Sometimes change in our careers comes expectedly and unwanted, sometimes we initiate it. Either way, how we respond to changes to our professional lives is what really counts. As the saying goes, “Change is inevitable, but growth is optional.”
Given the increase in layoffs, shifting business priorities, and women simply wanting more career fulfillment, it’s more important than ever to be in charge of your professional growth.
“In today’s global market, you can no longer afford to wait for your employers to invest in your professional growth and development. You must know yourself and your career ambitions well enough to recognize the necessary career investments you must make and determine your wisest career investment path” says business expert Glenn Llopis and author of Earning Serendipity: 4 Skills for Creating and Sustaining Good Fortune in Your Work.
Choosing to grow and coming up with my next career steps came from lots of “practice”, whether I wanted it or not. Straight out of college I spent 10 years moving up the ranks of AOL from an $8 an hour customer service rep to the head of corporate training, all while navigating six layoffs, a collapsed marriage (nothing like a divorce to put a kink in your career) and bumping my head on the glass ceiling.
Not satisfied to settle, I reached deep inside to find my inner courage - the bodaciousness - to reinvent my life and career. I decided to go back to school for a Master’s degree in Organization Development, start my own business, and write a book about my lessons learned about career success. My head was spinning there was so much to learn! The journey has had moments of excitement and satisfaction as well as confusion and discouragement. But through it all, no experience has been wasted. I’ve grown.
You can, too. Here are 5 steps any savvy woman can take to be in charge of her professional growth:
1. Choose To Be In Charge Of Your Professional Growth
The biggest mistake you can make it to rely on your employer to map out your career path or provide all the training and development you need. If you have a great manager interested in your growth or the company offers training courses or development opportunities, by all means, take advantage of it. But, many employers are strapped for time and cash to invest much in your growth, even the big ones. As head of corporate training for AOL I was under constant time and budget constraints, as were many of my training colleagues.
2. Make A Short List Of Ways You Want To Grow
If you like your current position and want to continue in the same direction, determine three skills you need to beef up. Feedback on performance reviews, input from trusted peers, or personal debriefs by a project leader are great ways to get some ideas. If you want to change careers, identify someone who has that job now and ask them the top three things he or she must do well in order to excel. More than three areas to improve can feel overwhelming.
3. Explore Options For You To Learn And Grow
Think of yourself as an investigator or researching surfing through the sea of options. Don’t make any conclusions yet, just explore what’s out there and write them down.
Community civic organizations such as the United Way, YMCA or the Chamber of Commerce offer programs that are excellent for leadership development and team building skills essential for many promotions. Plus, you get to expand your contacts while you contribute to the community.
Individual learning at home or on the road is an approach that offers the maximum flexibility. An online search on skills you want to build will reveal books, videos, webinars, teleseminars and more. Plus, there’s always your local library.
Last but not least, consider hiring a personal coach to work with you one-on-one. Personal attention can speed your learning curve and give you additional insights. Look for a coach who specializes in the areas of expertise you want to develop.
4. Determine What Options Fit Your Learning Style And Needs
Not everyone learns the same way or has the same needs, so ask yourself a few questions as you pare down what options best work for you. Consider:
What learning methods best suit you? Do you prefer to interact with others or listen to a lecture?
What’s the best way to learn the skill or knowledge you want to gain? For example, it’s tough to really understand what it takes to be a leader by reading a book, though that can supplement your knowledge.
How much time do you have to devote to professional development? Be realistic to yourself, your employer and your family. Negotiate temporary scheduling adjustments if needed.
How much money can you spend on professional development? The good news is that there are many non-traditional options that are low or no-cost. Your employer may even be willing to pay.
5. Get Started!
The biggest barrier to growth is simply never getting started. Henry James said, “It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” There’s no better time than right now to start living the career or business you’ve dreamed. The most successful, satisfied people in life, the people who are living the lives they’ve imagined are those who took action, one step at a time. So, get moving, even if you’re not sure how. Once you’re in motion, you can figure it out.
About Mary Foley
Get more free resources to increase your career confidence at MaryFoley.com, including your Free Sanity, Confidence & Fun Action Pack with eBooks How to Thrive on Shift & Change for Your Career and What Every Woman Must Know About Office Politics eBooks. Mary inspires women with practical advice to create sanity in your life and confidence in your career – all while having a bit of fun! She is the author of three books, a popular national speaker, and former co-host of the Girlfriend We Gotta Talk! radio show. Find out more at http://www.maryfoley.com.