For everyone who wants their work to be more than 'just a job', it's important to dedicate some time to career development, in which one continually improves and gains new skills, perhaps with the goal of moving to new and/or higher positions over time.
Some companies have focused a lot of time on succession planning and talent management and thus have fairly clear and robust processes. Other companies are still working on enhancing their ability to identify high-potential employees and create a better process for ensuring proper career development. Regardless of which type of company you work for, one important thing to remember is that you should take charge of your career, instead of waiting to be recognized for your efforts. Be proactive.
Many companies have performance management processes throughout the year to measure how you are doing against your goals and objectives and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for the year. While this activity is not necessarily about career development, active participation in the performance management cycle can give you a good opening to speak to your manager about your career. It also gives you some insight as to how you are seen by your employer.
Some things that you can do to progress your career development goals are:
- Be engaged and involved in setting your annual goals and objectives. If you have aspirations to move up the ladder, try to suggest certain goals for the year. Many companies will look to see that you are working at a higher level already before moving you to a position with more responsibility.
- Have regular meetings with your manager to get feedback and discuss your performance. All too often, we forego our regular one-to-one meetings due to busy schedules, or talk only about issues pertaining to daily work. Try to use the time with your manager to get feedback or express your thoughts about your future possibilities. If you aren't getting enough time on this, bring it up.
- Explore opportunities for formal training and development. Come up with a list of suggested courses and give reasons for how they fit into your role or future plans, rather than waiting for suggestions from your manager.
Personal Development Plans
Many companies have a separate process in which employees give input to their personal development plans. This can happen around the same time as the performance management activities, often using the same system. This is your official chance to give input on what you want in terms of your overall development and career. Create short-term and long-term goals (for example, moving into a new type of position, becoming a manager, etc.) and discuss whether they are feasible and how to turn these goals into reality.
If your company does not have a formal process, why not just make a personal development plan and share it with your manager? It's important that you take action when it comes to your career, even if it is just jotting down some thoughts on your goals, your current skills, and what future skills/experiences you would like to acquire in order to meet those goals.
Some companies, especially large international ones, will have some kind of career advancement programme. It could include spending some of your working time learning about a different part of the company while still doing your regular job. On the one hand, your manager probably needs to nominate you for such a programme based on your performance and potential, but on the other hand you can always express interest. The more vocal you are, the better chance you have of being remembered when these opportunities arise.
Everyone talks about networking and how important it is, but many people still feel a bit uncomfortable with it. But networking within your company is a great way to get to know people and find out about interesting new opportunities. So take the opportunities that come, such as team breakfasts or events after work to build a strong network within your company. Networking is not just about making contacts, but about building relationships. It's often easier to get your next role or opportunity from someone who knows you and can vouch for you.
On a totally different note, I will be taking a bit of a pause from this column, probably until the end of June, as I am in the middle of some pretty intense Danish exams. In the meantime, please write in and let us know what you'd like to hear about in this column. What haven't I written about that would interest you? Is there anything you would like to hear more about?
Nancy Rasmussen is currently employed as a Change Management Consultant, supporting IT projects. She has more than 12 years of experience within large, international companies. She writes this column in her free-time in connection with NemCV. This column is not affiliated with her current full-time employment.