My Career, My Responsibility!
Who is in charge of your professional development? Should you take the driver’s seat or leave it to the organizations you work for? A very interesting HBR article on career development argues that organizations today often leave employees with skill gaps and blind spots that may hinder their careers and negatively impact organizational effectiveness. Additionally, being offered development opportunities aligned with your company’s needs and interests does not necessarily mean you will grow in the direction you want to take your career. In this article, I will share my perspectives on how I see professional development as our responsibility and provide tips on how you can address this fascinating career challenge.
During my MBA program, I read a book by Edith Penrose, The Theory of the Growth of the Firm, which has profoundly influenced my career development choices. Penrose’s primary focus is on the organizations’ growth and how the existing resources, particularly human capital, are fundamental for expansion. ‘Growth is governed by a creative and dynamic interaction between a firm’s productive resources and its market opportunities. Available resources limit expansion; unused resources (including technological and entrepreneurial) stimulate and largely determine the direction of expansion’ (pg. 1). The idea of unused resources resonated with me. If that was true of companies, how about my own professional development? How could I develop my skill set and increase my knowledge base to be able to direct my career development? Even if those ‘resources’ were unused for a while, they would be available for career growth opportunities. That was how I took my professional development into my own hands.
Employees at all levels must learn to identify their strengths and weaknesses, uncover blind spots, strengthen their skills, expand their knowledge, and overcome the danger of being carried away by the daily demands and leaving their investment in their future on hold. But what can you do to be in control of your development? I will share some tips that worked for me and are recommended by experts in the field.
1. Decide to be the captain of your own ship.
This was the fundamental change that happened in my career. Instead of waiting for the organization to offer me development opportunities, I searched for them. I ensured those aligned with the company’s objectives were discussed with my manager, and I tried to get their financial and managerial support. I also invested in additional courses or participation in conferences that I saw as a possible springboard for future opportunities.
2. Define your career aspirations and plan accordingly.
Reflect on your skills, interests, and chances for career advancement in your current company or elsewhere and plan your next moves. Ask yourself some of these questions:
What are my job goals?
What are the skills and behaviors I already have and the ones I need to develop?
What kind of work assignments will contribute to my growth path? How can I be part of those teams?
Who can be my mentor?
How can I measure my advancement? Define some success metrics.
3. Turn feedback into an ally.
Top performers often seek feedback from their managers, peers, and team members. Resist being reactive and defensive when you get negative feedback and learn to listen to understand. Reflect and identify ways to learn and adjust. “If your boss doesn’t proactively give you feedback, start the conversation yourself,” and focus on improving one thing at a time.
4. Become an expert in an area of increasing importance.
Identifying emerging issues and becoming the reference in your department in those areas can serve as a springboard for your growth. But don’t restrict your analysis to your current position or company. Be tuned into the market trends, new technologies, AI, or any other area you perceive as a potential future opportunity for you. Work towards bridging the existing gaps in knowledge and skills so that you can be ready for this next move.
Your career is one of the most significant contributors to your life satisfaction. You cannot leave it in the hands of people other than yourself. Define your purpose and professional aspirations, set challenging goals, work on your professional development plan, and take action to build your desired career.
Most workers believe their career development is the employers’ responsibility. However, 80% of managers say employees “should be responsible for building their job-hunting and career-planning skills.” If you want to learn more, our Employee Development Master Class contains all the materials you need to skyrocket your professional capabilities and act as a growth catalyst for your organization. Email us at email@example.com or direct message us on LinkedIn to learn more about how we can partner with you to turn your development goals into reality.
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Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.
_________________________________________________________________________  Cast, C. (2018). 6 ways to take control of your career development if your company doesn’t care about it. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from 6 Ways to Take Control of Your Career Development If Your Company Doesn’t Care About It (hbr.org), 08/14/2023.  Penrose, E. T. (1959). The Theory of the Growth of the Firm. New York and Oxford.  Quast, L. (2014). Who is in charge of your career development? Forbes. Retrieved from Who's In Charge Of Career Planning? You (forbes.com), 08/14/2023