One of the greatest misconceptions I have seen over the past twenty-five years is the belief that personal and professional growth is synonymous with upward mobility or promotion and there is a clearly defined map that leads to that end. In my experience, this is a very narrow view that frequently leads to frustration and disappointment. Today I’m hoping to open a dialogue around a more healthy and effective mindset and set of actions centered around personal ownership, internal development and increasing readiness.
At the core is the critical realization that each of us is in control of our development and growth. We are in the driver’s seat at all times. Attempts to give others control is just choosing to have nobody steer. No one else can completely know or fully comprehend our goals and aspirations. No one else can learn and take action for us. At best, our leaders and other key stakeholders can only influence and guide us. So, begin by sitting in the driver’s seat, grabbing your future by both hands and beginning to steer.
There is one myth and trap we need to avoid as we begin to steer our careers—the assumption that growth and progression only come with upward mobility and promotion. Some of the greatest personal growth, professional development and career success experiences occur without changing roles or seats in a team or organization. There are very few jobs in today’s ever-changing world in which there is not some way to improve the circumstances, and as a result, increase the value of the role to the organization and increase individual growth through learning and challenge. The key to understanding what is best for one’s own situation is an honest self-evaluation of personal life priorities, inside and outside the job, and what role career plays in maintaining or achieving those priorities. The answer may just suggest growth and development within a specific role or set of jobs.
Readiness, Adaptability and Opportunity
For some, internal development is not enough. They need to see mobility and promotion in their future. These individuals frequently seek to have a clear map to their gold at the end of the career rainbow. While there are few who have become the doctor, police officer, firefighter or pilot they dreamed of being as a child, I have learned that most people stumbled into their career even though they now love what they do and are successful at it. So, if their success was not the result of carefully following an established career map or plan, how did they do it? The answer is found in three critical ingredients—readiness, adaptability and opportunity.
First, such individuals regularly invest in their personal toolbox—knowledge, skills, abilities and resources—and are consistently working to refine and reinforce their strengths and overcome or mitigate their weaknesses. In this way, they are ready to recognize and take action when the next opportunity presents itself.
Second, they focus their development on growing in those areas that capitalize on their strengths, characteristics and passions while keeping open to a variety of opportunities and experiences that would tap into who they are and what value they can bring. This strategy makes them much more adaptable, and in turn marketable, for new paths, challenges and experiences they may not have considered or been aware of on their own.
Third, they seize and even create opportunities through their increasing readiness and expanding adaptability. They become, to paraphrase an old saying, “The jack of many trades and the master of some.” As such, they become a highly sought-after contributor to a variety of teams.
Three Requirements of Effective Development
In order to qualify for a new role or new responsibilities if a change is on the radar, an individual should focus on and effectively meet three requirements.
First, s/he needs to perform his/her current role with excellence. There can be no decline in performance of the current role as s/he works to meet the other requirements. Otherwise, this demonstrates a lack of readiness.
Second, s/he needs to demonstrate his/her capability to do the new role by taking on some of the responsibilities and successfully completing them along with current duties. How much of the new role’s responsibilities s/he is doing will increase over time as s/he demonstrates the ability to successfully manage the challenge. Additionally, people should be able to naturally see him/her in the new role.
Third, the individual needs to be preparing his/her successor or at least, in the case of a more entry-level role, preparing support materials to help transition in the person that follows him/her. No team can afford an unnecessary void.
Hopefully, it has become clear that personal growth and especially professional development and progression are less about preset maps or paths. Instead, they are the results of readiness, adaptability, opportunities, excellence, stretch and preparing others. This is our philosophy and strategy at England Logistics. What is your experience? What is your approach in your organization?
As a Talent Management/HR executive with over 20 years of talent and human resource management experience, I strive to deliver value generating services to internal and external clients. This has provided me with the ability to lead or influence people in developing solutions to achieve higher levels of measurable success. My professional interests are targeted toward helping clients achieve their optimum performance through people solutions.