Admittedly, when I was a lot younger, new to the workforce and not nearly as wise as I am today, I was under the (mistaken) assumption that a career or professional development plan wasn't something I needed to drive.
I assumed it was something my manager would chart out for me and I would simply follow.
Fortunately, at some point the wisdom did kick in (I like to think I'm a quick learner).
It suddenly became clear to me that if I wanted to have a career, rather than a string of jobs, that the primary responsibility for my professional development resided with me and me alone.
I also discovered that this "plan" should include a great deal more than mapping out a few training courses. With this point in mind, here are a few ideas to help you build out your own professional develop plan.
Every organization, no matter what size, has a variety of tools and resources available to help employees advance their careers. But, remember, the onus is on you take advantage of them. Because frankly, not every organization or manager will be proactive about promoting them.
Make your annual performance appraisal work for you
One of these tools I'm talking about is something you have to participate in every year anyway - the annual performance review.
Did you know that the annual performance appraisal is an excellent career development tool? Yet the reality is that many people still fail to extract any value at all from their organization's performance management process. Instead, they view it as a dreaded administrative exercise they must go through for compensation purposes.
However, your performance appraisal can be a wonderful opportunity for you to reflect, take stock, and take action.
If you choose to really engage in the performance appraisal process, it can help you develop as an employee and succeed in your career aspirations. When review time does roll around, listen carefully to the feedback your manager gives you on your performance.
Ask questions and ask for concrete examples if you find feedback unclear. You'll gain valuable insights on how your manager "sees" you, and what's expected of you in your current position.
Together, you can identify areas for training and development and capture them in your development plans.
Get what you need on the job
Research by the Center for Creative Leadership tells us that up to 90 percent of what we need to know to do our jobs, we learn on the job. So what can your manager or organization do to foster on-the-job learning that broadens or deepens your knowledge, skills, abilities and experience?
There are several ways you can use your current position to advance your development. Be proactive and bring up some of the following ideas with your manager to get things rolling:
- Ask your manager to work with you to set up stretch goals that will take you just beyond your comfort zone and challenge you to try something new or different, and acquire new skills and experience.
- Suggest taking on a short term "acting role" where you temporarily take on some or all of the duties of another.
- Ask to work on a cross-functional or cross-cultural team that provides you with new challenges and more visibility in your organization.
- Research an emerging technology or a new trend in your field and give a presentation to your team or department on your findings.
- Request a special assignment that exposes you to another part of the organization.
Reflect on 360-degree feedback
Gathering 360-degree feedback can be one of the most effective ways to ensure you get a broader, fairer feedback that supports improved performance and ongoing development.
Your manager will often have a limited view of your work and capabilities. With 360-degree feedback you get a more panoramic picture. If your company does use a 360-degree or a multirater system, you should take every advantage of this valuable tool.
But even if your company isn't a 360-degree feedback kind of place, you can still solicit feedback from peers, other managers, and the various stakeholders you work with on a regular basis (it's just a matter of you asking them to provide it).
Take to heart the feedback you've been given. Use it to identify areas for development and then follow through with appropriate action.
Take charge of your professional development
Make it a point to talk to your manager on an ongoing basis about your career goals - not just at annual review time. Keep the dialog going and continue to share your aspirations.
If there is a particular role or career path you're interested in, speak to a colleague in that role. Find out what training, skills and experience is needed to be successful in that role. What was your colleague's own career path?
You may be surprised at what you uncover.
Your organization probably has many other great tools that can help you work toward your career goals and, ultimately, achieve them. Remember, you're in control. You won't necessarily know about the opportunities and resources available to you if you don't speak up.
If you're looking for other resources that can help refine and define development goals, why not pay a visit to our Center of Excellence for employee development best-practices.