Own Your Professional Development
Too often professionals rely on the advice of their management or human resources departments in isolation to guide their professional development. While I agree their feedback and guidance is very important to your performance at your present place of employment, if you rely on it in isolation you may be doing yourself a disservice. Management and human resource professionals often provide guidance in the context exclusive to the work environment and use processes and tools that may not focus on leveraging your strengths, improving your weaknesses, and guiding your development as an individual who will likely encounter additional career transitions—all of these are not, nor should they be their focus – you should “own your professional development”. This includes preparing yourself for the transitions you will likely experience throughout your career. Consider the following questions:
- Do you set professional development goals independent of your work environment?
- Who are you relying on to manage your career?
- Are you receiving guidance that will positively impact your career throughout the entire time you plan to remain in the workforce?
Consider the activities you’re involved in outside of work. You may volunteer at your child’s school, serve on a committee or community board, or volunteer with a charity. If you are involved in such activities, it’s likely that you’re adding value and growing your knowledge and skills and using portions of these in your work environment. Your role at your place of employment may not position you to manage others yet you manage others within the charities you serve. Such experiences are excellent ways to continue to your professional development and may serve to your benefit should circumstances change and you need to change places of employment. Proactively pursuing professional development opportunities unrelated to your current position can help you grow and potentially help you discover new interests and talents.
Competition for jobs continues to be fierce for the majority of occupations. If you were just informed that your employer was letting you go would you be prepared to transition into a new position within a time frame that meets your needs and preferences? Consider the following:
- Can you communicate the value you offer to a variety of potential employers within various work environments?
- Have you participated in professional development activities independent of your work environment to the extent that you are prepared to transition into a new position within a different industry?
- Do you have a robust and engaged professional network?
- Do you maintain a professional presence on key social media sites? (LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, etc.)
- Are your biography, resume, and online profiles current and branded consistently?
- Have you positioned yourself as a “thought leader”?
If you answered “no” to the majority of the questions above there’s no need to panic but there’s also no better time to begin proactively managing your professional development. Even if you don’t anticipate that transitioning into another position will be a reality for you given your circumstances, you may decide to proactively own your professional development to improve your performance, enrich your professional network, and strengthen the extent to which you help others with your thought leadership.