"If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else." - Yogi Berra
This quote is lighthearted on its face, but it rings quite true when thinking about your personal professional development. Without a plan in place to grow your career and without a definition of success, you won't know when - or if - you ever achieve it.
It's easy to put your development in the hands of others, and many people expect their organizational leaders to provide them with opportunities for growth. However, no one is responsible for your career success but you. So put yourself in the driver's seat and ring in the new year with a smart action plan to achieve your career goals.
Clearly Define Your Goals
It can be difficult to drill down specific career goals, but you need an endpoint to direct your efforts. Most people find success by defining a large, overarching goal and breaking it down into smaller goals or milestones. Think about where you want to be in five years. What does your career look like? Where are you working? What are you doing? Really visualize what success looks like to you, and clarify it in a single sentence.
Next, break that goal down and define a three-year and a one-year goal. These stepping stones will help you stay on course and measure your progress.
Assess Your Current Situation
Now that you know where you want to go, you need to develop a plan to get there. The first step is to determine which skills you need to learn or enhance along the way. To successfully advance, you will have to push yourself beyond your current expertise. Remember that the environment will change over time, so study skills and trends that are emerging in your field. Don't forget to include soft skills in your assessment - these are equally important to success.
There are myriad ways to build your skills over time. Some skills may require formal training or even a degree, while others can be learned by reading or studying online. Consider educational sources like:
- Authoritative books
- Industry journals
- Podcasts and lectures
- Certification programs
- College courses/degree programs
- Online courses
- Sites like Lynda, SkillShare, Udemy
- Company-sponsored training programs
It won't be enough just to attend classes or events. To make your skills training stick, it's necessary to go the extra mile to reinforce what you've learned. After engaging in a learning activity, sit down with pen and paper, or your laptop, and answer the following questions:
- What are the most important ideas or insights that I learned from this seminar/class/book, etc.?
- What are the three things I intend to do with this information in the next 30 days?
- By doing those things, what are the results I hope to achieve?
This writing activity will help solidify what you learned and will provide you with an accountability map to take action based on your new knowledge.
Set Target Dates and Timelines
Goals are only actionable when they have dates attached to them. Dates will help you plan specific action steps and keep you focused. Spend time with each goal and ask yourself related questions to set target dates. They might include questions such as:
- When will you attend a conference or seminar?
- When are certification exams held?
- When are important networking events?
- What are the registration deadlines for classes you may wish to take?
Without target dates and timelines in place, you put your momentum at risk and you will eventually lose accountability to yourself. If you're serious about achieving your goals, you must invest in setting timelines and target dates.
Find a Mentor
Every person who has achieved career success has had a mentor. Mentors guide you through your career, providing valuable advice and feedback along the way. If you do not currently have a mentor, go out and find one.
A mentor should be someone whose career you respect. They could be someone from your current organization, or they could be a person outside the organization. Make a list of potential mentors, and approach them to ask for help. This can be intimidating but the worst anyone can say is no, and if they do say no, you haven't lost anything except a few minutes of your time. When you find a mentor, remember they are volunteering to help you. Respect their time, always be fully prepared when you're getting together with your mentor, be open about your needs, and above all else, show appreciation for their support.
Inspire Your Team to Grow Their Own Careers
As you work on your own career plan, don't forget about your team. You can inspire them to build their skills and develop as professionals by sharing your own learning experiences and encouraging them to do the same.
Want you and your employees to achieve more in 2019?
Download our FREE eBook, "TRAINING: Bridge Skills Gaps and Build a Stronger Workforce." It's packed with practical strategies to maximize performance with the right training.