Written By: Rachael Moller
“Let’s start thinking about our careers as journeys. And let’s start owning it. 50% of it. You own your career.”
Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix.
Alright, granted the last 12 months have been a different kettle of fish for most of us, and as a result your career development may have taken a back seat. But Patty has a great point.
Your career IS in your hands.
You can’t sit back and wait for that promotion. You need to grab hold of the steering wheel – plan for it, assess your skills, competencies and behaviours and take the right steps to ensure you are the best candidate for it.
This doesn’t just happen overnight. What it does mean is taking your career development seriously and taking active steps to drive the career you dream of.
Develop your career vision
What is your career vision?
You need to get clear on where you are heading, otherwise you may not get there. Berkley University describes:
“Articulating your vision statement for your career as being the first step in helping your reach your career goals”.
This a “think outside the box” activity and it may take some time.
Think about what success means to you, identify your core values, explore your purpose and what would make your career meaningful and fulfilling.
Get serious about defining where you really want to be long term.
Know your strengths, development areas and gaps
If you practice good self-awareness, this will be an easier task to complete. If not spend time assessing your successes and challenges.
What do you excel at and what are the areas where you are not as strong?
It is important to be accurate here. Don’t over-sell strengths or diminish development areas and on the flip side don’t undersell your capabilities or be overly critical of yourself. Take an objective view. And check it. Ask your manager, mentor, or even a trusted colleague to give you some feedback. What do they see as your strengths and successes and what do they highlight as a developmental need? If you’re not sure of their responses, ask them to share some examples to provide clarity.
Once you feel you have an accurate assessment of your strengths and development areas, you can identify gaps between your current capability and your career vision. Gap identification is crucial in setting the right goals to drive your career.
Set SMART development goals
This is where the gap comes in. What are the skills and behaviours you need to develop to ensure you are on your path to success? If your vision is to lead people, but you have little leadership experience, the natural step is to then set goals to develop your leadership skills, knowledge and experience. Consider what type of training you could undertake, how you could gain experience and what types of sought-after leadership behaviours you would like to develop. Then set some goals.
Make sure they are SMART goals. I am serious about this. So many people say they understand the concept but very few actually test their goals against it. It is a simple yet effective way to ensure your goals are watertight.
It is hard to achieve a goal that it not clearly defined. Specificity is vital. Make sure you clearly articulate what you want to achieve, which might mean adding a little more detail than you think.
This is so important. If the goal is set for 12 months’ time, you need to be able to check your progress along the way. It is also vital in assessing whether you have achieved your goal.
There is no point setting a goal that is completely out of reach. A challenging goal however is a good idea. Always check if you have the capacity, resources, and time to achieve it, and if not, adjust the goal to be more realistic.
Make sure it aligns with your career vision and is especially focused on working on the gaps you have identified.
Deadlines are a great motivator; they increase the urgency and spur you on. They also assist in making sure you are on track.
Find A Mentor
If you don’t have a mentor, find one. A mentor is a great way to gain advice, feedback, encouragement and be challenged to reach your full potential. Your organisation may have an established mentorship program, or you can always tap into mentor groups within your industry sector. Once you find the right person, it’s like having your own personal career coach who has the experience and a wealth of knowledge to share.
Share your vision and goals with your mentor and seek their input and suggestions. Great mentors will take the time to work with you to build your skills and confidence, suggest improvements, troubleshoot and guide you on your career journey.
Confidence is key here. Speak up. Talk to your manager about your career goals and let them know what you are doing to develop your skills and experience. Talk to them about opportunities within the organisation and a possible career path that aligns with your vision. You might find you have a manager who is in complete support of your journey, who is prepared to work with you, investing in your growth and development.
Remember your manager may also be aware of upcoming projects, new opportunities, and future roles that support your career journey, so keeping them in the loop is a great idea.
So just like any other journey a career takes planning, communication and active involvement to ensure you get there. So, fuel up, take hold of that wheel and start driving your career, today!