Some recent work I’ve been involved in threw up an interesting statistic about career development planning.
In a survey of staff attitudes on the subject, 72% of staff members were of the opinion that their development planning was the responsibility of their line manager.
At the same time, one of the complaints I have heard a lot lately, especially from lawyers, is that they are being given few development opportunities and little or no support for development opportunities they try to initiate themsleves.
Of course this is all anecdotal stuff, but it’s worrying and worth unpacking a bit.
Career development is your responsibility
The first and fairly obvious point is that if you are expecting the person above you in the food chain to take control of your development, then unless you are very lucky, you’ll either have a very long wait or you’ll be landed with lots of ‘development opportunities’ that happen to solve that person’s problems.
You career development goals have to be based upon your values, your core interests and your strengths.
Trying to attain development goals set by somebody else is like walking around in shoes that are two sizes too small for you. You might be able to get them on, but they are not going to get you very far.
But there is a bigger issue here.
Planning for the future
Traditionally development planning involved thinking about the kind of role you want to be doing in 5 years or 10 years’ time and then working out what kind of experience, skills and capabilities you’ll need to have acquired to enable you to get such a role at that time. Historically, by being deliberate, far-sighted and persistent you could go a long way towards setting yourself up for success.
But performance development is changing (or needs to change) in the same way that other traditional ways of working are changing.
The problem is that these days it is becoming increasingly difficult to know what the future might look like and even whether the roles you might aspire to now will even exist in 10 years’ time.
So what can you do?
I think part of the answer lies in looking to develop personal skills and capabilities that are valuable whatever working environment they might need to be employed in and which, as far as we can tell, are likely to remain so . As I outline here, these are the kinds of things I have in mind:
- Persuasive abilities
- Personal resilience and mental toughness
- A solution focused approach
- Emotional intelligence
- Relationship and network building
- The ability to be flexible, adaptable and innovative.
Likewise, even though we don’t know what the future will look like, we can still make an educated guess at the kinds of experience that are likely to continue to be valuable (and perhaps in gain value). Experience such as the following, for example:
- Leading multi-disciplinary teams
- Leading geographically diverse and/or virtual teams
- Working with disruptive technologies or organisations
- Secondment experience in different organisations or industry sectors
- Developing solutions to novel problems
- Working in global settings
- Working on start-up projects or businesses
- Working on turning around struggling projects or businesses.
Now, more than ever, given the uncertainties that pretty much every industry or profession faces these days, it is up to you to take the initiative on personal development.
Not only because it’s your career that is at stake, but because if you have thought carefully about these issues then your view of what the future may bring is probably more advanced than most.
And if that means moving around to gain the relevant experience because opportunities are limited where you are, then that is a course that you might well need to take.
It seems to me that the pace of change increasingly means that you can no longer expect what you have done in the past to speak for itself when it comes to furthering your career.
It is becoming more and more important to be able break down your experience into the various achievements and advancements in knowledge that you have made and to demonstrate how and why your experience has value now – and is likely to have value as we move into an uncertain future.
If you plan your career development with this in mind, you give yourself the best chance of succeeding, despite the uncertainties that may lie ahead.
If you need any help with this, let me know.