Back in the day, we had entire organizations that customized, built, and delivered targeted professional development programs for employees. We also had engaged managers we talked with frequently about career development and who helped us map out our career plans.
Those were the good old days.
Today, most often, employees are responsible for their own professional development, including creating the plan, paying for the training, finding good networking and mentoring connections, and completing all elements on their own time.
So, how are you responding?
It’s during this time of year, that many organizations are reviewing their yearly goals, planning for next year’s gains, and assessing their organizational design and associated needs to ensure their business and employees are poised to take on the direction for the coming year.
Strategic planning leads to organizational transformations. The output of strategic planning allows managers to clearly understand market trends and industry shifts. Reviewing these changes helps leaders understand how their workforce needs to change or adjust and how the organization must respond overall.
To ensure you are changing to both meet the needs of your organization as well as staying competitive in your field, you must take control of your own professional development.
So, what’s on your plan?
When I am working with individual clients, we begin by focusing on on a couple of key areas.
Staying or going. Are you happy in your current role? If not, what is your next step... moving to a role inside the company or moving on to a role outside the company?
Gap analysis. If you are staying with your current company, where are they headed? What products or services are being emphasized more so than others? What does it take to sustain those products or services? Does your company currently have the capabilities to support those efforts? If not, what’s the gap? (You can gain this information from marketing messages sent out within your business, from public relations messages shared with your customers, and from your management team.)
Then, we focus on building out their development plan.
What does your career map look like? This doesn’t have to be a highly detailed plan mapped out for the next 40 years. It can be a thoughtful outline of where you see yourself within 5 – 10 years. If you know what you’d like to be doing at the end of that time frame, you can map your development needs within that framework.
What are your key strengths? (If unsure, a good objective tool such as Gallup’s StrengthsFinder assessment or your company’s 360 survey can be helpful in uncovering your strengths.)
What are skills or development needs that you REALLY want to focus on this year? Stretch yourself, but within reason. For example, if you know you are going to have some major life-changing event happening in the next year, factor in that “disruption”.
Think outside the lines. Courses, classes, books, etc. are great. But... what about engaging with local networking organizations, securing another mentor, taking on a leadership role in an industry association, creating a proposal for a new project that will allow you to gain additional exposure within your company, or volunteering in your community to share your skills or gain additional skills... the development opportunities are endless.
And, then we talk about marketing your plan to your manager.
With the knowledge of where your organization is headed, speak to how your development plan aligns with organizational goals and objectives.
Request feedback on your plan from your manager and adjust as needed.
Ask for support in gaining networking contacts, project sponsors, or funding for associated components on your plan.
Share your accomplishments. Most people don’t advertise their successes. However, in our fast-paced, virtual work world, self-marketing is a career necessity. As you have successes or complete aspects of your development plan, ensure your management team has visibility to those accomplishments.
The most important aspect about career management and professional development is that it has meaning for you.