Career development is a lifelong process of managing learning, work, leisure, and transitions in order to move toward a personally preferred future. Regardless of your current career level, there is always room for improvement.
Traditionally, professional development was the responsibility of employers to ensure their workforce had the right skills. While this is still the case, to some degree, employees should be proactive in their own career development.
Here are some tips for any working professional who is looking to upgrade their skills to get to the ‘next level’ of their career. I’ve also included tips for employers on how to encourage their employees and get the most out of them through professional development
Searching for Professional Growth Opportunities
In my opinion, self-awareness is the cornerstone of career success. If you are proactive and deliberate about improving your technical knowledge and interpersonal skills, you will be on the road to success.
I’ll offer my own career development story as a model for this idea. Since beginning my career with the Mentor Works, I’ve consistently searched and learning about different courses in order to gain new, valuable credentials. Doing this adds value to my company and myself, a win-win scenario as long as you have the time and energy to work and learn at the same time.
Through this search, I found and enrolled myself in Canadian Securities Course (CSC) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation programs, some of the most respected and recognized programs in the financial industry.
Although it’s always challenging to study from a textbook after a long day of work, it’s definitely beneficial. I’m learning to see situations from different perspectives and they’re also helping me develop my interpersonal skills.
Employee Tip: Take the lead on your own professional development. Find time to identify topics that you’re interested in, then explore ways to relate those skills back to your position or company.
Employer Tip: As an employer you’ll often understand which certifications/designations are needed to grow the organization. Sharing this vision with your employees will help them identify areas for professional growth. You’ll spark their interest and motivate them to seek training, which will help fill skill gaps, effectively strengthening your business.
The Importance of Giving and Receiving Support
Business executives often debate the value of providing training programs to their employees. In many cases, company managers are worried that once training has been completed, employees will leave the company for other industries, or worse yet, that they’ll begin working for a competitor.
In actuality, the opposite is true. Employees want to work for companies who invest in their workforce. Businesses that are committed to skill development are rewarded by employees through increased loyalty.
If employees have identified a training program that they wish to complete, businesses are better-off supporting their employee’s aspirations. As long as the new skill provides value to the employee’s career, employers should find a way to encourage the training.
Employee Tip: Be grateful for any support that your employer provides you during the professional development process. They’re supporting your development because they see you as an asset to the team and wish to improve the value you can provide. Learn as much as you can from the training and relate it to your position – this will prove the training’s value to your employer and encourage them to continue supporting skills development.
Employer Tip: Young employees crave professional development, but often feel overwhelmed when juggling their work responsibilities. Employers should find a way to reduce or eliminate the cost of training for employees, as well as make other provisions that make training programs easier for employees to complete.
Small Changes Can Amount to Huge Results
It’s easy to become intimidated when you realize how much development is ahead of you. Especially if you’re early in your career such as I am, there is still much to learn. You must be open to learning opportunities and pursue them whenever you can. Slow, consistent professional development will help transport you to wherever you want to go.
Professional development is a lifelong process and not a one-off activity. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process either. If you pick a subject and begin learning about it every week, you could become extremely knowledgeable sooner than you think. It’s truly amazing how small changes can end up making a huge impact on your career and life.
Employee Tip: Compile a list of 5 skills that you’d like to develop over the coming years, then rank them in order of their importance to you. Begin writing down ways that you can learn more about those skills, either through your own research or through professional development courses. With these “getting started” steps in place, you’ll understand how to begin your personal development path.
Employer Tip: Although professional development is becoming the responsibility of employees, employers can still help to facilitate the process. Start talking to your employees about potential areas for professional development to spark their interest. Follow-up with them about training and other learnings they’ve come across to continue the discussion. You should aim to create a workplace culture that supports personal and professional growth.
Continuous Improvement: Never Stop Learning
My journey to pursue CSC and CFA credentials helped me to realize there is never an end to the journey of self-improvement. The more I grow, the more I realize there is so much out there I don’t know, and so much that I still have to learn.
There is always something about ourselves we can improve on. Human potential is limitless, so it’s impossible to reach a point of where no more growth is possible. Continue to work towards becoming a better employee or employer each day and you’ll become more successful than you could imagine.