Your Professional Development Continuous

What areas of your job do you find most difficult or want to improve? For ideas, look at past performance reviews or talk to your manager, colleagues or HR department. Seek advice from those whose skills or career you wish to emulate.

Improving the areas you identify may mean going on a course or workshop, or you may find that mentoring, guided reading, work-shadowing, or online study is more relevant. For instance, if you know that negotiation skills are an increasingly important part of your job, perhaps your manager could arrange for you to shadow someone with exceptional skills in this area, or even coach you themselves through your next negotiation skills project.

When you’re busy at work it’s easy to lose sight of the changing needs of the job market. Periodically check out adverts and person specifications for roles that are either similar to yours or are in line with the role you’re looking for next. Do you have everything they’re looking for? For instance, are your IT skills up to scratch? Could the lack of a professional qualification be an issue if every employer seems to be asking for it?

Some professions require a certain amount of professional development every year to retain your status. Whether this is a requirement or not, make sure you’re up-to-date with what’s happening in your field, or you could lose credibility and potentially expose your company to risks. You can keep updated by reading professional journals or trade press, attending industry events, conferences, workshops or your own research. The rise of webinars, e-newsletters and online forums means it’s easier than ever to participate in learning from your office desk or at home.

Every role requires soft skills to some degree, whether it’s communication skills or handling emotion and conflict in the workplace. If you’re looking to climb the career ladder, then developing people management skills should be an absolute priority. Practical training and coaching are particularly effective, especially if the learner is supported when they come to apply those skills, either through one-to-one coaching or via a supervised network.

Although many people equate learning and development with professional qualifications, there are lots of other routes. For instance, voluntary work can be a great way to develop additional skills. I coached an IT technical professional who was keen to move into management. I recommended that he join the charity committee to widen his exposure to strategic and operational management activities. This experience proved to be instrumental in persuading his organisation of his ability to jump from a technical route to a management career.

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