One of the most challenging yet valuable aspects of career planning is figuring out what skills you need to develop to advance your career.
To do this, you need to build your own personal development plan, which helps you define what is important to you, what you want to achieve, and what you need to improve over time to reach these goals.
Let me give you an example.
I was career coaching Chris, an early-career project coordinator with a high-profile industry association, a while ago.
Chris’s job was to manage the research and information gathering on various business issues and feed it back to senior management to help them form policy decisions. Typically, Chris would meet with this small group, present her findings, and recommend a course of action. While Chris’s recommendations were always welcomed, she found that the discussion would often go down a path that Chris felt was not the best.
When that happened, Chris wanted to speak up and express an opinion but was reluctant to do so in front of senior managers. Sometimes, Chris felt the wrong decision was being made. But what was more unsettling for Chris was the disappointment she felt in herself for not speaking up.
After consulting with co-workers, colleagues, former bosses, and friends, it became clear that Chris’s lack of assertiveness was a problem. In fact, many people described Chris as “one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.” Her pleasant manner and cooperative attitude had worked well throughout her career, but at other times, it worked against her.
While coaching Chris, it became apparent to both of us that she would have to become more assertive, when necessary, if she ever planned to move into a management role that involved the leadership of people. In particular, she needed to improve her ability to express an opinion confidently.
If you find yourself in a situation similar to Chris, you can build your own development plan by answering these questions:
- A goal I have for the next year is:
- This goal is essential because:
- The action steps I will pursue and my expected dates for completion are:
- The obstacles I will encounter are:
- The resources and support I will need to complete these steps are:
- The structures I will use to motivate myself are:
- How I will measure my progress:
Here are Chris’s answers to these questions, which you can use as a point of reference.
A goal I have for the next year is:
To become more assertive—to stand up for what I believe in and not avoid conflict.
This goal is essential because:
I will be more respected at work when I stand up for myself.
The action steps I will pursue, and my expected dates for completion are:
I will seek opportunities to express opposing views in a constructive way. I plan to enrol in a public speaking course, such as Toastmasters, and join an outside board or committee in a volunteer capacity. I will also try to find a mentor who can help me.
The obstacles I will encounter are:
These actions will be difficult for me and outside my comfort zone. But I do understand I need to challenge myself with skills-based practice.
The resources and support I will need to complete these steps are:
Time availability outside work hours will be necessary. I will also seek reading material and training around assertiveness and conflict management. Of course, the support of senior management is valuable, and I am confident they will provide this support.
The structures I will use to motivate myself are:
I will find a public speaking program where I have to attend a weekly meeting. I also plan to maintain a daily log of situations I encounter and how I respond.
How I will measure my progress:
I know I will have succeeded when I feel more comfortable in difficult situations and when the CEO has enough confidence in me to lead one of our regular monthly meetings