A reader writes: I have a strong track record in my company, but feel I’m ready for a new challenge. However, the company is in a state of flux and its development plans have gone by the wayside as managers focus on the business. How can I address this?
Ellen Bard, head of people capability at SHL, the talent measurement company, says:
Although your company should support your progression, you can take control of your own career development. First, though, you need to be open and honest about your strengths and areas to be developed. Tools such as mind-maps can help.
The next step would be to seek feedback from co-workers and managers to help you establish facts about your current position: ask them questions such as “what could I do differently?” or “what do you like about what I’m doing?”.
Recently, I asked my manager for feedback on my performance and in return he asked me for my feedback on his.
People generally like to know how they’re performing and it was a positive experience for both of us.
Then, take a step back and look for role models and mentors – these can range from a line manager to a chief executive. Don’t hesitate in taking your search outside the business and start connecting with talented people you can learn from.
Speak to people about their experiences and their development path. A great way to do this is to become a member of a professional organisation and make good use of social media websites to extend and maintain your connections. Revisit your mind-map and reflect on what other people have said and done which makes them successful, what qualities they bring to the table and how you can learn from them. You should be well equipped to form a plan and set yourself an overall objective with measureable and actionable sub-goals. The final step should be to meet your line manager, armed with facts, your plan and new career direction. Ask them how they could support your development and what opportunities there might be.
Ultimately, you should be willing to scrutinise yourself in this process and be prepared to take criticism so you can identify which areas you should develop. It is difficult, but it’s your career, and being honest is the best way to move forward.
Jennie Room, human resources director at EMC, a technology specialist, says:
It can be the case – either real, or perceived by employees and executives – that a company is putting more emphasis on strategic objectives than on its employees’ own succession plans and development. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get yourself on the executive’s radar and proactively take responsibility for your own progression and development.
Rather than presenting a problem, go to your managers with at least part of a solution: show them that you’re hungry for that challenge and that you’ve sought out opportunities that you could get involved with. It is worth noting that 10 per cent of learning comes through formal training channels but 70 per cent is from on-the-job experience. Maximise this by volunteering for challenging assignments and cross-functional project teams.
You should also identify what resources you have to help drive your career development – for example, your business line management, executive development teams, training and human resources functions. Leveraging your professional network internally is another important area. Why not use your contacts and identify a mentor, maybe outside your direct line of business, who could act as a coach and provide additional guidance?
You should also try to improve your visibility within the company. Delivering presentations, conference speaking or even simply contributing more in meetings is a great way of showcasing your talent – as is bringing ideas and solutions to problems. Finally, be sure to make your career aspirations known to key people in the company – push your plan forward with their help and review progress regularly with your managers.
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