Take charge of your own career development

Thursday, March 21, 2019

in a perfect world, all companies would actively foster career development. They would provide clear performance benchmarks and offer developmental feedback. However, with employees changing jobs more frequently, global competition increasing, and work structures becoming more flexible, many businesses expect employees to take control of their own careers.

Whilst most companies want you to succeed and continue to improve, you are ultimately responsible for your own career development. While your manager can help, it’s up to you to drive the process, initiate the discussion and identify which areas that need improvement, or you would like to strengthen and progress in.

Here are 5 things you can do to take control of your career development:

  1. Understand what you’re being assessed on. Revisit your job description and any objectives you may have been given. Are you meeting your key performance indicators? Are their areas that need attention, that you’ve been avoiding because you’re not sure how to? It’s important to identify your weaknesses and research how you can overcome them as soon as possible. You can take online training courses in almost anything and many can be done in your own time, though it’s worth asking your manager if you can take the course during business hours and if they are willing to pay for it.

  2. Ask for feedback. If your manager doesn’t already proactively give you feedback, start the conversation yourself. After a presentation or completing a project ask your manager one thing that they think went well and one thing they think you could improve. Your manager is probably a very busy person so to help pre-empt their workload ask them a few days before the presentation or project deadline that you would value their comments. Feedback can be written or in person, if it’s the latter make sure you listen and in both cases be sure to thank your manager even if you don’t like what you hear. 

  3. Become an expert in an area of growing significance to your company. To stay ahead in business all companies must keep up-to-date with emerging technologies and industry trends. If you are able to identify and foster expertise in a rapidly developing field that is of importance to your department or company, you can position yourself as the expert on the topic which could lead to promotions and other career opportunities.

  4. Stand out from the crowd. Increase your visibility and profile with senior executives by volunteering for initiatives, such as interdepartmental projects, charity work or company social events. This is a simple way to get your face known with senior leaders who will see you in action and hopefully take notice of your good work.

  5. Consider job swapping as a means of cross-training. Job swapping can be used to increase your understanding of how other departments operate and promote collaboration among departments.   Job swapping can accelerate professional development by offering meaningful and “hands on” learning opportunities at no cost to your company. It can also provide a fresh perspective on your existing role which can lead to innovation, problem solving and greater efficiency.

    If job swapping isn’t possible then  finding a mentor in another area of the business that interests you might be another option. The mentor can explain job responsibilities and pressures, and the skills needed to succeed in his or her role or department.

    Find someone senior who has more experience than you do and who has taken a similar path as you. This person can guide and help you to get the necessary exposure and experiences that are required to be successful. 

Finally Thoughts…

Whilst it’s important to take ownership of your career development you should be mindful of trying not to run before you can walk. No amount of training can make you an expert without the actual work experience so don’t be tempted to move roles too quickly. Putting the time into in your current position will add depth to your understanding and knowledge and will pay off in the long run. So when that next big opportunity approaches you will have positioned yourself as the ideal candidate for the role.