These days there’s no shortage of online articles telling you how much time to invest in the growth of your career; some are even brave enough to try and link it to expected salary growth 1.
In reality, there are no hard and fast rules; your profession, your industry, and the organisation you work for, as well as the availability of opportunities, will all play a part.
Your personality and capacity to learn will also influence whether you spend more time in a classroom or at a networking event, and what’s the ideal combination of both for you.
Despite this, there are still a few guiding principles that offer a useful framework for investing in your career as it develops.
The early stages of your career are a great opportunity to take a breather from formal education and apply your skills in a practical way.
Be a generalist, use this time to explore what you’re interested in and find your niche. Look for organisations with traineeships that let you rotate around different parts of the organisation so you get as much information about different roles as you can.
If formal opportunities don’t exist then look for informal ones such as the chance to be part of cross-functional projects that will give you early exposure to other areas of the organisation.
Take advantage of in-house training courses for new recruits, especially those designed to familiarise you with the organisational culture. The world of work is a very different place from a university or a training college.
Join a professional association, and start to build your network of peers.
Moving up the ranks or on to a different organisation is the time to start specialising. Invest time in identifying your passions and your aptitudes. Planning and self-assessment tools can be a great way to channel your thinking and help you understand what genuinely motivates you.
Once you know where you want your career to go, invest time in formal training that builds the technical and professional skills you need to get there. Seek out local and overseas opportunities such as secondments or projects to add depth and diversity to your skill set.
Find a mentor, someone who has the kind of role you’d like to have in five or ten years’ time. Good mentors don’t have to work in the organisation you do. Sometimes it can be useful if they don’t.
Promotion to Management
First-time managers need a suite of new skills that enable them to motive their team, set goals, conduct performance reviews and create career paths.
Take advantage of internal training programmes in your organisation that support new managers; good organisations will do this as a matter of course. Listen to and act on constructive feedback from more experienced managers, they usually know what they are talking about.
As a manager, you need to have a broader awareness of the things that might impact the organisation you work for.
Management tools such as a PEST (Political, Economic, Socio-cultural and Technological) analysis are a useful way of keeping up to date with the macro environment. Not only will this make you a better manager but it can act as an early warning signal for bigger issues that might impact your career plan down the track.
Invest in formal training that builds on your managerial capabilities, this could include interpersonal skills but also more specialised skills such as process efficiency. Use technical training to enhance your operational understanding of the roles you oversee.
Taking on the role of a mentor is also a useful way of keeping up to date with new and emerging attitudes in your profession or organisation.
Taking on a Leadership Role
Leadership roles demand a skill set that supports strategic planning, employee development, change management and the ability to inspire commitment. The emphasis is less on process, and more on behaviour.
There’s a lot of debate in behavioural theory about whether leaders are born or made, but the consensus seems to be that training, practice, and experience over time can teach effective leadership skills.
New leaders need to build strategic planning skills from formal and informal training with experienced leadership professionals. The less tangible traits that define a great leader come from observation and practice and include among other things:
- Effective communication
- Staying positive
- Leading by example
- Being honest and direct
- Team knowledge
- Inviting feedback
As a leader, you should invest in building a network that includes internal and external stakeholders, industry bodies and all representative groups that might impact on your organisation and your ability to lead.
Be the Employer You Want to Work For
Training and development should be the result of a partnership between an organisation and its employees.
A willingness to learn and develop needs to be matched by the opportunity to do so, and that means organisational investment. Whether through in-house training, or supporting your team through formal qualifications, investing in training and development is good business sense.
Recent IBM research 2 identified that 84% of employees in the best performing organisations were getting the training they need, compared with only 16% in the worst performing organisations.
Our HR Team can help you map out a clear pathway for the roles on offer in your organisation so your team can see the opportunities that lie ahead.
Our managerial support services help clients build an organisational training and development framework that promotes job satisfaction and employee retention.
Talk to Our HR Team today about how we can help create career paths that evolve to meet the changing needs of your team, and your organisation.