How far would you go to invest in your professional development? What would you do if your organization didn’t have enough funding to pay for a training or workshop that contributed to your growth? What if your boss didn’t approve of your training request?
These are central questions that represent possible roadblocks, hoops and challenges you could face as you move up the career ladder. Are you ready to take charge of your professional development?
It Starts With You
It’s your responsibility to find growth opportunities that align with your career goals. From my personal experience, taking charge of my professional development honors my values as a lifelong learner.
After completing an intensive leadership development program through my organization, I noticed gaps in my learning I wanted to fill. Most company sponsored training didn’t focus on issues that mattered most to me, like research illustrating gender gaps in equal pay, promotions and career opportunities; diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in leadership or gender disparities in the workplace. I wanted to learn more.
I needed to get intentional about my professional development plan. If I wanted to expand my knowledge, I also had to step out of my comfort zone and take a bold step. I thus pursued a leadership credential at a private university for women to harness executive leadership skills that would give them a competitive edge. I learned many important lessons participating in a women’s leadership program that I would not have learned if I had not pursued the opportunity.
How to Take Charge of Your Personal Growth
Taking ownership of your career’s professional development starts by setting your intentions and creating measurable goals. Then, you must lay out a strategic plan for how you’ll accomplish your goals, even if real obstacles – like budget shortfalls or lacking support from senior leadership – get in your way.
In a recent Forbes article, the author recommends changing your mindset about career planning. He suggests these six ways to invest in your professional development:
1. Developing a growth mindset.
2. Reflecting on your past accomplishments and your future desires.
3. Setting goals.
4. Staying current on industry trends and what your network is doing.
5. Networking with others in your field of interest.
6. Prioritizing learning.
One tool which can support your career planning activities is an individual development plan (IDP). An IDP is a written plan that spells out what you are going to focus on in your career and what goal you want to accomplish. It details the steps you will take to achieve your goal.
An IDP also identifies resources like formal and informal learning opportunities that you’ll need to include in your plan to meet your goal. Three key components of any IDP are a measurable goal, milestones specific to that goal and a commitment to reviewing your plan.
Another tip is creating a robust IDP that represents your strengths, talents, values and short- and long-term career dreams. As you invest in your professional growth, remember to take full advantage of any resources within your organization and professional community that are available to you.
10 Reasons to Invest in Yourself
So, you’re still on the fence about investing in your professional development? Here is a list counting down my top 10 reasons you should give it a go:
10. Expanding your professional network.
9. Building self-awareness through a coach or a mentor.
8. Challenging yourself by learning a new topic or skill.
7. Stretching your imagination.
6. Honing your existing skills and strengths.
5. Rounding out your resume and giving yourself a competitive edge in your industry.
4. Developing your leadership voice, presence or philosophy.
3. Strengthening your soft skills to work more effectively with others.
2. Learning another perspective.
1. Adding value to your organization.
The best gift you can give yourself and your career is opportunity. Sometimes opportunities are within your reach and other times you must create opportunities for yourself.
Either way, it’s important to remember that with your professional development, you’re always in the driver’s seat.
Kima Tozay is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and subject matter expert on Counseling and Advocacy programs in her role at Navy Fleet & Family Support Center, Everett, Washington. Her government career spans more than 15 years, starting in the Navy. Kima completed her Masters in Social Work degree from the University of Washington and has held positions with the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) and the Army. Kima’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Quarter Award for her leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. She earned an Executive Leadership Certificate from Graduate School, USA. You can connect with Kima on LinkedIn.
This article originally appeared on December 22, 2021.