6 steps to kick star your career development

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In today’s ever-changing conditions, making moves to support career development has never been more necessary yet increasingly difficult to manage.

There are numerous obstacles on the path to career progression, not least the trend of employers investing less in employee development, with driving factors ranging from budget, schedule or workload constraints to skyrocketing staff turnover rates. While understanding and doing your job well is certainly the right place to start on your journey to career progression, it’s by no means enough to guarantee movement up the industry ladder in today’s environment.

So, to take charge of your own progression and achieve your goals, read on to learn six tips and tricks to forging your own path to career development.

Make a Plan

The first step to career progression is having a clear idea of where you want to go. It’s great to think big and have an ultimate professional goal or milestone in mind, but hitting such a lofty target won’t happen overnight and may seem overwhelming from where you currently stand. So what’s the solution? The answer is breaking it down into attainable, short to medium-term micro goals. Determine what steps, skills, experience and expectations need to be taken, acquired and met for you to move onwards and upwards, and set about actioning your plan piece by piece.

Step 1: Map out your trajectory with smaller, achievable goals – and take action!

Do It Yourself

With less time, fewer resources and plummeting ROI all driving the trend of decreased formal, company-led employee development schemes, the onus may fall to you, the employee, to take charge and become your own leader.

If your position’s expectations, goals and KPIs are not being clearly defined by management, make an effort to identify these key metrics yourself, seeking feedback and agreement from your superiors once your investigation is complete. Now you have clearly defined targets, strive to hit the mark and regularly check in to make sure your efforts are being acknowledged and any area that needs work is identified and communicated.

Step 2: Be your own leader, identify the metrics to success!

Progress Over Perfection

As employees we all have strengths and weakness, with better skills and suitability in some areas of our job than others. A team player with great EQ might not be quite as technically minded. A highly driven, goal-oriented employee may struggle to prioritise team success over individual achievement. The list goes on.

There may be one area you’d like to develop as an employee or there may be several, but ultimately, prioritising progress over perfection is the pathway to upskilling success. Choose one ‘weak’ spot to focus on initially (either self-identified, or identified in conjunction with your superior) and take steps to developing your skills in the area off your own bat.

Read as much as you can, explore external courses that might relate to your goals (ie Australian Institute of Business or Techskill courses), or seek out the advice of previous position holders who may be able to share their insights. Also worth noting: top-down feedback is not the only feedback that matters. Check in with your peers and subordinates for a well-rounded view of areas that might need work.

Step 3: Upskill, Upskill, Upskill!

Put your hand up

Garnering support and achieving success is (rightly or wrongly) often about more than just getting your job done. If you wish to make an impact and have senior stakeholders sit up and take notice, seek opportunities to contribute beyond your scope of work. This might mean volunteering for difficult assignments or taking part in company initiatives like charity work, outreach or training programs. If these opportunities aren’t obvious or don’t present organically, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask where you can help. Enthusiasm and extra effort are usually met with gratitude and support.

Step 4: Go over and above to contribute and visibility will come!

Build relationships

We all know the age-old adage: it’s not what you know, but who you know. Nowhere is this more true than in a professional setting, where even the most talented employees might be overlooked if they are not well liked, respected or supported by their peers. Relationships are key to career progression. From senior management and stakeholders to colleagues and subordinates, strong professional ties within your organisation means people will go into bat for you when the opportunity to advance presents.

As well as internal relationships, external links are of huge importance too. Having a good rapport with clients or industry leaders will reflect on you and your character, not to mention open the door to conversations and opportunities in the wider market.

Finally, one of the most critical relationships you can foster is that with a mentor. Identify a senior colleague or professional whose position or trajectory is one with which you align, and try to casually engage them over coffee or at a social event. Take the time to nurture this relationship and when the moment is right, broach the subject of mentorship if it hasn’t already come up already. A mentor can not only offer guidance and perspective, but also help you learn what you need to know to succeed.

Step 5: Grow your network and opportunities will flourish!

Make the move

Lastly, knowing the right time to jump ship is critical. If you’ve done all you can to get the most out of your role and organisation but still find yourself at a dead end, making the decision to move on is the logical next step. If you’ve done well at building your relationships, this is the time to fire up that network and seek opportunities elsewhere in the market, if they haven’t already been presented to you.

Step 6: Know when to let go!

Driving your own career progression is less a choice and more a necessity in today’s employment market. Follow these six steps to career development and place yourself in the best possible position to advance and reach your career goals

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