I haven’t written a career piece in a while and I think it had much to do with the fact that I have spent the last few months trying to settle into my new role, which has come with growth of it’s own. It has been a big change for me, far different from my previous roles, where the transition felt much shorter and easier. Nonetheless, I have made the best out of it and I’m finally starting to feel like I know what I’m doing and where I can add value.
As moms, we are often looking at how we can make life easier, more comfortable or better for our families and this is often at the expense of doing the same for ourselves. We go through phases where family comes first, then we drop the ball on career development, or whatever else we want to pursue. And while this is completely normal for all of us, there are things that we can try to do, to get our careers back on track. We should always aim to become better versions of ourselves.
Craft a personal development plan
The first quarter of the year is a great time to think about career growth and your personal development plan to help you achieve it. Part of taking ownership and responsibility of your career growth is setting goals and a path in your mind about where you want to be and what it will take to get there. When you have a solid plan, you are more likely to achieve it.
Take some time out one evening, with a warm cup of tea or your favorite beverage and jot down some answers to the following questions:
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you using your strengths frequently?
- What are your current skills?
- What are your skills gaps or skills you would like to attain?
- What would you like to be better at?
- What would challenge or ”stretch” you? and when would you like to set this challenge in motion?
- What is the common feedback that you get from your colleagues and stakeholders? (positive and negative)
- Is your current role likely to be impacted by future technological changes or robots? If so, what alternative career options do you have?
- Review job descriptions of the job you want to have in the near future – what will it take for you to be ready for that role?What gaps do you have between where you are now and that future role?
At the end of this exercise, you should have a clear idea of where you are at now, where you want to be and what you should be doing to get there. This will enable you to then set some specific, time-bound and measurable goals around your ideas. Once you have the goals and timelines, print the document out and place it where you can see it everyday.
Review your goals every 3-6 months.
Leverage social media
We spend a significant amount of time on social media and my view is that we should make it about connecting with friends and family, as much as we should make it about getting career and life inspiration. One of the best ways to do this, is to review your follower list and clear out whoever shouldn’t be on there. We can easily get caught up in following people that leave us feeling negative about ourselves and where we are in life. Regardless of the social media channel, your feed should inspire you and make you feel good about yourself – this is something that is within our control.
- Create a professional LinkedIn profile if you haven’t done so. If you do have one, review your profile and update and edit it where necessary.
- Follow companies that may have your future dream role
- Do a social media audit – check who is following your account and review the accounts that you are following. I hope you are following me on Instagram 🙂
- Don’t be shy to engage with leaders, peers and subject matter experts who are active on social media.
- If your personal social media account is not set on privacy-mode, make sure that you are only posting and engaging on appropriate content. Your future employer could run a search on your profile. Keep it clean.
- Research and follow individuals in your career field that inspire you. Research their career history and what they did to get to their level (i.e. did they have a mentor? did they go on an international secondment? did they do a post graduate degree? etc).
- Watch YouTube videos, Ted-Talks and follow inspirational leaders in your field on LinkedIn.
Engage with other professionals
How often do you leave a work function immediately after the formalities? I know that its difficult for us, as parents, to hang around until late when there is an event – but at times, we deliberately avoid networking with our own colleagues, because we think that we know them well. This could result in missed opportunities to engage on topics that you don’t really have the time to do during working hours. I’m also guilty of taking my phone with me when I go to the canteen, which then prevents me from having in-person conversations with others, because I’m looking down at my screen.
An area that I seem to have neglected lately is attending industry related events, networking sessions or functions where someone who inspires me is speaking. I used to be really good at this. Again, these usually take place in the evenings and it can be tricky to navigate your attendance around your evening home routine – however – it is valuable to pick out the few that will really add value and make an effort to attend them.
Keep connections with former colleagues and bosses. By now you know that you should never burn bridges, because it’s a small world. Invite them as a contact on LinkedIn and check-in with them from time-to-time. I talk to my former boss once in every two months, because we had a great relationship and I want to maintain it.
Lastly, do you have a mentor or peer in your industry, whom you can bounce off new ideas and thoughts on? This could also be a focus area for you this year. Many opportunities come through people you know – and its important for those ‘people’ to know where you’re at and where you’re wanting to go.
As a Learning and Development manager, it would be a shame if I didn’t delve into this one. Many people still limit themselves to the belief that a formal course if the “best” way to learn and this is absolutely not the case. Formal studies are relevant to certain careers, at certain points, like if you want to enter a specific field, are gearing towards an executive role, or working towards obtaining a specific destination, like a CA (SA).
However, learning happens every day through experiences, engagements as well as through personal effort. There are great resources out there such as our friend Google, Pinterest, blogs, audio books, podcasts, Udemy, YouTube, Ted and LinkedIn Learning, where we can get cutting-edge learning content, that is shared by industry experts.
Keep in mind that only 10% of learning takes place in a formal classroom. 90 % of learning is absorbed on the job and through mentorship and coaching, which is more practical and tangible. So don’t wait until you have saved up for a course or been awarded a bursary by your employer.
Do what you can, with what you have now. Learn where you are right now!
This is a topic that I will most likely be expanding on in the future, because there is just so much to say; but I hope you have found this helpful thus far.
If you haven’t done so already, I would really appreciate it if you could subscribe to my blog posts and YouTube channel.
What have been the keys to your career growth? Please drop me a comment, so that I can learn from you too.
Modern Zulu Mom