Let’s talk about you, shall we? More specifically, let’s talk about your future career goals. Companies have strategic plans to keep their goals on track, and there’s no reason why you can’t do the same with a development plan that you blueprint specifically to meet your career goals.
Without a clear path, you’ll meander aimlessly from one job to the next, and you could end up with no tangible direction or skills to carry you forward later in your career. By deciding the career trajectory you’re aiming for and developing a plan to get there, you increase your chances of success.
The Nuts and Bolts of the Plan
Now, before you get down to the nitty-gritty details of a development plan, think broadly in terms of a career plan first. What is your ultimate professional goal? Try to determine where you want to be in three- to five-year increments. The future can be difficult to plan out, especially professionally, but if you dig deep into the recesses of your dreams, you’ll probably find at least an inkling of what your “true north” might be. Once you’ve got it, run with it.
After you’ve figured out your general career plan, a development plan is the next step, and it’s an integral one. Most successful people I know have a career plan, as well as an aligned and detailed development plan to keep the career plan on track. A development plan maps out the skills, actions, and roles necessary to attain your next career goal. For example, if your career plan shows you’d like to get into human resources, you might start paying more attention to your co-workers as part of your development plan. Learn what their work goals are, and do what you can to help them succeed. This would be a tangible step on your road to HR.
To ensure success, you should review your development plan regularly and make any necessary tweaks, just like a business would. Naturally, if your career goal changes, your development plan will as well. If your job changes, review your development plan. It might help to think of it as a living document, like the U.S. Constitution is intended to be — except you’re the only one who has to approve an amendment.
You, the Brand
Success (or a lack thereof), and how you handle it, will play a role in your development plan. Obviously, if you’ve made a development plan, you’re at least somewhat motivated, so you’ll automatically want to push yourself toward success in any job. That’s great because you’re talking about your personal brand here, and if you don’t challenge yourself to do better, your brand will suffer — and you may not reach your next career goal.
To have a successful career, self-awareness is key. It’s important to be in touch with both how you are perceived and the quality of your work. Putting forth your best work speaks volumes about what you care about. It shows that you know how to do things right, and that you understand where your passions lie.
How you do your job creates your reputation, and you absolutely must keep the following in mind: When future employers or current managers are checking around about your suitability for your next role, they will definitely take into account what others say about your efforts. The thing people forget about success is that even if they weren’t successful in something, how they handled the situation is what people will remember.
Things happen in organizations. Dynamics change. This is often out of your control. But the fact that you made a great effort in a difficult situation will help you get ahead. Do your best; it will pay off. Remember, your brand is at stake, and that’s what will carry you throughout your career.
Whether your goal is to be in management or not, demonstrating good leadership behaviors will help you move along your development plan. So let’s look at some qualities of really good leaders:
1) They communicate. They do it on a regular basis with their employees, and they do it in a truthful manner.
2) They follow the rule — the “platinum” rule: Forget about what you would want; treat others as they would wish to be treated. Research shows that really successful leaders are respectful of others’ values and how they prefer to be treated.
3) They pay attention to their people. Great leaders don’t expect human resources to be the only people-focused department. They find out their employees’ aspirations and do what they can to help them reach their goals.
4) They trust others. There’s a lot of ambiguity in this world, and good leaders know that they don’t have all the answers. When needed, they trust the judgment of those around them.
5) They work at it every darn day. Being a leader is a privilege and demands substantial self-reflection. Much like your development plan, leaders frequently take the time to think about who they want to be and take the action to get there.
These are all traits which, once you’re conscious of them, you should be able to easily adopt.
If you’re going to achieve personal satisfaction from your work life and build your dream career, then there’s no time like the present to start thinking about the skills and experiences you need to get there. The most important thing to remember is that if you are passionate about what you do, then you will be successful! This is simply planning how to get there.
Dr. Linda D. Sharkey is Global Managing Director and Partner at Achieveblue, a boutique consultancy that specializes in leadership development, cultural transformation, and talent and organization development. Prior to joining Achieveblue, Linda was the Chief Talent Officer for HP and also held numerous Executive Human Resources roles at GE. Linda is co-author of “Winning with Transglobal Leadership,” which has been recognized as one of the Top 30 Best Business Books for 2012 by Executive Summaries. She has also co-authored a groundbreaking book on talent management, entitled “Optimizing Talent.” Linda is a widely sought-after executive coach and is a Founding Member of the Marshall Goldsmith Group. She can be reached at LSharkey@Achieveblue.com.
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