Reflecting on what has, and has not, worked for you previously can give you useful information about your career development strategies.
These strategies should be based on a sound understanding of your strengths, and recognition of what you are not so good at, and your development needs.
What roles did you really enjoy and why, or what parts of your current role do you really enjoy and do well?
Working with a large corporate firm about four years ago, a colleague and I were having a feedback session with an ambitious youngish executive who was two levels below the CEO. Let’s say his name was Ahmed.
Ahmed was desperate for the next level role, and, unbeknown to us, he had just missed out on that role for the second time in three years.
At the end of the session, he asked straight out did we think he would ever obtain that role, or one just like it? To date, no one had really explained that to him why he had missed out on that role—twice.
Our response, in a respectful, but direct, manner, went something like this: ‘well if you spend years developing a few particular areas, and then turn yourself inside out and become a different person, maybe you might get there. But why would you want to do that?’
He was a bit stunned. We then spoke about his real strengths and where these—plus his great experiences—could take him. Three years later he continued to use his attributes well in an expanded role in the same firm, but not in the type of role to which he originally aspired.
And now he is quite okay with that.
You should seek the type of feedback we gave Ahmed, on your own attributes and skill set. It might come from your boss, colleagues, those you lead or your clients, customers or other stakeholders. It could come through a formal 360-degree process, or thoughtful feedback and interactions with your friends and family. Hopefully it comes from all of those sources.
Self-awareness about your strengths, together with your limitations (euphemistically called your ‘development needs’), provides the basis of your strategic career planning, which in turn generates your personal development and investment plan.
Where can your strengths, capabilities and attributes be deployed most appropriately? Are there areas that really matter? Which one or two areas that, with a small investment, will make an exponential impact on your contribution, job satisfaction, or your options? What areas don’t matter so much—where you accept that these are not your strengths, nor are they likely to be, and so be it.
Christine Kilpatrick, began her career as a medical intern and resident, before a rotation in neurology convinced her to become a neurologist. She later became the Chief Medical Officer at Melbourne Health where she realised that despite her somewhat extensive medical experience, in order to truly gain the credibility she needed for that role, and to become a CEO, she had to invest in an MBA. She is now in her second CEO role at Melbourne Health. Her first was at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
A decade or two ago, people working in large organisations or government agencies would expect the organisation to take the initiative in initiating development opportunities for them.
Organisations do need to invest in their people, but the most effective development takes place in those that are attuned to benefit from it—those with a strong orientation to accept responsibility for their own strategic career planning and invest in it.
Professional development, formal and informal, and professional engagement, has always been a key part of my DNA. It has brought me into contact with some fabulous people throughout my career.
In the work I do today, it is something we look for in those we are working with. I am always amazed at those who seem to get by without this form of stimulation and commitment. They just don’t know what they are missing—until it is too late.
What was the best decision you ever made for your professional development?
Adapted from: The Agile Executive: Embracing Career Risks and Rewards
by Marianne Broadbent