Companies are simply not taking responsibility for career development amongst employees anymore. Sure, there are exceptions when companies fast-track certain individuals to fulfil the responsibilities of specific posts that are important to the business, but on the whole, career development is now largely left to the individual to accelerate and realise. For the most part, many businesses are struggling through economically tough times, so the focus has necessarily shifted to cost-savings, new strategies for furthering sales and issues regarding sustainability. These companies are looking to “stay alive” – some available posts are even left vacant, with the hope that the remainder of the staff can pick up the slack and get the job done anyhow. The global economy is under pressure, showing little signs of growth, so the need for business now to revert back to focusing on growing the careers of their employees is highly unlikely.
Employees must thus own their own career development – not be hesitant to identify their skills, values and interests and discuss their expectations with their managers. Seeking out career options aligned to one’s strengths is fundamentally linked to an understanding of the optimum role one plays to achieve productivity and success in the workplace. In other words, knowing one’s strengths , giftedness and how one best performs helps one identify the appropriate environment where one can stand out and shine. In this scenario, employees can position themselves where they will be noticed and their respective contributions recognised.
Some foundational steps in this process could include the following:
- Make decisions about your destination – attempt to understand where you would like to be in two to five years’ time in terms of your career. The goals set here should not belong to someone else, but should resonate with your inner being. The goals should inspire you and motivate you to set out and accomplish them.
- Identify your skills gaps – are there any additional skills that will be required for you to reach your two to five years’ goals? You can go through a number of job descriptions in your field of interest, find the categories of skills that are being searched for by companies and compare to your current skills level. It will become blatantly apparent what further training you may require.
- Create a career development plan – consult here with managers, career guidance specialists or mentors. The ideas that come forth may help you to discern the best path of action. Read countless books about the applicable subject and enrol on courses where necessary.
- Build your skills – are there areas of the business that particularly interest you or you perceive them to be intrinsic to the way the business operates? By identifying an area in which to build, you are able to target your energy into mastering that field. Look for existing opportunities or gaps within your current employment.
- Ask for more responsibilities or projects – the assignment of staff to new projects or tasks usually is guided by who would be willing and best to fill the role. Your willingness to fulfil new roles means that you rise on the radar of management discussions. A successfully accomplished project enhances your employability and career prospects.
- Seek out mentors – finding allies and coaches in the workplace and making these new relationships meaningful will really assist your growth. You and your focus will become accountable to them.
- Measure your progress – assess your progress periodically. Every six months, you should be evaluating your short-term and long-term professional objectives. Regularly discuss your goals with your manager and other executives/mentors if possible. Redress your goals and objectives where necessary.
Owning you own career development requires investing in your career – developing your professional skills in alignment with your goals, growing your knowledge and networks and cultivating your personal brand. Taking responsibility for your own growth is foundational.