Make your career goals happen this year by having a clear professional development plan
The first month of 2017 is almost over. How are you coming on your professional development goals? If you are stuck on how to move forward, you should try crafting your own career goals. But isn’t that your managers job? It’s true, some of the best managers will do that for their employees. In reality though, most managers don’t have time, or resources to do this.
Most larger companies will have some form of annual review process, where you can look back on how you performed last year, but very few offer guided advice on planning ahead. You should take the initiative to design your own career and not leave it to others to decide your fate.
How can you do this? Go through these easy steps below and be ready for your review meeting with your suggestions and take charge of your career.
Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
To know where you need to focus your professional development goals, you first need to know where you are now. Take a personal inventory of what you do well and what you could work on. Think about what people compliment you on. Perhaps one of your clients told you that they love how you are quick to respond to their queries. If you get that sort of compliment often, you can assume that you have a strength of urgency. Or maybe it ties into commitment to customer service.
Alternately you need to find your weaknesses. This may be a little tricky. You need to be honest with yourself. Think about the times were something has gone wrong. Analyze the issue and see where you fell short. Maybe you lacked organization? Perhaps your communication skills were lacking and the client misunderstood the timeline? You could also ask co-workers and friends for feedback, but realize they may not tell you the truth to avoid hurting your feelings. If you love quizzes, check out this one from richardstep.com to help you figure it out.
Action focus: From your list, consider if there are new directions you could go with your strengths. Do you love training new staff members? Maybe upgrading to a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment could be the first step.
Also, consider if there are weaknesses you can build on. Are you a creative thinker full of big ideas but find it hard to follow through? Maybe a course in Project Management would help you get organized and deliver on your work.
Identify your areas of interest
Have you found yourself being pushed to take on roles that you don’t enjoy? It might be time to re-examine your work style and personality. As a younger career professional, I thrived on meeting with colleagues, heated meetings and collaborative work. After having kids, work is where I want to escape the noise and need quiet and focused work time to get things done. Maybe you’re a creative thinker who loves the planning stages, but gets bored with the details after a few months. Or you love to plan and execute, ticking things off your to-do list. Finding a role that suits your personality is just as important as matching it to your skills.
Action focus: Am I in a role that is a good fit for my personality and work style? What aspects need to change to make it a better fit?
Sometimes you realize the job you are in is not fulfilling what you want out of life. It may seem daunting to leave what you know for something new. If you are in the market for a career change, you need to find skills that you need for the job you want.
Check out professional websites to understand what certifications or degrees are needed. You will also want to find which skills you already have that could be transferable. Focus on what you need to do to become a marketable candidate for that new career you want to be in.
Action Focus: If you are looking at a career change, check out our guide here before you make the move. If you are planning a career move but don’t want to let your current boss know, you can still do professional development, just focus on areas that will be useful in your next role.
Professional Development takes many forms
Don’t limit your PD ideas to full day courses and certificates. Professional development might be:
- Self directed – Consider your current role – is there a mini project you could create to develop your project management skills?
- Volunteer for higher tasks. For example, if you want to get into policy writing but have no experience, offer to draft a new policy for your manager and seek their opinion on your work.
- Get a mentor – whether this is an official role, or just an unofficial buddy to give you feedback, a mentor is worth their weight in gold. If you are looking to move into a new direction, connect with someone already doing your dream role and ask if they’d be able to give you advice.
- Look online – many employers are unwilling to lose productivity for professional development, so an online course could be a better option for you. You might offer a trade off to leave a few hours early on a quiet day to catch up on study. There are many reputable providers online, such as Open Universities, or Udemy who have a selection of free introductory courses which can provide a taster into new career.
- Search within – If your organisation is large, you could find people who are the recognized “experts” on particular topics, who are willing to share their knowledge as training.
- Neighbourhood houses, community houses, libraries and councils – Think outside the square when searching for PD options. Something local to you could be a better option than commuting to a PD on your day off. Your local neighbourhood house may run computer skills programs on a Saturday afternoon, or the local council may have language courses that you can go to after work. State government departments also have online resources, such as small business skills programs, networking, professional mentoring, or special interest topics, such as education, health or politics.
- Professional networks and major employers – many professional networks will run introductory events and even special interest training that members of the public can attend. Check out the relevant bodies in your state for details.
- Look at opportunities for a secondment. Not only within your company, but related companies you work with. How could it benefit your company if you had an insight into the operations of a similar company? This one requires good networking skills and having an ear to the ground for potential opportunities you can jump on.
Large employers will usually have study and professional development provisions built into their award agreements. But that doesn’t mean your direct manager is willing to fork out the cash to send you along. Depending on your role, it may be hard to replace you so you might have to get creative with how you get things done.
When you approach your employer with a professional development request, consider what would be the most benefit to them – support your with paying for the course? Support you with time out of the office (or time in lieu), or a combination of both. Can they tap into their professional networks to cross train employees, or offer secondment opportunities to work more collaboratively across departments?
Go into the conversation with a list of benefits for the employer from you doing more professional development. Phrase it as something you are doing to give more back to the company and let them know how you will use your new skills in your role.
Sell your proposal with an appeal to their needs, and have an understanding of the direction the company is going in.
- If there are some major projects coming up over the next few years – it makes sense to start training their staff on project management.
- Maybe they are going through professional accreditation processes – you could be the person to support this with the right training.
- Perhaps the company has plans to branch out and grow rapidly, this could affect their customers, so you could train in change management, and then become the change leader in your department.
Personal development is one thing you should focus on throughout your career. Taking time to prioritise your own development will show you are serious about your work, and growing in your role. Hopefully the upside of this will be enjoying your job more, gaining those promotions, and new opportunities.
Good luck on creating your professional development plan for 2017!
Share your tips on creating professional development goals below.
Looking for a downloadable template to design your own career goals? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org