I love the promise of a new year. The enforced ‘down time’ over the festive season gives me permission to switch-off, unwind, and reflect on what is truly important to my career. This month could just as well be called Planuary, as I use the tail end of the summer break, to think about how I’d like to develop my career coaching practice in 2013.
Although there’s always the thrill of finding something newer and better, it dawned on me that I’m surrounded by plenty of great resources – materials that I’ve laboured over, and filed away for another day. Thanks to the occasional Amazon splurge, my bookshelves are stuffed with inspiration. While I have my firm favourites, some of these books sit like orphans on the shelf, waiting to be picked and loved.
This year, I’ve decided that less is more, and I plan to work with what I’ve got.
The same mantra could be applied to savvy professionals, as they take charge of their careers. DIY career development is at your finger tips. Proactive career management not only facilitates progression within a current employer or a chosen industry, it’s an insurance policy in the event of an unexpected career change.
Great development is dynamic, customised, action based and experiential. Forget the generic and formulaic, and explore options which cater to your unique needs. In a world of flatter matrix-based organisations and lateral moves, career development is within easy reach.
The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) research indicates that a significant part of development occurs through practical experiences. And the more varied the practical experiences, the greater the likelihood of developing a broad repertoire of skills.
Development can take various forms. It may include changing the scope of your position to develop a new competency or skill; a secondment to another department to develop functional expertise; transfer into a new role to gain people leadership experience; coaching; mentoring or completion of a university course.
In her book Developmental Assignments – Creating Learning Experiences without Changing Jobs* (CCL 2006), Cynthia McCauley identified the following challenges as development opportunities:
- Unfamiliar responsibilities handling responsibilities that are new or very different from previous ones you’ve handled
- New directions starting something new or making strategic changes
- Inherited problems fixing problems created by someone or existing before you took the assignment
- Problems with employees dealing with employees who lack adequate experience, are incompetent or are resistant to change
- High stakes managing work with tight deadlines, pressure from above, high visibility and responsibility for critical decisions
- Scope and scale managing work that is broad in scope (including multiple functions, groups, locations, products or services) or large in sheer size (eg workload, number of responsibilities)
- External pressure managing the interface with important groups outside the organisation, such as customers, vendors, partners, unions and regulatory agencies
- Influencing without authority influencing peers, higher management or other key people over whom you have no authority
- Work across cultures working with people from different cultures or with institutions in other countries
- Work group diversity being responsible for the work of people of both genders and different racial and ethnic backgrounds.
In addition to developing expertise, these experiences generate accomplishments, which bolster a resume, and pave the way for promotion and new career pathways. The grass isn’t always greener elsewhere. You are surrounded by development opportunities, which needn’t cost anything other than your initiative. Work with what you’ve got.