Career Development – Identifying Opportunities for Professional Growth

In light of Career Development month, I thought it would be important to highlight some of the key ingredients for professional growth. Keep in mind that career development is not always about moving up in an organization but more about being open-minded and able to identify opportunities for growth. Below are 5 ways to be sure you aren't missing out on any professional development opportunities.

  1. Understand Yourself

    At each and every career stage, it’s important to evaluate yourself. Understanding what your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and personal goals are will allow you to develop a career plan that best fits you. Everyone has limitations, so understanding your specific qualifications, talents and academic background can help you find jobs that are within your level of expertise. If you are having a hard time identifying what your strengths and/or weaknesses are or even what your passions are, there are resources such as personality test and specialized trainings to help you in your discovery. Once you understand your qualifications and limitations, you'll be able to pursue career options that fit with your skills and experiences.

  2. Have a Career Development Plan

    When we set out to do most things in life, we often come up with a plan of action ahead of time. Your career is no different. Understanding what skills and competencies are needed in order to professionally develop will give you a framework and development plan that will enable you to achieve the career goals that you have identified.

    When thinking about focus areas for your development plan, consider the following:

    • Strengths: Identify strengths on which you can continue to build.
    • Limitations: Identify limitations that are most likely to interfere with your career goals and in which you believe you can make significant improvement.
    • Current role or next role: Identify whether you are focusing your development within your current role or whether you are focusing on your next role.
    • Experiences: Identify experiences that would best support your development—whether for your current role or your next role.

    The more you focus your career development plan and align it with your career goals, the better the quality of your plan.

  3. Seek Ways to Learn from Others

    Research shows that a balanced career development plan focuses 70 percent of the development activities on learning on the job, 20 percent on learning from others, and 10 percent on learning through training. In order to have a balanced plan, it’s important that you seek out opportunities in each area. When it comes to learning from others, one relationship to have is that of a Mentor and Mentee.

    Becoming either a mentor or mentee at the workplace is a great way to learn from others and has long-term advantages when it comes to career development. In the mentee role you’re provided with tips on career growth and ways to mature in your career. In addition, if you’re new to a company, having a mentor will help you feel less isolated and give you stepping stone for meeting others and building your professional network.

    Being a mentor also provides great growth opportunities. Being in a role that allows you to teach or advise others can increase confidence and own job satisfaction. The mentor is required to listen to the concerns of the employee but in providing advice and new perspective you are able to create stronger communication skills and it can even prepare for a role as a manager.

  4. Failure is a Key to Success

    Failure is a scary thing but also should be viewed as another opportunity for growth. Failing not only teaches us what not to do but it give us more knowledge than what we had prior to the failure. Taking the knowledge and using it moving forward will help you become better-rounded in your career. Many failures are devastating but if you use the failure in the right way, it can be a propellant you in your career development.

  5. A Challenge is an Opportunity

    When faced with a challenge in your career, view it as an opportunity to expand and increase your skills. With each challenge comes a great deal of learnings as well. If your manager comes to you with a project that seems a bit out of your comfort zone often times it’s to see how you will accomplish the task and if you are someone that can do the job. This is a great opportunity to show your capabilities so seize the challenge and look at it as a career development opportunity that will get you closer to your professional growth goals.

These 5 things will help you in reaching your career goals. However, keep in mind that there are also things that you can be doing every day in order to develop your career. Whether it be taking a training course during your lunch break; finding and researching career development resources; or even taking some time to reflect on where you are and where you want to be, just being aware of your career development and having a plan that you work towards everyday will ensure that you are on the right path.

Andrea LaCoy