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Get In the Driver’s Seat of Your Career
In my world, performance management is popping up from every direction.
Questions I’m hearing everywhere are: How do I move ahead in my career? How do I build a development plan? How do I have the right conversations about my career? With whom should I be talking to?
I’m a huge advocate of career planning and here are the steps I follow. First off, I believe that only YOU can determine the direction to take your career. You cannot wait for HR or your boss to prompt these discussions.
You have to drive your own development. Don’t be a passenger in your own career!
Drive Your Career With These 8 Steps:
1. Take a Hard Look in the Mirror
Assess where you are and where you want to go. Understand your competencies, strengths, and growth areas. Think about where you want to be in 1-3 years or even 3-5 years. Be clear about potential roles, responsibilities, and the industry you want to work in.
2. Ask for Feedback
This is hard and takes major guts. Sometimes we have blind spots about our development areas. These blind spots might be holding you back.
Check in with mentors, leaders, colleagues, past supervisors, and peers you trust. Tell them your intention to create a plan to reach your career goals. Explain that you recognize the first step is understanding where you ARE to build a plan to get where you want to GO. Ask them to be candidly honest and what you do well and what’s getting in your way.
Remember, sometimes this feedback is hard to hear. Listen, ask for examples, and then check in with yourself to see if the feedback resonates. Take notes & try and draw out themes from the feedback to identify the top 3 things you do well and the top 3 areas you need to grow. I recommend tackling 3 as this is a manageable list that can help you create real change.
3. Do a Gap Analysis
Combining your own perceptions and those of others helps you understand the strengths you bring and also potential gaps or growth areas. This gap analysis will come into play in step 5 where you will build a plan to continue using your strengths and work on developing your gaps.
4. Understand Business Needs
Your current company will likely help support your growth and development where it supports business needs. Thus, understand the business plan and where your strengths can help support business goals.
Identifying if your current company is the right fit for your future goals is also a key part of this step. If it is – awesome! You have likely already built some credibility that can be further build upon.
If it is not the right fit, identify some target companies that might be a better fit for your future goals and watch for job postings that might just be the very opening you need. Identify when you might want to make this career change. You may have some key development steps that are possible in your current career, evaluate this before deciding to make a move.
5. Create a Personal Development Plan
Identify what type of personal development you require both from an interpersonal and technical standpoint. Don’t focus only on trainings or conferences. Think about credentials (i.e. a diploma or certificate in a specific skill), feedback from your supervisor or a mentor, and also on the job development opportunities.
The best development plans use the 70-20-10 rule: 70% from on the job development, 20% from networking/coaching & 10% from training.
Keep your plan front and center (i.e. post reminders or milestones in your office) so that it doesn’t sit forgotten in a file. Try and connect this plan into your current day-to-day role to maximize your development.
Use your findings from your feedback, gap analysis and business needs to create this plan. Break it into tangible mini-steps to work on your growth areas.
Remember to focus on supporting business needs if you want company support in terms of feedback and training dollars.
6. Network. Find a Mentor. Engage a Coach.
Networking internally and externally within your interested field will help build your personal brand.
Finding a mentor in a similar role can help you understand the opportunities and challenges of the position and the ladder you need to climb to get there.
I’m a big believer in mentors outside of your direct reporting line, and potentially even outside of your company, to get an outside unbiased confidential perspective.
Executive coaching can also be a fantastic tool to help you work on your development plan. Coaches help you create a plan and hold you accountable to work the steps of your plan.
7. Deliver. Deliver. Deliver.
Often employee’s over-focus on the role they want to have and forget the importance of delivering on their current role and business objectives. If you do well in the role you are in, you will be rewarded.
Don’t focus on the prize and lose your footing in the day-to-day race. Balance both pieces. Be cautious of becoming over-ambitious and political in your drive to move into the next role. Continue to deliver on the day to day above all else.
8. Check your “Map.” Adjust. Continue Driving.
As business needs change and trends hit industries, check in on your development map, readjust as necessary, and then continue driving according to your plan.
Make sure your plan is a living-breathing document so that it adjusts with your progress. Sharing your plan with friends, family, mentors, and your coach can help you be accountable to mini-milestones on your journey to reach your destination. Don’t forget to also celebrate successes along the way!
Getting in the Driver’s Seat:
What are you going to change about your career planning?
How can you help remind yourself to take control of the wheel if you find yourself on autopilot?