In today’s rapidly changing business environment there is a strong need for continuous development, which means acquiring new knowledge, skills and learning new effective behaviours and approaches.
Some companies have centralised or local-level development plans for their people, increasingly there are committees who meet to discuss their employee abilities and the future need for development within the organisation. Are you one of those people who hope that one day they (the committee) will discover you, you hope they have a development plan for you?
These meetings are backed up with yearly appraisals, thus meaning you need to wait for one whole year to get any information on how you are progressing, and then get a year to work on your development plan and improve on the skills/competencies identified in the appraisal.
What if a soccer team thought in the same way “Let’s play the game for one year and then we can meet to discuss how we are doing and come up with some improvements that we need to see during the next year”!
You may already work for one of those companies that already have identified a need to keep up with personal development changes in your field/position, this would then be recognized through:
- A clear personal development plan, on-the-job as well as off-the-job training
- Clear improvement targets
- Regular feedback
- Monthly appraisals
- Within your team – learning from each other
If you are not that lucky or want to keep a parallel track on your development then there are many things you can do to ensure that you yourself are in charge of your own development.
Eight things you can do to stay in charge of your own development
- You are not sure what you are interested in
Take 15-30 minutes a week and watch one video that you find on TED Talks, YouTube or do a Google video search on a specific topic that you might be interested in. After one year you have then received insights on at least 40 new subjects that might in-turn give you an interest for your future path. It might happen already after 20 clips and then you can move on to step 2.
- I know what I want to learn more about, but can’t afford any training
Join a class on iTunes U or YouTube from a free online training provider – When you find one check for references and reviews before you start, some of the classes on iTunes U are from highly ranked universities. Then join a forum on LinkedIn and share/discuss your findings. If you have colleagues that are interested in the same areas you could discuss together and then share your findings and learnings.
- I don’t know my strength and weaknesses
Ask your colleagues and subordinates for feedback. Don’t ask what you are doing well, but instead ask very specific questions like:
- Based on what you have seen so far – what do you think I should do more/less of or maybe change in order to improve in my job function?
- Based on all the changes going on, and the needs in this company/position what advice would you give on what and how to improve?
Find the questions that make the most sense for you.
Cultural differences may not make it easy to ask subordinates, so then ask your manager, colleagues or maybe friends that know you well. See feedback as a gift, even if you don’t like what you receive – just say thank you! Otherwise you will stop people from giving you gifts (feedback) in the future and hence not get any information on what you need to improve. Think about an athlete trying to improve, without feedback would he or she become among the best?
I don’t have a budget
Search for free personality test/indicators – you will find several online tools available to explore your personality for free such as:
Remember some of these tools are just an indicator, but if several tools are pointing in the same direction then it may be something to think about.
I have a budget
Call a consultancy company to get a more professional assessment carried out, be clear about why you are doing it and what you need. This might include: Psychometric assessments, interviews, reflection and 360 assessments.
- I know what I want to improve and “learning by doing” works best for me
What do you want to learn more about? Language, IT, Finance, leading people, project management, digital marketing …..
Think about what projects or activities would give you more knowledge on the topic; is this project available within your organization or outside?
Since it is an investment in your future you might need to do this outside working hours, waiting for the company you are working for to act may put you in a situation where the train has already left the station.
Outside working hours
Help out with your kids soccer team or whatever interests your kids might have (if you have kids). There are a number of different things you can practice from finance to team building etc. And yes it is ok to practice what your kids are doing, so you also become a role model for them. You can’t learn anything without practice and failing, learn from it and improve and do better next time.
Or join a charity and ask for a position where you can offer support and at the same time develop and learn about what you are interested in.
Remember that feedback and reflection are two important companions when learning from doing. So ensure that you ask yourself “what has gone well today” and “what could have been improved”, focusing on what you can do differently rather than what everyone else would change
Within working hours
Come up with an idea for an improvement project and ask for the resources to do it, if you can combine an idea for improvement with a clear realistic business result (i.e. this will make us save or this will help us to earn) you may have a good case. Remember to sell in the problem before you sell in the solution and ensure that the people you need to convince have a similar view of the current situation before you present your idea.
- Find a mentor
One way to acquire knowledge is to find yourself a mentor, who do you know that has the knowledge you need? Ask him or her if they would be prepared to meet, for example, 5 times per year to discuss specific topics and where they share their knowledge and experiences of what worked for them and what did not.
I know it is a big thing to ask, but all the people that I have recommended to take this route have always found a mentor after one or two attempts.
- Change job
If your current position is not giving you new challenges and the training you need to stay attractive in the market and your employers don’t react positively when you initiate a discussion about it, then It might be time to leave (Check with someone you trust to give you honest feedback if your demands are realistic first).
Some things you can do in order to get started:
- Create/Update your profile on LinkedIn to get relevant offers and join relevant networks
- Contact head-hunters/agencies and present your CV
- Activate your network and be active within the network
- Practise interview techniques with a trusted friend/colleague
- Build and invest in your network
In today’s job market it is common that a lot of vacancies are filled through contacts within networks, these may be digital, school, job or private networks. Make sure you are keeping your network up-to-date and nurture it with material, knowledge, meetings, lunches, support etc. to ensure people in your network want to support you when you need it. You need to invest before you can harvest.
- Nothing of the above works for me
Ask yourself – Do you really want to develop?
Remember very little development happens in your comfort zone, in order to learn to ski well you need to dare to take a fall. The same thing goes with any development; you can’t do it without failing now and then – Be sure to fail fast and fail cheap and recover quickly. Then ask yourself 2 questions; what did I learn and how will I deal with it next time.
Did you learn to walk without taking a tumble?
Enjoy your learning journey – Stay in tune and make sure you sustain your market attraction and lastly – don’t expect someone else to do it for you.