This weeks guest blogger is Melany Gallant. Melany has some great tips that will hopefully inspire you to feel more powerful and in control of your career.
Many of us still look to our managers and employers to play a primary role in our career development and progression. We feel dependent on them to approve and pay for the courses we want to take or the conferences we want to attend, and to promote us for our good work when the opportunity presents itself.
But when we do that, we give away our power, and act as “spectators” in our own lives and careers. All workers, but especially women, need to take control of their own career development—after all, it’s your career not theirs.
So here are some tips for ways you can take control of your own career development.
Start with some self-reflection
The first place to start is with yourself. Spend some time reflecting on your career and work interests. What are the things you are most passionate about? What are your strengths? What are the things you find least enticing or attractive about your work? If you could start all over, what would you “be when you grow up”? Use these questions to help identify your career aspirations.
Sometimes it helps to keep a work or performance journal to record your performance highlights and challenges. Looking back in your journal can help you identify trends, or even to read between the lines of what you’ve written to find your larger truth.
Another great tool can be a self-appraisal. Take the form your manager uses to assess your performance, and rate yourself honestly as a way to better understand yourself as a worker.
Identify your strengths and passions
Using your performance journal, self-appraisal and self-reflection, identify your strengths and passions. Write them down. These are the things you want to play on as you progress in your career. Look for opportunities to leverage your strengths and passions in your role today, and in any role you aspire to.
Identify areas for development
You can also use your self-reflection, career journal and self-appraisal to identify areas you need to develop. What are the things you currently struggle with or feel less confident doing?
Review past performance appraisals and any 360 degree feedback you may have received. And talk to your manager and the people you work closely with. They’ll likely be happy to give you feedback on your performance and give you ideas of what you need to develop in order to progress.
And if you want to move to a new role, ask yourself what knowledge, skills and or experience you would need to get the job. Look at job descriptions and/or job postings for the roles that interest you.
They’ll give you information about the requirements for the job, so you can identify the knowledge, skills and experience you’d need to acquire if you wanted to work in that role or area. You can also talk to people who are already working in that area to help you identify your development needs.
Create your own development plan
Using all this information, create your own development plan. Identify a manageable number of learning goals for the coming month, quarter and year. Think about your preferred learning style and the kinds of learning resources that work best for you. Then identify a few appropriate learning activities, and commit to doing them. Some your current employer may be willing to pay for, others you may decide are important enough for you to invest in personally, and others may be free.
Take advantage of all your company has to offer
Most companies offer their employees an opportunity for learning and development each year. Some allocate a certain budget amount or number of training days for each employee. Find out what your employer provides, then make sure you take full advantage of it.
But you should also look beyond any employee development programs. Some companies also offer career counseling, either through an internal department or through an employee assistance program.
Larger organizations often have a leadership development program. Some have formal mentoring programs. Find out what’s available to you. And talk to your manager about your career aspirations; she can help you access the resources your organization has to offer.
Find a mentor
Another great way to develop your career is to find a mentor who can support your growth, development and career progression by sharing their knowledge, skills and experience, and even extend your network.
Make use of free resources
Don’t forget the value of free resources. The internet is full of blogs, groups, videos, podcasts, research and other resources to help you develop, expand your network and prepare for career advancement.
Another great tool for career development is volunteering. It gives you the chance to try your skills out in a new environment, learn new skills, or just be exposed to different challenges and ideas. While we typically think of volunteering as a charitable activity, you can also volunteer for committees or teams at work, or even “volunteer” to take on a work assignment that will challenge you and help you progress in your career.
Take back your power
Your career development and progression are your responsibility. By taking back your power and being more self-directive in this area, you can build a rewarding career path. And you’ll be even prouder of your accomplishments, because you took charge of your destiny.
Melany Gallant has written about career development and employee empowerment in numerous articles and blog posts. She’s an HR strategist, social media maven and frequent blogger for Halogen Software.