November is National Career Development Month. A whole month dedicated to promoting the importance of career development and encouraging employers and employees to invest in their professional and personal growth. There are several things we can do as professionals to invest in ourselves and ways our employers can help us to reach our career goals.
The best method for helping to achieve and track your career development goals is to write a detailed career development plan using the S.M.A.R.T method. Your career goals should be clear, detailed and achievable. Don’t be afraid to discuss your career goals with your manager and create plans with them even if your company does not have a formal process in place. You can help highlight the gaps in the business and potentially implement the formal process.
In your career development plan be sure to outline both your short-term and long-term goals. Where do you want to see yourself in a year’s time vs in 10 years’ time? Your short-term goals will need to be more specific compared to your long-term goals which will require some flexibility due to the length of the goals. Your long-term goals could be for a lot further down the road, even decades in the future and so you don’t want to get too hung up in the details. Both goals should be realistic so you can stay motivated and achieve your goals.
Think about your skills gaps and outline these in your plan. What hard and soft skills do you lack or need more training in? How easy will it be to improve or develop these skills? What resources are available to you either at work or at home to allow you to develop these skills? There are lots of online resources and training courses that can help you to develop many soft skills. For more hard skills specific to your role, why not ask for mentorship from a colleague or shadow them to help brush up on your skills?
Networking and attending conferences can be a great tool for developing your career. It can open up opportunities and introduce you to prospective future employers, employees and business partners. It can also be a good opportunity for finding a mentor to help show you the way.
When working on your skills gap and developing new ones, be sure to reflect these on your CV, job board profiles and LinkedIn. It is important to keep these up to date so they are accurate reflections of your skills for recruiters and future employers to see. Keeping your LinkedIn up to date can also help to keep you motivated as you can see in black and white the progress in your career timeline and skills section as they both grow.
As an employer, you should consider the formal processes you have in place regarding employee career development opportunities. Do you upskill current staff and promote internally? Do you offer a mentoring scheme or regular 1-2-1s? How well prepared are you if an employee were to come to you to discuss their career goals?
Upskilling can be a great way to help employees reach their career goals whilst meeting the needs of the business. By upskilling current employees, you can offer a slightly lower salary until they are qualified, saving you money whilst they develop. There are also many government funded schemes for career development in every sector.
Offering a mentor system whereby you pair up employees with senior members of staff, can provide many benefits for both employer and employees. Employees are able to learn valuable professional and personal skills whilst also developing stronger professional relationships with senior staff. This can help boost morale and provide a more welcoming working environment.
Providing better career development opportunities and assistance can improve the productivity of staff and subsequently their well-being at work. Employees can feel more valued and appreciated as their career goals are acknowledged and assisted.