What’s Holding Back Your Career Development?

Change and uncertainty are now a given in our careers. As a result, people are re-evaluating what they want from their work. For many, the traditional career ladder has been replaced by “squiggly” careers — non-linear career moves where progression goes beyond promotion and allows people to develop in different directions. In the context of constant change, personal career development is now a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.

But the reality is that career development rarely gets prioritized. The demands of the day-to-day take precedence over our improvement, and investing in our future rarely feels as urgent as the issues in our inbox. This presents a long-term risk to our engagement and enjoyment at work, as putting ourselves last means our careers can stall and our skills start to stagnate. In the short-term, failing to spend time on our personal development decreases our career resilience in the face of external job impacts like layoffs and reorgs.

At our company Amazing If, we train over 100,000 people a year in career development. We see four common challenges that get in the way of people’s growth. We categorize them as when, who, what, and where challenges. Here’s how you can think and act creatively to overcome these challenges and continually invest in your career development.

4 Common Career Development Challenges

Reflect on which of these challenges feel familiar for you. It’s not uncommon to experience a combination of two, three, or even all of them at the same time.

The “when” challenge

Sounds like: I’ll get around to career development when I have the time.

Career risk: Your development feels separate from your day job.

The “who” challenge

Sounds like: I don’t have anyone who is helping me develop my skills.

Career risk: Your progression becomes dependent on other people.

The “what” challenge

Sounds like: I’m not sure what I want to develop in.

Career risk: Searching for the one “right” answer stops you from getting started.

The “where” challenge

Sounds like: There are no career development opportunities where I work.

Career risk: You feel frustrated and lose motivation.

4 Creative Ways to Unlock Career Development

Each of the following strategies have been tried and tested with our learners. They’re designed to help you proactively respond to risks and put you back in control of your career development.

1. If your development challenge is when, start a five-minute mind map.

“I’ll spend some time on my development when…[this project is over] or [I get past this busy period].” Sound familiar?

Reducing the time commitment required for development and increasing the regularity of your reflection can help you overcome this hurdle. Use “coach yourself” questions to increase your self-awareness and identify new opportunities for action:

  • Create a recurring calendar invite to yourself titled “5-minute mind map.”
  • Put yourself in a place where there’s no technology temptation.
  • Spend five minutes mind-mapping your thoughts in response to one coach yourself question. For example, if your coach yourself question is what do I want to build a reputation for?, your mind-map might include relationship building, generating ideas, and making a positive impact.
  • At the end of the time, summarize your reflections by writing down a “so what, what now?” statement. Continuing from the previous example, yours might look like: In my next career conversation with my manager, I’m going to suggest how I could use my relationship-building strengths to help us stay better connected with the other functions across the business

2. If your development challenge is who, increase your sideways support.

In ladder-like careers, we assume that senior people are the most valuable source of support and we undervalue the importance of peer-to-peer learning. Connecting with colleagues at a similar career stage within and outside of your organization is an opportunity to share challenges, generate new ideas, and learn together.

These groups can have five people or 50; the important part is that the group’s shared purpose is to support each other in development. Here’s how to get started:

  • Start by setting up a group you’d like to be part of using an app like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or WhatsApp. For example, one of us (Sarah) created a group for squiggly career advocates.
  • Share the purpose of the group with five people you know who share the same interest and invite them to join.
  • Ask everyone to share one thing they’ve read, watched, or listened to that they’ve found helpful in their current role.
  • Grow your group by giving everyone the option to invite one person.

3. If your development challenge is what, create your learning navigator.

There are more ways to learn than ever, so the overwhelm of what to learn and how stops many people from getting started.

Using a learning navigator helps you prioritize what to learn in a way that feels useful and personal. To help you find a focus, distinguish what you need to know from what’s nice to know, as well as what’s relevant to your current role and what might be relevant for future roles.

The outcome of the learning navigator is not to only prioritize the top-righthand box based on “now” and “need” but instead to define a range of learning goals that reflects both what’s most important in your role today and what matters for your career in the future. It also helps you spot common skills across quadrants, which can help you to determine where to start.

4. If your development challenge is where, prototype your progression.

It’s easy to feel defeatist about your development when the options available to you at work aren’t always obvious. As we wrote in a previous article, a lack of awareness of internal roles, too much process around progression, and limited support from people in positions of influence can make leaving feel easier than staying. Rather than having circumstance determine your development, prototype your progression to unlock new possibilities. Here’s how to do it:

  • Write down one internal opportunity that you want to make happen.
  • Answer this prompt: This opportunity is important to me because…
  • Identify three other ways you could get to your important outcome in your organization.

For example:

  • I’d like to lead a team for the first time.
  • This opportunity is important to me because I enjoy the opportunity to support others with their development.
  • Three ways I could get to this outcome:
  1. Offer to support new hires in my organization
  2. Mentor people in their early career
  3. Put myself forward as a lead for a new project

This approach stops from you getting stuck on one solution and helps you find different opportunities for your development within your current company.

Original Article Here


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