“They have learnt some of the barriers people with disabilities face”
(Turning the Red Lights Green)
56. “All 6 students gained enormously. Obviously they gained in terms of the speciﬁc technical and
managerial skills which were the focus of each project, but all of them emphasised how much they
had gained in terms of personal self-conﬁdence in managing to complete very demanding projects
in cultural contexts which were completely new to them. All had a huge sense of achievement from
(Institute for Manufacturing)
“Taking part in Cambridge Science Festival is challenging to each individual who volunteers,
as well as being extremely hard work. However, all volunteers reported ﬁnding the experience
enjoyable and rewarding”
57. Opportunities: Skills and Personal Developement Directory
Personal Development Skillls
Skills for Personal and Professional Development
SpringBoard - women’s development programme
University reference page: www.bio.cam.ac.uk/women/biology.html
MentorNet site (external to ucam): www.mentornet.net/
“Insight into Management”, the Careers Service/CRAC (Careers Research and Advisory
Centre) residential course:
Counselling Service “Learning to Be More Assertive” workshop:
Internship or Vacation Placements (educational / not-for-proﬁt) – available through many
student societies or charitable organisations, e.g. with Engineers Without Borders,
Academic Related Skillls
Study Skills, Computing, Languages Training
A.J. Pressland Fund language courses:
Counselling Service “Can’t Work” Group:
Counselling Service Exam Stress workshop:
58. Academic Related Skillls
Study Skills, Computing, Languages Training (continued)
CULP – Cambridge University Languages Programme:
CUSU Study Skills and Exam Skills workshops:
English for Academic Purposes language course:
University Computing Service training courses:
University Language Centre Conversation Exchange:
Academic Related Skillls
Competitions, Debating, Research and Entrepreneurial Training
UROP (Undergraduate Research Opportunities) Programme, Cambridge-MIT Institute:
CMI Enterprisers, Cambridge-MIT Institute:
Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (CfEL) Summer School:
SET Awards (Science, Engineering and Technology Student of the Year):
59. Academic Related Skillls (continued)
Competitions, Debating, Research and Entrepreneurial Training
Union Society Debating:
Extra-curricular and Experiential Learning
Skills Development through Participation and Community Engagement
Cambridge Student Societies
Student-Run Computing Facility (large–but partial—list of student societies websites):
Community-based Learning and Volunteering
Please note the following list is not comprehensive. Cambridge offers outstanding opportunities
for volunteering and community participation. For further information please visit:
Non-Medical Assistants Scheme, Disability Resource Centre:
CUED Outreach Volunteers (Engineering Dept):
CUSU Community Development Campaign (“Get Involved in Your Community”):
60. Extra-curricular and Experiential Learning
Skills Development through Participation and Community Engagement (continued)
CU Environmental Consulting Society Projects:
Design Club, Faculty of Engineering:
CONTACT – visiting service connecting students and older residents:
Linkline – student-run volunteer counselling service:
ChaOS – Cambridge Hands-On Science:
CU First Aid Society (St John’s Ambulance LINKS group):
Millenium Maths Project (inc. AskNRICH, Stimulus, Hands-On Maths Roadshow):
Student-Run Computing Facility volunteers:
Exchange Programmes, Travel and Study Abroad - University exchange schemes
Cambridge – MIT Exchange:
61. Exchange Programmes, Travel and Study Abroad - College exchange scheme
Please note, this list is not comprehensive. Many other Colleges also run exchange programmes.
If you are interested in going on a College-based exchange, please speak to your Tutor.
Exchange Programmes, Travel and Study Abroad - Subject-speciﬁc exchanges
Cambridge-Harvard Exchange scheme for Law students:
Double Maîtrise course (Law):
ESTIEM (European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management) summer placement:
62. University funds for travel and study abroad
Please note, in addition to the following organisations, the Colleges generally offer student travel
funds. If you are interested in obtaining funding for European or overseas travel and / or study
abroad, please speak to your Tutor.
Cambridge European Trust:
Cambridge Philosophical Society Travel Awards:
Charlie Bayne Travel Fund for disabled students:
Gladstone Memorial Trust:
Kurt Hahn Trust:
Special issue of the Cambridge University Reporter, “Awards, Funds, Studentships and
Prizes” – the weblink gives an example of what was available in 2004-2005:
63. Resource directory
64. Resource Directory
The Guide has drawn on the following resources:
Jennifer Moon, 1999, Reﬂection in Learning and Professional Development: Theory and
Practice (London: Kogan Page).
Donald Schön, 1991. The Reﬂective Turn: Case Studies In and On Educational Practice (New
York: Teachers College, Columbia University).
James R. Zull, 2002, The Art of Changing the Brain (Sterling, VA: Stylus).
Publications and Reports
“Careers, Transferable Skills, Progress Files: Guidance for Tutors”, 2003, Senior Tutors’
Committee, University of Cambridge.
“Community Engagement Report, 2003-2004”, 2004, University of Cambridge.
David Gough et. al, 2003, “A Systematic Map and Synthesis Review of the Effectiveness of Personal
Development Planning for Improving Student Learning.” The EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research
Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. Funded by the Generic Centre of the LTSN.
The Keynote Project 2002, The Nottingham Trent University, The London Institute and The
University of Leeds. Funded under the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning by the
Higher Education Funding Council for England and the Department for Employment and Learning.
“Making the Most of your Year Abroad: The Personal Development Portfolio”, 2003, French
Department, University of Liverpool.
“Undergraduate Skills Record,” 2002, ed. by Kristy MacDonald, Royal Society of Chemistry.
“Widening Horizons: Progress File Achievement Planner”, 2002, DfES.
Helen Barrett, electronicportfolios.org.
Centre for Recording Achievement.
Careers Service, University of Cambridge.
Careers Services at Virginia Polytechnic and State University.
Nottingham Law School, The University of Nottingham.
“Questions to Think About”, Career Center, Tennessee State University: