Advancing Your Career: Strategies for Career Development
For many of us finding a career that is satisfying and rewarding can be a daunting task. Knowing how to navigate the job market, grow in your current role, and develop a successful career can feel overwhelming. As a coach I work with clients all the time that find themselves unfulfilled or lost in their careers. In this blog post, I want to share some tips and strategies that can help you keep moving forward.
When navigating career goals understanding your strengths and weaknesses is so important! Reflecting on what you are good at and what you can improve on will help you identify areas for development and focus your efforts.
As you focus on your strengths try to reflect on your skills both inside and outside of your career. It also helps to consider things your co-workers and loved ones recognize you for. For example- if you're the office's unofficial IT support don't be afraid to add "computer savvy" to your list! When reflecting on your weaknesses take ownership of them. Remember to try and be as fair to yourself as possible - this means recognizing your weaknesses while not being overcritical.
At the end of this reflection period, you should have a clear idea of what areas you excel in and what needs work. Don't forget to include a short mission statement that helps give you direction going forward. It can be as detailed or brief as you'd like! A simple self-reflection statement should look something like this:
"My strengths include a strong work ethic, excellent problem-solving skills, and the ability to work collaboratively with a team. My weaknesses include a lack of experience in certain technical fields and a tendency to procrastinate. To develop my career, I need to focus on gaining experience in areas where I am weak and leveraging my strengths to achieve my goals. I also need to create a system to help me stay focused and on track to reach my goals."
Once you've created a statement like this your career development goals should be much easier to analyze. Now you're ready to come up with the details of your plan and take action!
When you have your strengths and weaknesses laid out, it's much easier to realize what obstacles are in your way and how to overcome them. Obstacles to career development will be different for each person, they often include a lack of education or experience, insufficient resources, lack of job opportunities, limited networking connections, and inadequate skills. In addition, personal issues such as work-life balance, financial constraints, self-doubt, and fear of failure can all impede career progress.
While your obstacles will be unique to you, I've noticed a few common hurdles while helping women overcome career obstacles.
1. Belief in hard work: Hear me out! I'm not saying being a hard worker is a bad thing but there is a difference between hard work and work that advances your career. It's easy to dig in or become comfortable in your position but this can lead to you missing out on work that gets you noticed.
2. Little to no support structure: Having a mentor and networking are so important, especially in high level organizations. Clients that are having trouble moving up are almost always lacking in this department. You need people on your side to advance! I've found setting a weekly or monthly goal of establishing new contacts gets most people over this hurdle.
3. Risk adverse: The last obstacle I wanted to talk about is shying away from risk. More specifically I'm talking about waiting to be noticed for advancement. I see this problem tie in with "belief in hard work" obstacle all the time. You need to have the courage and self-confidence to reach outside of your comfort zone. This can mean taking on assignments that stretch your expertise or asking for advancement.
Whatever your obstacles are, each one requires careful planning, targeted action, and the support of mentors and colleagues. Let's look into a few methods I've found that can you overcome these obstacles.
Develop a support system
We touched on needing a support network for your goals, but I wanted to touch on just how to go about creating or expanding your network.
Your support system should consist of a variety of people, from mentors to colleagues, who can provide you with guidance and advice. Networking with colleagues and industry professionals is also a great way to unlock career opportunities. This allows you to learn from experienced professionals, build relationships, and increase your visibility in the industry.
One great way to quickly expand your network is through professional career development courses. Participating in career development courses is a great way to meet new contacts that share your goals. These programs provide valuable resources, such as training, mentorship, and skill building, that can help you develop your professional skills.
Social Media networking
Social media networking is a great way to improve your professional profile and find new career opportunities. Networking this way allows you to connect with other professionals in the same field, get advice from mentors and industry experts, and even find job postings. When done correctly, social media networking can be a powerful tool for career development and advancement. I say correctly because a strong social media network is more than just updating your LinkedIn profile!
Just like with the self-reflection from earlier, you need to look at where your strength and weaknesses are when it comes to your online presence. Once you've done this look for ways to act on it. This could mean creating profiles on niche sites related to your industry, starting a blog or reevaluating your online etiquette.
Be the right kind of you
We've all heard the line "Just be yourself " before. In order to make the most of your networking experiences, it's important to make sure that you are presenting a professional version of yourself, free of any negative comments or posts that may be seen as unprofessional. In other words, be yourself but read the room. From an online perspective this means ensuring that your profile is up-to-date and that your posts are reflective of the qualities you want to be associated with. At the workplace it's being mindful of what you're saying by taking into account the situation. By being the right kind of you, you can make sure that your networking efforts are supporting your career development goals.
Finding a mentor
Someone to coach you in your career is a great way to develop your career. A mentor can provide you with advice, guidance, and support as you build your skills, knowledge, and confidence in your chosen career path. This person can be from your workplace, your industry or a career coach like myself. A mentor should provide insight and help you identify job opportunities and career paths that are best suited to your skills and interests.
The key to this relationship starts with an open dialogue, a focus on areas of mutual interest, and the creation of a safe and trusting environment for you to be vulnerable and receive honest feedback.
Troubleshooting your career obstacles
The problems and obstacles we identify through self-reflection aren't always easy to fix. Just because we know the problem doesn't mean we know how to fix it. To troubleshoot these issues, it’s important to take action and analyze the problem from different angles. You could use brainstorming techniques to help you clarify the situation or look for more concrete ways to take action. There are tons of ways to help yourself push through to reach your goals. In this next section I'd like to explore some exercises that you may find helpful.
Mind mapping is a great way to quickly brainstorm and gain clarity on a development challenge. If you find yourself stuck on a particular obstacle or aren't sure how to reach your goal, give Mind mapping a try.
Start by writing down the challenge or goal in the center of the page and draw a circle around it. Then, draw lines out from the circle and write down any ideas that come to mind in relation to the challenge or goal. Don't worry about the order or the structure of the ideas – write down anything that comes to mind. Once the five minutes are up, review the mind map and look for any patterns or connections between ideas. This can help you identify the key steps or actions you need to take to address the challenge.
Mind mapping is a powerful tool that can help you gain clarity and focus on a development challenge. It's a great way to quickly brainstorm and gain insight into how to best approach a situation. So, the next time you're facing a career related challenge, give mind mapping a try – it could be just the tool you need to get you on the path.
"Coach yourself" Career Questions
As a coach, the questions I ask in sessions are tailored to each client's challenges and needs. However, this doesn't mean that general run-of-the-mill questions are worthless. To ensure you’re setting yourself up for success, it’s never a bad idea to ask yourself some meaningful questions.
For starters, think about the challenges you're facing right now. Do you have a timeline? Are your goals realistic? What kind of career path do you want to pursue? What skills do you need to develop to be successful in your career? It’s also important to consider what resources you can use to learn more about your desired industry. Go back to your self-reflection and ask questions you may have overlooked or didn't think important. You could surprise yourself with the answers you come up with!
Career development is an ongoing process that requires thoughtful consideration and planning. When thinking about negotiating a raise or advancement, it's important to consider your BATNA, or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. This is the course of action you want to take if no agreement is reached. Factors such as your skill set, desired salary, and desired workplace environment should all be taken into account when considering a BATNA. Be honest with oneself and ask questions like, "What are my strengths and weaknesses?" and "What would be my ideal job?" Having a clear picture of your BATNA can help as a guide a in your career development and ensure that you make decisions that are beneficial to your long-term career success.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is put yourself out there and force yourself to grow. Taking on new challenges can help you to develop new skills, gain confidence, and strengthen your ability to solve problems. Through taking on new challenges, you can become more creative and find new ways to approach difficult tasks. Most importantly, engaging in new challenges can help to develop a stronger sense of individual identity and purpose in one’s career.
Career Development Coaching
If you find yourself increasingly frustrated professional career development coaching may be the answer. As a coach I can help you identify and pursue career goals, develop skills, build confidence, create a career plan, and more. A good career development coach can help you to evaluate what motivates you and identify your strengths and weaknesses. They can provide insight into the job market and advice on how to network and market yourself.
For those looking to transition into a new job or career, a career development coach can help you assess and choose career paths and provide guidance and support throughout the transition process. A coach also can help you to understand the job market better and provide valuable advice on how to move forward.
The point of all these exercises is for you to develop a clear vision of your desired career path. It provides a sense of purpose and direction in life, helping to create focus and motivation to reach your goals. Knowing what you want to accomplish in your career helps make important decisions about education, job opportunities and other life choices.
Having a career vision can also help you stay resilient in the face of adversity and set-backs. It gives you something to focus on and strive for and provides a framework for setting and achieving short-term goals along the way to the ultimate destination. Having a clear vision of your career goals also makes it easier to ask for what you want and need from employers.
Career development is a lifelong journey, and it is important to have a clear vision of where you want to go. Take the time to reflect on your professional aspirations and create a roadmap for how you want to get there. With a clear vision and a plan of action, you will be on your way to achieving your career goals.
If any of this advice has spoken to you consider checking out my post on Ikigai. Ikigai is a way of living that empowers you to recognize and take control of what really matters to you.