Building a rewarding career rests primarily in the hands of every individual, and yet, many progress in their careers more by accident rather than through a process of informed decision-making. Why does this happen? Can a career development plan put you on track?
There’s a reason why the most popular notion might not necessarily be the right one, and this applies specifically when it comes to framing a career development plan!
The Need For A Career Development Plan
Most people view formal education as the first step towards building a fulfilling career, but this is often a wrong approach – it’s the skills they learn on the job that stands them in good stead as they advance in their careers. It is these skills that are valued by employers and are the trade-able assets for growth. After a couple of years on the job, your skills will not just include the technical/trade knowledge that you bring to the table, but also other critical factors such as team work, communication and coordination.
For instance, consider the case of a person who’s graduated with a degree in ancient history but goes on to become a specialist in selling office spaces. Obviously, there is an entirely new set of skills and learning that the job requires than what the formal education system provides, including tacit skills like negotiation, customer management, and clarity in oral and written communication. Honing these through further training and constant practice is critically important for tasting success as a salesman.
Or take the case of a civil engineer who works for a few years on a large infrastructure project, building roads and bridges. During the course of executing the project, he not only strengthens his knowledge of beams and structures, but also learns new project management tools and techniques that he may not have been exposed to earlier.
Delivering on the job also involves synthesizing inputs from multiple sources and aggregating these into learning that can be used elsewhere, marking the birth of new skills. For example, if road construction requires engaging with the civilian population that’s directly impacted by the roadwork, then stakeholder expectation management may be a critical area not only for the project’s success, but also as a valuable skill for taking up leadership roles.
Why Continuous Learning Is Critical
Take the case of those who may not have access to formal education, and rely purely on the skills that they learn on the job, which ultimately matters. I have come across many such people who have excelled in their roles despite the handicap of not being formally educated in the field.
A person I once knew at a manufacturing facility for electronic ceramics was a 7th grader who worked for many years in the cafeteria providing tea and coffee to the workers and staff. A keen observer, he would watch the technicians at work, processing the raw materials through the various stages of ceramic product manufacturing – from mixing and calcining to pressing and sintering, to make the final product. Seeing his inclination and strong willingness to learn, he was inducted into the powder processing operations after a couple of months of “on the job” apprenticeship.
He quickly excelled and outpaced his trained peers, and even came up with process improvement suggestions, based on observations like the color and luster of the material that displayed better characteristics.
His observations helped the company make better products, surprising even scientists in the team who held doctorate degrees in the subject.
Talent needs to be spotted, fostered and developed. The point is that skills can always be picked up and bettered throughout your career, from wherever the starting point might be, while continuous learning is critical for actual progress, which is what a career development plan is all about.
On the job, your abilities will be constantly tested every day by the manner in which you use your basket of skills to deliver results. This is why it is highly important that you make a conscientious effort to assess yourself vis-a-vis peers and leaders in the space, to understand what you should do to improve your skills and further your career. Self development is the first step to staying ahead of the times in an increasingly competitive world, and a strong career development plan can help in this regard.
Begin your journey of self exploration and discovery by creating your Talent Profile. Talent Profile allows you to take control and help chart your future – to profile, engage, and develop your true talent.
Ramu is founder of It's Your Skills. Feels he has been fortunate to have had education in engineering and human resources and experience in non-IT and IT industries. They have helped him evolve an all round perspective on the talent space.