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Via Reflektive : 5 Tips to Prepare for a Career-Growth Conversation

With companies increasingly concerned with employee engagement, career development meetings have become more common. Career development itself has changed significantly over the last few decades. Gone are the days where a career path was a straight line up the corporate ladder; today’s employees favor opportunities to increase their skills and usefulness as much as (or more than) promotions.

The modern workplace offers ample opportunity for skill-based career growth. Today’s companies tend to have a flatter structure, with more importance given to collaboration between teams than direct lines of command from the CEO on down. An employee can build a solid, rewarding career without any vertical movement–an ideal situation for those employees who have no interest in assuming managerial positions.

Career development meetings provide clarity and guidance to help employees reach career goals–when handled correctly. While managers play important roles in career development, the primary responsibility lies with the employee. A little preparation will help you get the most out of your next career meeting, whether it’s part of your annual performance review or a specially scheduled meeting with the boss.

Memory is Fallible: Take Notes

Even if your manager favors frequent, informal one-on-one meetings, you’ll only have the opportunity to discuss career development a few times a year. Will you be able to accurately remember all your accomplishments and concerns between meetings?

Keeping a career journal ensures you’ll have accurate information at your fingertips when you meet with your manager. It’s an excellent way to recap your accomplishments, record potential career development discussion questions as they come to you, and note areas where you need to develop your skills. Your journal can be a Google Doc, a note on your phone, or a physical book–all can be used to make sure you don’t miss anything important from one career development meeting to the next.

Set the Agenda

The tone of career development meetings is generally set by the employee rather than the manager. Take full advantage of this by creating an agenda before each meeting. Use your career journal to identify points for discussion, including updates on any career development plans decided on during your last meeting, your recent accomplishments and triumphs, and any areas where you see a need for improvement.

Send the agenda to your manager in advance of the meeting, and ask him if he has anything to add to the agenda. Doing so demonstrates your initiative while also considering his perspective.

Anticipate Questions

Your manager will have her own thoughts, suggestions, and opinions about your career path. Try to anticipate her concerns before the meeting. Consider the types of questions she’s likely to ask and practice answering them. Suggest career development discussion questions as part of your agenda, so you both know what topics will be discussed.

While it sounds silly, practicing your responses with a friend as your audience helps you get your thoughts in order and prepare for the meeting. Practicing in front of a mirror also helps–and gives you a chance to check your body language.

Understand the Three C’s

To get the most out of your career development meeting, consider the three C’s: context, congruence, and competencies:

Context requires you to examine your career aspirations in light of your organization’s culture. Use career discussion meetings to find out what it takes to move forward in the company, who assigns staff to projects, who makes promotion decisions, and how to best focus your efforts.

Congruence refers to how well your career goals mesh with company goals. When an employee’s career path complements company goals, everyone wins. Managers are much more likely to support your aspirations if they can see how the company benefits.

Competencies are the skills and knowledge you need to further your career path. Identifying skill gaps, seeking developmental opportunities, and requesting constructive feedback on your work all help build competencies.

Define Your Own Success

Career development meetings help you define and refine your personal career goals. Your definition of career success may be very different from a coworker’s. While some people still work their way up the corporate ladder and dream of management positions, others want to develop a skill set, learn more about other areas of the organization, or develop conflict resolution skills to better manage conflict within their team. Your career path is your own, and as long as you’re applying your skills in a way that benefits the company, your manager should support it.

Via ForbesHow To Make Sure Your Next Job Offers Career Growth

Career growth is a factor many job seekers prioritize when choosing their next career move. If you’re early in your career, you want to build a long-term foundation. If you’re mid-career, you want to fill in gaps your skills or expertise. If you’re later in your career, you don’t have as many moves to make so you want to ensure this next job gets you to or close to your end goal.

Most companies will say they offer career growth, but how do you make sure the company fosters growth and that your role in particular has opportunity for growth? Here are five ways to make sure your next job offers career growth:

Compare the new job to your existing resume

Irrespective of the company you’re joining, the job itself could be a growth opportunity because it fills a gap in your resume. This could be a particular skill – e.g., use of a particular software or system, financial analysis, client interaction. Or you might be using the same skills but in a different industry or geography. Finally, this job might expand your management experience — of people, budgets or projects.

Review upcoming projects and responsibilities

During the interview process, confirm the day-to-day responsibilities, as well as projects in the pipeline. Ask for how success will be measured and specific results the company is looking for. Are you challenged and excited by what you hear? Will getting this job done test your abilities and stretch your comfort zone? Or do you think you’ll get the hang of things within a few months? New jobs will often be challenging simply because you are new to how the company does things and what exactly you need to accomplish. But eventually you will adapt, and if career growth is a priority, you want to ensure there is enough variability in the job to keep you challenged.

Look at the people who came before you

Also during the interview process, ask what happened to the person in the role before you. If they moved up in the company, that’s a good sign. If they moved into a good role in another company, that’s still a good sign. If they’re detoxing at a silence-only monastery, that’s not necessarily a bad sign (maybe it was a bucket list item for them) but you may want to dig further. Keep in mind that the issue with your role could be how it’s structured or it could be the boss. If you can, ask people who know your prospective boss whether s/he coaches and mentors the team.

Check the overall company’s track record for people development

Not just for your role, but overall for the company, look at where people who have left the company have landed. Do people move into bigger roles and brand-name companies? Or do people take lateral moves into roles with the same responsibilities (a potential sign that people are just looking to get out or that experience at that company doesn’t propel people upward)? Ask recruiters if they value talent from that company. Some companies are known for developing their people well, and some are know for burning people out.

Confirm how you’re defining career growth so you look at the right factors

So far, my examples have been about expanding your skill set or expertise to grow your career, but your particular career might need a different kind of boost. Let’s say you have worked exclusively at large companies but you want to migrate to start-ups. A career-growing move might be to take a role at a smaller company, even if it comes with a smaller team and/ or a smaller scope. If it gets you into a different kind of environment and proves you can work more hands-on and with fewer resources, then this could be exactly what your career needs.

Career growth is a catch-all phrase that encompasses a lot of factors. Make sure you clearly define what your career needs so you don’t model your decisions after someone else’s career path.

Via Forbes : What To Do When You’re Unemployed

Whether you are a recent college graduate, got laid off or are in the middle of a career transition, it is natural to feel unmoored when you are unemployed. It can often feel overwhelming, so it is good to impose some structure as you search for a full-time job. So where do you start? Here are a few steps to take when you are unemployed:

Keep A Schedule

When you are unemployed, it is important to keep a schedule to ensure productivity and to maintain your mental health. Not keeping a schedule can lead to getting into a rut, or developing depression, and lowering your self-esteem. Set an alarm and get up at the same time every day, create a to-do list and set about completing it like it is your job.

Get Outside

It is easy when you’re unemployed to rationalize staying at home most of the time. It forces you to focus on applying for jobs, and it will eliminate the temptation/necessity to spend money, but it is terrible for your mental and physical health. Studies show taking breaks helps increase focus, and exercise helps temper anxiety (which is often high when you’re unemployed), so make to get outside, go on walks and breathe fresh air every day, ultimately it will help your focus and your health.

Get A Short-Term Job

If you need money now, try getting a short-term job: join a temp agency, get a job in hospitality, walk dogs, babysit, etc. Temporary jobs can have flexible and untraditional hours, leaving time for you to take interviews and job search. They are also easy to quit once you have a full-time position.

Measure Your Job Applications

What gets measured gets managed, and writing down the job applications you submit is a great way to feel confident and see your progress during an uncertain time. It is also a great way to orient yourself and set goals, for example, five applications a week, two networking appointments, etc. Measure all of your progress and build on it, it will help you become more productive and will cultivate your self-esteem.

Follow-Up

After you submit an application or meet with a potential connection, make sure to follow-up with them to show your interest and maintain that relationship. When you’re applying for a job and have not heard from them in a couple of weeks, send an e-mail reiterating your interest and to check the status of their search. If you have met with a connection, make sure and maintain that relationship by following-up. It is easy to make a new connection, it is harder to maintain one.

Socialize

Networking does not have to be a contrived event where everyone wears name tags, it can simply be making friends in your industry: go to industry events and strike-up conversations with people, go to events and presentations and support your friends. It is important to meet executives and senior people in the industry, but it is also important to make friends with your peers. Not only will they be the people who come up in the industry with you, but they will often hear about job opportunities in their firm or around the industry, they are a source of support and information. So do not dismiss building relationships with your peers, ultimately those connections may be more enduring and important to your career and enrich your life in ways connections with senior professionals will not.

Volunteer

A great way to build your confidence and sense of purpose is to volunteer for a cause you care about. Sometimes, you can even accrue some experience in your field by volunteering at certain organizations, and it will help you get out of the house and meet people.

Take A Class

It’s important to take stock of your skills, technical and soft, and see if there is something you can improve or develop that would make you a more attractive candidate. Whether it is writing, programming, etc., strengthening a weakness or acquiring a skill that is needed for your desired field is a very productive way to improve yourself as you are applying for jobs.

Via The Balance Careers : 4 Ways to Take Charge of Your Career Growth

When you think about career growth, do you also think about that coworker who doesn’t work as hard as you, who’s not quite as intelligent as you, but who keeps getting promoted—and you don’t? Is she the boss’s niece? Does she have dirt on the VP of sales? Is the head of human resources her die-hard fan? Or is she just attacking her career from a different perspective?

She might have some inside connection, but it’s more likely that she’s just personally taking responsibility for her career development, while you’re waiting for someone else to show you the way.

It’s logical to expect your boss to give you a promotion when you’ve earned one. It’s also logical to expect the HR department to have a succession plan in place that involves promotions at all levels—including yours. But if you want to experience career growth, you need to take matters into your own hands.

Speak Up When an Opportunity Arises

Employees would like to think that promotion decisions are made based on merit, but managers are imperfect people and they often make assumptions. For instance, the manager may think, “Jane probably doesn’t want that senior trainer position because it requires lots of travel and she has little kids at home.”

Now, this assumption could violate gender discrimination laws, but that doesn’t mean that subtle discrimination doesn’t happen. So speak up. When an opportunity arises that you’re interested in, say something to your manager and express your interest.

Keep in mind that you probably have skills and interests that your boss knows nothing about. She won’t know about them either if you don’t tell her. If you have an interest in a new area or in managing people, let her know. Otherwise, she may pass you up for an employee who does speak up.

Speak Up Before an Opportunity Arises

Sometimes a colleague gets promoted or a new hire comes in for a job you never even knew existed—a job you would have applied for if you’d known about it. How can you get these hidden jobs? By speaking up sooner rather than later.

This doesn’t mean that you need to bombard your boss with information on how you’d like to proceed with your career, but it does mean letting her know the paths you’re interested in. Your annual review is a great time to talk about these things.

As you’re setting your goals for the next year, talk about what you want to do and ask for assignments that will help you achieve this. If you want to manage people, tell your boss and ask her to make you the team leader on a project. If you want to move from tax accounting to auditing, ask if you can work with any special projects or cross-functional teams.

Find Out What Training You Need and Pursue It

People often talk about the importance of having a mentor, and this is one of the reasons. Find a coworker who currently has the position you’re targeting and ask, “What do I need to do to end up where you are?” Listen and do those things. Some of that training may include work experience, and some may come from classroom learning.

For instance, some jobs favor people with MBAs. If you want that type of job, you’d better go back to school. If you want to become a high school principal, your bachelor’s degree in math education probably won’t cut it. If you want to become the head of HR one day, you might want to pursue an SPHR certification, a master’s degree in HR, or an MBA.

Some career paths don’t require formal certifications or degrees, so spending your time on them is great academically but won’t necessarily advance your career. That’s why you should ask the people who are doing the jobs that you think you’d like to do.

Reach Outside Your Comfort Zone

Don’t ever sit back and wait for someone else to notice that you’d do a great job in a higher-level position. Volunteer for challenges, like serving on special projects and cross-functional teams that open you up to new possibilities.

Also, remember to build relationships outside your direct line of reporting. Always work hard and be pleasant to coworkers. If you have an interest in moving to a new department, work on developing a relationship with the department head.

Ultimately, your career growth is your responsibility, so take charge!

Via Forbes : 10 Career Growth Questions You Probably Aren’t Asking Yourself

Career growth is something we often have to be intentional about to see ideal results. Excuses, a lack of clarity and persistence, following someone else’s dreams and poor inspirational support are common career growth barriers. Thomas Edison showed such great tenacity with his ambitions. Great leaders are always growing and don’t let pride get in the way of their career growth. Whether you’re a manager, director or senior professional, keep taking actions to achieve your goals.

I recently asked a client experiencing career burnout to tell me ten things she likes about herself and three reasons she’s afraid of failure. One thing she mentioned was that she likes to think. I’m the same. There is power in being still and having a good, long think. By asking questions, we learn, figure out solutions, develop self-awareness and ultimately grow. I hope you feel inspired and provoked by these questions.

What stretch goal am I excited about achieving next month?

If you’re not being challenged, you will eventually become bored and disconnected from your work. We also need the element of excitement ever so often because feelings drive our level of commitment and actions.

What was my professional highlight this month?

If you’re struggling to find one, then it could be time to freshen up your role and incorporate some of the tactics mentioned in a previous article about career boredom. Keeping a journal of your career accomplishments comes in handy when you need to update your résumé. Struggling to think of a professional highlight? Create one for yourself next month.

Is my personal brand still reflecting my three brand attributes?

Brand attributes are something I always identify whenever I’m writing a résumé. Your résumé needs to have a human touch and convey who you are. Think about three career accomplishments. What characteristics helped you accomplish those things? These are likely your brand attributes.

What have I learned about myself this month?

Lao Tzu, a Chinese philosopher, said, “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” Things may not always go as you wish, but the lessons we learn often develop noble traits of character.

What was happening at the times when I didn’t perform my best work?

Knowing your ideal work environment plays a powerful part in choosing your career path and helps you improve productivity. You may even find that there’s a pattern to the things that hinder you from excelling in areas of your work.

What meaning does my work have?

Career burnout has been linked to a lack of meaning. I previously talked about how meaningful work improves engagement and career satisfaction in this article.

How has my lifestyle impacted my work this month?

I believe in comprehensive career coaching. Our lifestyle impacts our decision-making process and productivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “individual employees and employers can derive economic benefits from improved health.”

What is lacking in my network?

Mark Granovetter studied job-seekers in his book, The Strength of Weak Ties, to find out how social networks play a role in finding employment. His research showed that when you tap into your loose tie connections, you’ll have greater success in your job search, career satisfaction and will earn a higher salary. You want your network (and by network, I don’t just mean those you add on LinkedIn) to be diverse in location, age, industry and job-level.

What’s stopping me?

Often it’s one of the “E” words: excuses or emotions.

What did I do this month to step out of my comfort zone?

Going outside your comfort zone will develop your experience and confidence. You won’t be capable of something if you don’t try it.

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