By Emily He, SVP HCM Marketing, Oracle
Career development has traditionally been viewed as upward mobility—climbing up the corporate ladder, figuring out how to get that next promotion, and solidifying your position in a company for 10, 15, or even 20+ years.
But career development today paints a vastly different picture. In recent years we’ve seen an evolution from this traditionally vertical path to a more customized career path. Workers today, especially younger generations, are no longer interested in climbing the proverbial corporate ladder and staying with one organization for their entire careers. This new generation wants a more personalized, unique, ‘create your own path’ approach to career development and overall success.
With many workers now defining success by experience, it’s important for individuals, HR leaders, and managers alike to take control of their career destiny and foster an environment of support and inspiration. In celebration of National Career Development Month, here are a few ways to start jumpstarting your career development:
Take Control and Be Proactive
The first thing to understand about career development is that its success lies in the hands of the beholder. It’s up to the individual to decide what they want for their future and take the necessary steps to make it happen. I know that may seem daunting and like an overwhelming task, but by being intentional, investing in micro-moments, and surrounding yourself with the inspiration you’ll realize that when it comes to your future, anything is possible.
- Be intentional: The first key to taking control of your career development is being intentional with each action and investment you make. This will require a lot of self-reflection, which is something I personally recommend and encourage all of my teams. In order to arrive at your end destination, you first need to determine where you’re going. Ask yourself, what’s working in my career, what am I best at, what makes me feel fulfilled? And what doesn’t? Set specific goals and figure out exactly what skillsets you want to grow, or areas you want to explore. Once you’ve determined where you want to go, it’s time to get proactive and start asking for opportunities. Remember, nothing in your life will change unless you take action to make it happen.
- Invest in Micro-Moments Over Mentors: Over the years there has been so much emphasis placed on the concept of finding the right mentor to help guide your career. And while I do believe we can learn from others’ strengths, I don’t think this idea of having one or two “career mentors” is truly helpful. Instead, we should be investing in micro-moments. What’s a micro-moment, you ask? It’s an opportunity where you can learn something from anyone around you – it doesn’t have to be an official course or training program, but any skill, tip, or insight that someone can share. By intentionally seeking out these learning moments, you can accomplish, skill by skill, everything you need to take your career to the next level.
- For example, I once watched a presentation where the speaker was an awe-inspiring presenter. I thought to myself, “Wow. I want to present like that!” So, I got proactive and asked if he could include me in the prep process for his next presentation, in exchange I would help pull together his entire deck. He agreed and I learned tremendous amounts that would now help me become a more effective storyteller. I realized the secret to any great presentation is preparation, preparation, and preparation, and that made what was once an unreachable goal now very reachable. All because I saw a micro-moment and turned that into a learning opportunity.
- Build a Community of Inspiration: I was once told that you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with – and I firmly believe that’s true. Drawing back to my point about intention, it’s important to deliberately surround yourself with the right people, the people who will build you up, challenge you, and inspire you to be your best. If you’re constantly around people who bring you down or spread negativity, you won’t grow to your full potential and will eventually adopt the same mindset. When building this community of inspiration, take the opportunity to seek out the type of people you want to learn from – engage with them, connect with them, and ask them questions. In a virtual world, it might not be as easy to connect over coffee as it once was, but inspiration can come in all shapes and sizes: podcasts, books, virtual events, docuseries, etc. Whoever and wherever it is, soak in the knowledge of those around you.
Can You Drive Career Development with Technology? Learn More.
Foster a Culture of Development
While career development ultimately is driven by the individual themselves, HR leaders and managers can play a critical role by providing the right type of culture. In order for employees to feel confident enough to branch out, be proactive, and go after their dreams, they need a supportive work environment.
Leaders and managers should get to know each employee as an individual and encourage them to create their own paths. In my experience, I’ve found that the best managers are really good at pattern spotting. They get to know the employee as a person and start to see things in that person that the employee may not have even realized themselves. Good managers will push their employees to self-examine, to be intentional, and to seek out learning opportunities. They will help their teams grow in ways they didn’t know were possible. Together, they can make career dreams become a reality.
Step Up to the Challenge
National Career Development month is a great opportunity for us all to self-reflect. Where are we now? Where do we want to be? And what actions do we need to take to get there? Remember, career development comes down to you and the actions you take. I encourage all of you to challenge yourself regularly and find one thing every day to try differently, something that scares you, something to take you out of your comfort zone, or something you want to learn. By intentionally pushing yourself little by little every day, you will build your muscles of courage, independence, and success. And you will be able to define the career path that you want.
Now that I’ve shared all of my best-kept secrets on career development, I challenge you – What action will you take today?