Thursday 23 November 2017

The importance of career planning

Most of us have a dream or ambition about what we want to achieve in our working lives. It’s often a dream we hold close, sharing with few – if any – of our colleagues for fear of appearing too ambitious or not hungry enough. However, how many of us will actually achieve what we set out to? How many of us actively manage our own career paths?

Rather than meaning that our focus is not on the job we’re currently doing, a realistic career plan is an essential component of personal and professional growth. It helps build the skills and capabilities we need in a structured way that enables us to realise our true potential.

Career plans, when created and reviewed properly, keep us motivated by setting a specific timeline for accomplishing the things we want to achieve. So how exactly do we set a meaningful career plan for ourselves?

Start with the big stuff

Where do you see yourself in five years / ten years from now? You’ve got to be clear about your destination before you can plot out your journey. Yes, it seems a long way off, but we’re talking about long term goals here – rather than incremental steps.

Be clear about what you can do already – and what you have still to learn

Once you know where you are heading, you need to conduct an honest skills assessment: what skills are you looking to develop? What gaps in your knowledge and experience do you need to fill? You need to be realistic with yourself about what you can do – and for those things where your skills are lacking, you need to develop a realistic training journey to build your capabilities. The skills you need might be achievable through your current job, or a training course. Other skills may require exposure to a different sector or job role in order to build the capabilities you need.

Decide on your career goals and desired jobs

The reality is that, while some career planning and coaching may be available within your organisation, most planning and career exploration needs to be undertaken in your own time, outside of work. Deciding on your career goals sometimes means coming to the realisation that what you really need lies outside of your current employer; similarly taking advice from your current employer may make you feel obliged to find an internal role that fits part of your career plan – yet still falls short of your big dream job. A true career plan is independent and impartial – and that means making the time outside of work to do it.

Put your career path plan in writing

A plan that isn’t written down is only an idea. Once that idea has been committed to writing, it’s a plan. Writing it down makes it real. It provides something tangible to review and measure and the legitimacy that’s needed to prioritise it in our lives. Share it with others – in full or in part - as necessary but in order to realise your goals and aspirations you need to treat your career path as a living, breathing document. There are plenty of templates freely available on the internet to help you on your way.

Finally, once you have your plan in writing – own it! No-one will ever care as much about your career as you do. The power to grow and develop your own future lies firmly in your hands. Seek support and assistance from others as you wish, but ultimately it’s all up to you.

You might also find this post about goal setting helpful:

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Why introverts miss out on leadership roles

A recent study has shown that introverts often miss out on leadership roles they are more than capable of doing, simply because they overestimate how stressful these positions will be.

In the study nearly 200 undergraduate business students were asked to complete personality tests devised by NASA. Before starting, they were asked to rate whether they would find it fun and exciting, or scary and stressful. They also rated each other for signs of emergent leadership during the task, such as influencing group decisions and leading conversations. Introverts showed less emergent leadership than extraverts and expected to experience more negative emotions and feelings during the group task.

While that makes sense, it does suggest that there is a pool of talented leaders out there who will never realise their true potential, just because of how they perceive things to be. That’s a shame, given there are many reasons why introverts actually make excellent leaders who bring out the best in their teams.

Introverts think, then act

Introverts never speak without thinking things through first. They are great at reflecting on how what they say will impact on others and be perceived. They don’t speak unless they feel they can add value to the conversation and you can be sure that their responses will be measured and considered. Yes, their meetings may be quieter than those facilitated by extroverted leaders, but they are able to cut through organisational noise to distil the important data and information.

Introverts like to dig deep

There’s nothing superficial about introverted thinking. They like to investigate and research to a level of detail that extroverts wouldn’t deem necessary. They listen and they love to ask questions – probing questions that get to the crooks of the issue. As leaders this results in a greater understanding and appreciation of what’s going on in their departments and a deeper grasp of their team members and what they are capable of.

Introverts are calm

If you’re working in a busy or stressful job, you need someone who can bring a sense of calm to the operation and the higher up the chain of command that calm is, the easier it is for it to exude across the whole team. Introverts are great in times of crisis and they won’t make a mountain out of a molehill, that’s why they make such good mentors and coaches.

Introverts like to plan

You won’t catch an introvert out through a lack of planning. Being prepared and rehearsed is one of the reasons introverts make such good leaders. They plot out scenarios in their mind before they happen so are very seldom caught out, plus their tendency to air on the side of caution means they have realistic expectations of themselves and their team members.

Let’s not forget, some of the world’s most successful leaders are self-confessed introverts, like Bill Gates and Mahatma Ghandi. So be sure to share this blog with the talented introverts you know and encourage them to achieve their true leadership potential.