Personal Development in your Graduate Career – GUEST BLOG

Darren, from Making Business Matter and Alison, from AHC Learning, explain how implementing a personal development plan in your life can be a huge benefit to your graduate career. 

Development appears in our lives whether we are at school, university or in the so-called ‘adult’ life with a career, creating a business or exploring the world. At Making Business Matter we blend established and new methodologies to offer the best development opportunities.

When discussing development, we should start with how we develop. Honey and Mumford (1982) identified that we there were four different ways to learn. How would you deal with a set of flat packed furniture if it was in front of you?

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    Would you assemble the furniture without reading the instructions? You may end up with a bookshelf rather than a wardrobe. Honey and Mumford describe this style as an Activist and they prefer to learn through hands-on experience, using trial and error.

  • Would you lay out each piece, considering how it will work, prior to attempting to build? Honey and Mumford describe this style as a Reflector and they prefer to observe and reflect on this observation, along with gathering information to reach a conclusion.
  • Would you read the instructions and then start to build? Honey and Mumford describe this style as a Theorist and they would benefit from using logic (concepts, theories etc.) to find their solutions.
  • Would you starting building but be far more excited about the product than the building of the product? Honey and Mumford describe this style as Pragmatist and they value an ‘expert’ to show them how to do something or using experimentation for new ideas.

You have a preferred learning style so if you use this style all the time then that must be how to learn?  NO!  When Kolb’s (1974) Learning Cycle is mapped onto the Learning Styles, it demonstrates that to fully learn we need to go through the four learning styles:

Here at MBM, we believe that if you start by Planning the Experience (Pragmatist), then Have the Experience (Activist), Review the Experience (Reflector), Conclude from the Experience (Theorist) and return to Planning for the next time, you will increase your retention of your learning theory.

Do you find yourself losing focus during learning or throughout the day at a new job?
Tip:  Have a page at the back of your notebook that allows you to ‘dump’ things that pop into your mind during learning. This allows you to focus on the learning whilst not losing that important thought (a loved one’s birthday, a deadline, the supermarket shopping).

A more recent methodology around how to tackle development is the 70:20:10 approach, McCall (1996) and Charles Jennings (1990), often described as the way we naturally develop. Think back to learning how to ride a bike – you watched others, practised and learned from your falls rather than via a book.

The 70:20:10 approach is based on our learning being split by:

  • 70% through challenge:
  • New role
  • Project to expand experience
  • Giving presentations


  • 20% through relationships:
  • Mentoring (receiving and giving)
  • Feedback
  • Peers


  • 10% through coursework:
  • Seminars/lectures
  • Online learning
  • Literature (white papers, research, books)

This methodology is being adopted across schools and further education where formal teaching is supported via practical learning. Here you can own your development by incorporating mixed mediums (lectures, assignments, case studies, group work, placements).

Tip:  When reviewing your development opportunities reflect on who and what is available around you rather than just looking at a course. Who is strong in an area you wish to develop in? Speak to them!

Development provides value when we remember it, studies show we forget up to 80% of what we learn within 60 days if we do not apply it and by 120 days we will have virtually forgotten everything.

Tip:  As our minds retain seven chunks of information plus or minus two then break down your notes/studies into no more than nine chunks of information to help it stick in our conscious mind and then move into our long-term memory.
Learn more via our video on How not to Forget.

So, how do you retain 60% of what you learn?  One technique is based on Fogg’s Behaviour Model (2011) on developing permanent habits.  There are three components (Motivation, Ability and Prompt) that happen together to drive a behavioural change – we need some motivation, some knowledge and a trigger to change how we do things.

We already have triggers that make us act – your phone flashes a message, you will more than likely check it.  The most effective trigger is using an existing one which connects to what you wish to change e.g. flossing as you brush your teeth.

What change, idea or learning do you have that you could implement with something that you already do?

Tip:  Create a trigger on something simple, yet meaningful in your life (e.g. a sign on the door to turn the lights off) prior to undertaking learning, allowing your mind to look for potential habit triggers. 

Another approach is to have a learning buddy who will support you by quizzing you, sharing notes etc. and will hold you accountable for any actions you commit to when aiming for a goal (e.g. I will read chapter 10 this evening, I will take on that project, or will ask you to reflect on a new role). Who could be your buddy?  How can they support you?

Tip:  One key step when engaging with a buddy is to know what your objective is and what you specifically want them to support you with by using a development plan.  When you start to build it, don’t over-think.  Get your initial thoughts onto the plan and then refine it using the 70:20:10 approach, followed by conversations with you buddy/mentor.

Our Personal Development Plan Examples will help you set out these thoughts

We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences of how to learn and how to retain.  Please contact us at

Darren & Alison

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