Taking Control of Your Career Development
When it comes to your career development, it pays to take matters into your own hands. If you’re waiting for a manager or mentor to tell you exactly what you need to do in order to grow your skill set or get promoted, you could be waiting forever.
If you are thinking of getting a new job, changing industries, or have bigger ambitions than your current role, your boss may not even be that interested in helping you. No one knows you better than you know yourself.
Career development means more than just taking a class or going to a networking event—it’s thinking two (or more!) steps ahead for where you want to go and grow in your career, and what you need to learn or experience to get there.
Taking An Internal Audit
You might start by taking an internal audit. No, you don’t need to get out your shoebox of receipts to do this! And this isn’t only about being proficient in Excel or other specific software, although that is part of the bigger picture. This audit is about what skills you have, what work experiences are under your belt, and understanding what your strengths are.
On the flip side, be honest with yourself about areas where you’d like to grow or improve. Not sure where to begin? You could dust off your resume and start by highlighting examples that represent a skill set.
For example, maybe you work in marketing and have designed a go-to-market campaign, or you are a software engineer who can write code in a handful of programming languages. You might take a look at some job descriptions in your area for more inspiration.
Understanding Your Goals
Before you take all your newfound self-knowledge and start signing up for the hottest new career bootcamp, you could give yourself a bit of time to dig deeper. It can be easy (and tempting) to jump straight into tactics, but you might want to align your development next steps with your goals.
If your manager would love for you to become an expert in a new subject area but you really want to change course and move to a new industry, you might want to think about how much time and energy you devote to which project.
Utilizing Your Network
Gathering perspectives from smart people you respect is another great way to assess your career development needs. I like going on what I call a “career listening tour.” First, I set a goal of what I would like help with. For example, if you’re hoping to be promoted, you might try to talk to folks who would have insights about what it takes to succeed at the next level.
You could make a list of everyone in your network who would be a resource here: Think of former colleagues or managers, friends, friends of friends, even fellow alums from your college or university who work in a similar area.
You might draft a short email explaining what you’re doing and why you’re reaching out to this person. I like to ask two questions: The first is focused on the goal at hand, and the second is, “Is there anyone else you think I should speak to?”
Make it easy for them to say yes to you by requesting a short amount of their time, around 15 minutes at most, and use an online scheduler that connects to your calendar so that they can choose a time that works best for them. Your listening tour can have as few as three people or as many as you like, depending on your network and goals.
Career Services for Professionals
You might think of career services as something you’d only have access to in college, but SoFi members get access to free tools and resources to help you take your next step forward. Use your sofi.com login to access the career portal, where you can set goals and take a career self-assessment to better understand your professional strengths.
If you’re on the job hunt, try out the resume feature. Upload your resume to get access to the same resume parsing technology that companies and recruiting firms use. Need to brush up on your interview skills? Try the artificial intelligence-powered interview prep app.
You can rehearse on your mobile device in a simulated video chat, get personalized feedback, and find out what to say and how to say it for interviewing success. You can also schedule time to chat online or speak on the phone with a career coach. (This complimentary service for SoFi members is typically in high demand, so be sure to schedule early!)
Now that you’ve taken stock of where you are now, where you’d like to go next, and gotten feedback from trustworthy sources about how to do it, it could be a good time to decide how to get there. There are so many ways to take your next step forward. Here are a few examples to get your creative juices flowing:
Asking for a stretch assignment at work. Chances are your manager will be thrilled that you want to step up. Maybe you’ve never managed a team before, or you’re new to owning a budget. You could ask to lead an upcoming cross-functional project. Think about what would help you learn a new skill while making life easier for your manager.
Finding an online (or IRL) course for specific development areas. This could be a certificate in fundraising if you work at a nonprofit or a class on social media so you can up your professional savvy.
Networking is another important part of keeping a career fresh. After all, if you don’t have a great network, you won’t have as many people to call on your next listening tour. Networking isn’t about collecting as many LinkedIn connections as possible (though that’s helpful, too)—it’s about starting and maintaining professional relationships where you have shared interests or expertise.
Attending a conference or going to a networking event is just half the battle; you could set a goal of connecting with a handful of people who are relevant to your interests, and set regular calendar reminders for you to check in every few months.
Finally, volunteering can be another great way to learn or practice a new skill in a lower stakes environment. You could choose an area you’re passionate about and find an organization that embodies it. You might want to reach out and ask whether they need help in areas that interest you.
Whatever your career goals are, there are many ways to achieve them. The key is knowing specifically what you want to accomplish and setting a path to get there.
If you’re ready to get ahead or figure out what’s next in your career path, consider SoFi career coaching. It’s free for SoFi members, and you can get guidance on your LinkedIn profile, resume suggestions, and a customized plan to suit your needs.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.