I’ve been working with two very different senior managers recently who had both lost sight of their own personal and professional development. They are successful senior managers, well respected, knowledgeable, and had gone through changes in their jobs which brought about increased responsibility and challenge. Yet they had not really taken stock of how this would impact on their professional development and where it would fit into the next stages of their career. It had been several years since they had invested in themselves or even thought about how they kept themselves professionally current and credible in the workplace.
When you come to a point of reflection or transition in your career – changing role, thinking of moving on, reviewing progress you’ve made so far – big gaps can suddenly appear. These gaps can impact on how you compete when looking for your next role or challenge.
We all know the benefits of learning, but we also know that learning takes time – often, time that we simply don’t have. It’s hard to find space for learning around a daily commute, our everyday work, household chores, and, of course, precious time with friends and family. When we ignore our professional development, we risk getting left behind and might miss out on opportunities for greater responsibility, or even get passed over for promotion.
“Training fills in a gap, but development looks to the future and growth of the company and employee.” Nanette Miner.
Continuing professional development (CPD) ‘works best when it’s relevant, collaborative, recognised and personal. Sometimes you’ll be doing CPD without realising that you’re doing it and other times you will have a structured approach to your development.’ (Professional Development Consortium)
Have clear learning goals
If you can’t see the benefit of something, you’ll likely give up on it. After all, why bother, if it’s not going to get you anywhere. What purpose are you wanting to achieve?
- Improve your knowledge and skills to enhance work-place performance?
- Be more aware of changing trends and directions in your industry?
- Enhance your future career prospects?
Make Time for Learning
- Set boundaries. You may have set aside some time in your lunch break to read up on a new industry development or complete an online assessment, but other people may not realize this. You get distracted, the work requests and demand on your time keeps on coming. It can be hard to say ‘no’ when this happens, but doing so in an assertive way, being friendly but firm, will help you to protect your valuable learning time. Explain to your colleague what you are trying to achieve and ask that they respect your “time out.”
- Identify ways you can get into the habit of learning a little every day – you’ll more likely make a positive, long-lasting change, and achieve the goals that you set for yourself. Listen to podcasts on your commute to work. Sign up for newsletters that give great bite-sized nuggets of insight and inspiration.
Benchmark the job market
Talk to people in the roles you’re interested in or have a look at their online CVs via LinkedIn, and see what you notice about their career journey to date. By keeping a regular eye on adverts/person specifications with similar roles to yours or in positions where you’re looking to go in the near future, what do you notice?
- How has the needs of the job market changed?
- Have salary expectations changed?
- Are certain professional qualifications or particular skills becoming a necessity for many employers?
- Would this present a gap for you that would need to be addressed?
Explore what is possible
Identify what may be possible within your current role or company and who you need to speak to about this. Sometimes, the finance and scope of opportunities aren’t always there, so be prepared that you may need to invest your own time or money outside of work to get the personal and professional development you seek.
- How much time are you prepared to commit to this?
- What potential opportunities could result from this?
- What would be the possible consequence of not developing yourself?
Activities that count towards CPD could include:
- Acting as a coach or mentor, or being coached or mentored
- Community or voluntary work
- Job secondment
- Meeting with colleagues to get a better understanding of a particular issue
- Shadowing colleagues to gain insight into new and other ways of working
- Attending conferences, webinars, events to fill a gap in your knowledge
- Surrounding yourself with like-minded positive people and improve your networks – LinkedIn, groups, speak to people doing the job you want to do…
- Joining or using your membership of a professional body or trade association
- Working towards validated and accredited qualifications/courses
- Speaking your line manager about being involved in different projects
- Joining steering groups/committees
- Writing! Contribute to blogs, the company newsletter, volunteer to write an article…
- Sharing relevant knowledge and experience with others (formally or informally(
- Self-study through reading, watching online training and listening to relevant podcasts
Remember, it is not about the quantity of the activities but the quality of the reflections linked to them. We spend so much time at work managing our endlessly full in-boxes and commitments, but we rarely take time to stop and evaluate HOW we can improve and maximise our potential.