How to manage your career development

Jul 12, 2018 | Development

Nick Gornall, a Director at Fitch Learning, considers the importance of personal development.

At New Year we set ourselves goals because we want to make things better – take a great life to a new level. But many people no longer make a resolution, and it’s because they know they won’t follow through. After a while you want to avoid disappointment, so why bother to set a new standard for this year when it’s the same as last year?

Perhaps it is worth setting standards for self-improvement, just in case opportunities come along and why wait for the calendar to drive your action. Isn’t it better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one, than have an opportunity and not be prepared? 

I personally find it really easy to spot those people who know themselves well, are always seeking feedback and who are really self-motivated to manage their improvement. I don’t hear them complain that they don’t have a clear career plan, or that their boss doesn’t coach them or focus on development – they just get on and push themselves to new and greater heights.

What does it take to get promoted?

I’m often asked what it takes to get promoted or how to get a job in a particular department or company. The answer is to have a personal development plan, which you actively work on and, perhaps most importantly, are motivated by.

This is equally important for those who do not seek advancement up the career ladder. Personal development is about staying relevant and remaining at the top of your game.

Personal development plans should be self-generated and owned by the individual, not the boss or company. They need to be written down with three to six measurable objectives and focus on today, six to 12 months and to up three years down the line. 

My guide for what you should consider is not difficult, but often overlooked or simply replaced with a bland promise to attend a course or pass an exam at some future date.

Recommendation for a well-structured personal development plan 

Firstly, gather feedback from those who know you the best – what two things do you do well and where could you improve. This should affirm things you already know as well as identify any blind spots. 

Next, address the key areas:

Knowledge – what areas need improvement, what’s changed around you, what’s new? – be inquisitive stretch yourself and beef it up. There is nothing wrong in using a qualification to improve, but think laterally. Remember knowledge of changes in processes, policies, legislation, new technologies or systems are also vital. 

Skills – it’s not what you know, it’s how you use it that differentiates. Skills play a massive part in development. This is such a vast area I suggest undertaking a skills audit (Harvard Mentor have a good one). Do you want to be a better communicator, time manager, team-worker, analyst, or technology user? Without a plan nothing will change. 

Behaviours or your attitude – these are often what other people say about you when you are not in the room. It’s your personal brand, your reputation and what you stand for. Do you set high standards, do you put the candidate first, are you positive and fun to be around, do people say you live up to the values of the firm in which you operate? 

Networks – to be relevant you must know how to get things done and work things through quickly if the need arises. This means you must be known and know other people. This applies internally and externally, so get out there and get known in your chosen market. 

Career planning – talk to those further along the career path to find out how they got there as hearing the experiences of others is really insightful. It’s amazing how many elements of knowledge, skill and behaviour are transferable. If you don’t know where your industry will be in the future, find out what and who is changing it. Get involved in as many projects or groups as you can and attach yourself to other areas or people in roles that you want to learn more about. Perhaps ask if you can cover for someone on holiday – you will experience different issues and people, who will mostly be grateful for your help.    

Personal development is about creating an action plan based on awareness, values reflection goal setting and planning for development in a career, relationship or simply for self-improvement. Don’t just do the same things 75 times and call it a life, set goals and demolish them. I’ll toast you at the next New Year.

ISE runs a range of courses covering key topics to support the learning and development of professionals involved in student recruitment and development.

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