Career challenges such as reorganization, layoffs, and lack of personal satisfaction can feel like big bumps in the road, but instead of looking at these obstacles, start looking for opportunities. Personal career development is essential for resilience in the face of uncertainty and change. The authors, who train more than 100,000 people a year in career development, have identified four common challenges that hinder people’s progress. They categorize them as when, who, whatand emphasis challenges. Here’s how you can think and act creatively to overcome these challenges and continue to invest in your career development.
Change and uncertainty are now a given in our careers. As a result, people are reassessing what they want from their work. For many, the traditional career ladder has been replaced by “squiggly” careers – non-linear career movements where advancement is more than promotion and allows people to develop in different directions. In the context of constant change, personal career development is now a must-have rather than a nice-to-have.
But the truth is that career advancement is rarely a priority. Daily demands take precedence over our growth, and investing in our future is rarely as urgent as the issues in our inbox. This poses a long-term risk to our engagement and enjoyment at work, because putting ourselves on the back burner means our careers can stall and our skills begin to fade. In the short term, failure to devote time to our personal development can reduce our career resilience in the face of external impacts such as layoffs and reorgs.
At our company Amazing If, we train over 100,000 people a year in career development. We see four common challenges that hinder people’s progress. We categorize them as when, who, whatand emphasis challenges. Here’s how you can think and act creatively to overcome these challenges and continue to invest in your career development.
4 Common Career Development Challenges
Reflect on which of these challenges feel familiar to you. It is not uncommon to experience a combination of two, three, or even all of them at the same time.
The “when” challenge
Looks like: I will go to career development when I have time.
Career risk: Your progress feels different from your day job.
The “who” challenge
Looks like: I have no one WHO helping me improve my skills.
Career risk: Your progress may depend on other people.
The “what” challenge
Looks like: I’m not sure WHAT I want to improve on.
Career risk: Finding the one “right” answer will stop you from getting started.
The “where” challenge
Looks like: There are no career development opportunities emphasis i work
Career risk: You feel frustrated and discouraged.
4 Creative Ways to Unlock Career Advancement
Each of the following strategies has been tried and tested by our students. It is designed to help you proactively respond to risks and put you back in control of your career development.
1. If your challenge to improve is when, start a five-minute mind map.
“I will spend time on my development if…[this project is over] or [I get past this busy period].” Sound familiar?
Reducing the time commitment required for progress and increasing the regularity of your meditation will help you overcome this obstacle. Use “teaching yourself” questions to increase your self-awareness and identify new opportunities for action:
- Create a recurring invitation on your own calendar titled “5-minute mind map.”
- Put yourself in a place where there is no temptation of technology.
- Take five minutes mind-mapping your thoughts in response to a coach’s own question. For example, if your coach in your own question is What do I want to build a reputation for?your mind-map can include building relationships, generating ideas, and making a positive impact.
- At the end of the period, summarize your reflections by writing “what, what now?” statement. Continuing from the previous example, yours might look like: In my next career conversation with my manager, I will suggest how I can use my relationship building strengths to help us stay more connected with other business functions.
2. If your challenge is to develop someone, increase your support on the side.
In ladder-like careers, we think that seniors are the most valuable source of support and we underestimate the importance of peer learning. Connecting with colleagues at the same career stage inside and outside your organization is an opportunity to share challenges, generate new ideas, and learn together.
These groups can have five people or 50; the important part is that the shared purpose of the group is to support each other in development. Here’s how to get started:
- Start by setting up a group you want to be a part of using an app like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or WhatsApp. For example, one of us (Sarah) created a group for career advocates.
- Share the group’s purpose with five people you know who share the same interest and invite them to join.
- Ask everyone to share something they read, watched, or heard that they found helpful in their role today.
- Grow your group by giving everyone the option to invite someone.
3. Whatever your developmental challenge, create your learning navigator.
There are more ways to learn than ever before, so the burden of what to learn and how puts many people off getting started.
Using a learn the navigator helps you prioritize what to learn in a way that feels useful and personal. To help you find a focus, get to know yourself must know from what nice to knowas well as what is relevant to your current role and what may be relevant to future roles.
The outcome of the learning navigator is not to prioritize only the upper right box based on “now” and “need” but instead define different learning objectives that show both what is most important in your current role and what is important to your career in the future. It will also help you find common skills in the quadrants, which will help you determine where to start.
4. Where your development challenge is, prototype your development.
It’s easy to feel defeated about your progress when the options available to you at work aren’t always clear. As we wrote in a previous article, the lack of knowledge of internal roles, excessive processes around the development, and limited support from people in positions of influence can make leaving feel easier than staying. Instead of letting circumstance determine your progress, prototype your progress to open up new possibilities. Here’s how to do it:
- Write down an internal opportunity that you want to happen.
- Answer this prompt: This opportunity is important to me because…
- Identify three other ways you can achieve your key results in your organization.
- I want to lead a team for the first time.
- This opportunity is important to me because I enjoy the opportunity to support others in their development.
- Three ways I can achieve this result:
- Offer to support new employees in my organization
- Mentor people in their early career
- Put myself forward as the leader of a new project
This method will stop you from getting stuck in one solution and help you find different opportunities for your development within your current company.
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Career challenges such as reorganization, layoffs, and lack of personal satisfaction can feel like big bumps in the road, but instead of looking at these obstacles, start looking for opportunities. Take a creative approach to open many different directions for your development. Investing in your growth now will pay dividends in tough times.