During the last year or two, we’ve all acquired a variety of new work-related skills (e.g., how to set your Zoom background to look like Tahiti or how to wear a mask without fogging up your glasses). But, true career development? Let’s just say it may not have been a top priority for most people (or organizations) recently.
Although career development might seem like one of those things the pandemic has put on pause, it doesn’t have to be that way. While organizations have responsibility to offer opportunities to develop their teams, it’s also your responsibility. Don’t wait for someone to invite you to be a continuous learner. After all, it’s your career. You know more than anyone about your goals, values, and what you want to accomplish in your work. Your future is waiting!
Most of the well-worn strategies for growing your career can still work—with some minor adjustments. Here are a few tried-and-true ideas to get you started:
Set goals and stick to them
These days—when everything seems to be changing rapidly and staying stuck in rut at the very same time—goals are critical. Whether your personal career development plan includes networking with colleagues, learning a new language (Portuguese or Python), or project goals; set aside time to focus on achieving them.. Not only will it help your career, but it will also be something to look forward to during the long COVID winter.
Look for organizational change—and help it happen
The pandemic has forced organizations to reexamine and reinvent processes, products, and more. Where there is change, there is opportunity for you to learn and grow. Volunteer for the cross-functional task force. Raise your hand for that new project. Suggest a new project. Volunteering increases the chances you’ll get to work with new people and experience work you’ve never done before. And even if you don’t get selected to work on a specific project, your leaders will likely appreciate your initiative.
Be deliberate about building relationships
Building relationships across your organization is one of the most important ways to grow your career. In the old days (like January 2020), you might have built relationships by talking to people at the water cooler or in the hallway. But now, you need to be more planful. Set up regular check-ins with your close colleagues and ask people outside your normal team if they’d have time for an informational zoom meeting so you can learn more about their work. Don’t worry about being a pest, most people will be flattered that you’re interested in what they do.
Be a mentor yourself
You can also learn a lot by mentoring others. When you teach someone about what you do, you’ll get a new perspective about your work—what you enjoy, what you don’t, where there are challenges, and where there are opportunities. This leads to clarity around your development goals.
You can be a formal mentor to a student or a member of the team that is at the start of their career. Or, if there are any new hires on your team, offer to be their onboarding buddy—helping them meet new people and get comfortable in their role. This gives you another reason to contact your colleagues, too.
With everything going on in the world and the holidays coming up, it might be easy to put off your own development activities for a while. But, there’s no time like the present. Learning new things will help you stay energized and engaged over the coming months—and it will make you an increasingly valuable resource at work.
Russ Testa is the chief talent officer at Salo—an organization that matches senior experts in HR, finance, and accounting with organizations that need their help. If your organization needs help setting up career development programs or processes, contact us. Our expert consultants can help!