Career Transition: Career Development in Place

Bruce HazenBruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting  |  503-280-0151

The Inside Job: CAREER DEVELOPMENT IN-PLACE by Bruce Hazen, MS

In a slow job market or when your organization is in the doldrums and not growing, it doesn’t mean that your professional development has to stop. You can probably develop where you are right now, at least for a while. It’s about progressing not just getting a promotion. The goal is to progress in your capability and competence. If that leads to a promotion, great. If it doesn’t lead to a promotion, you’re still progressing.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to over-rely on training or education in their definition of “development activities”. The most lasting and dramatic development usually happens in action learning settings, with a mentor or coach, through the use of assessment tools, or through surviving failures.

If your organization has a progressive human resources function you may have just the internal coach you need to design and execute your development plan. If you’re not blessed with such a resource you can use the following tool to start your own, self-reliant development process in whatever job you have.

Personal SWOT Analysis

  • Strengths that you can leverage. Be able to name them and describe them out loud to another person. Just thinking about what you’re good at is not adequate for selling those strengths to others who might have cool projects you can work on (I’m an accounting professional who is really good at facilitating meetings and reducing misunderstandings during discussions).
  • Weaknesses that you either want to work on or minimize in  your action learning project. (I’ve never needed much skill or knowledge about IT, but there is an ERP platform [Enterprise Resource Planning] in our company’s future and it will include all of us being comfortable and ready to embrace it).
  • Opportunities that are all around you for participation and collaboration on small or large pieces of work that you or others need to accomplish. (My boss is a brilliant numbers guy but hates to run cross-functional meetings. I’ll volunteer to lead the ERP coordinating committee within Accounting. I’ll have access to the IT team and will look for someone who is a good explainer to coach me in accelerated learning about the ERP).
  • Threats to your development are out there, too. Resources such as time, training, coaches, access to key knowledge holders, the number of members needed for an interesting project are in limited supply. If you’ve scoped them out ahead of time and TAKEN ACTION, you’ll be able to secure some of these needed resources. Maybe you’ve got a boss who is not development-minded at all. You’re at a huge disadvantage if you’re waiting and hoping (s)he will notice you and help you develop. You’ll have to have some persuasive (not just logical or self-serving) justifications for your development plan that serve your boss and the organization’s real business objectives.

Here’s a crucial step people forget to do when they actually get a development in-place opportunity. They neglect to document the measurable benefits they created and the observable skills they developed. Let others know about your development actions. These actions showcase your professionalism and motivation, and are a great way to distinguish yourself from the herd of job competitors internally or externally.

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