6 Ways to Take Control of Your Career Development If Your Company Doesn’t Care About It

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Carter Cast for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

Illustration Credit: Drawn Ideas/Getty Images

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We are now in the era of do-it-yourself career development. Companies less frequently offer formal training — a trend that has been around for years. This may be because employees change jobs so frequently (job tenure now averages about four years) that firms don’t see the value in investing in people who are likely to leave. This is a sharp contrast with the investment that senior leaders used to make in employees. During my 11 years at PepsiCo, mostly during the 1990s, “personal development” was treated as a major company initiative.

Unfortunately, organizations today are unknowingly leaving employees with skill gaps and blind spots that can derail careers and organizational effectiveness. And managers aren’t helping. Too worried about their own hides, most managers don’t have time or energy to focus on anyone else’s. In fact, Korn Ferry found that when managers rated themselves on 67 managerial skills, “developing others” came in dead last.

Ideally, organizations would do more to foster career development: encourage more-immediate feedback, develop clear performance criteria, deliver developmental feedback with clarity and tact, and provide resources and incentives for managers to make employee development a priority. But the reality is that the bigger burden is on employees. Workers at all levels must learn to identify their weaknesses, uncover their blind spots, and strengthen their skills.

Here are [two of] six things you can do to take control of your career development.

Understand what you’re evaluated on. What does success look like in your position? What are your job goals and success metrics? It’s best to identify these with your manager, but if that’s not happening, then write down what you understand the goals and key performance indicators to be. Take them to your boss to get their agreement, and engage in an ongoing dialogue to ensure you stay on the right track.

Solve for your own blind spots. Top performers are always learning and adjusting, and routinely seek feedback from their boss, peers, and subordinates. If your boss doesn’t proactively give you feedback, start the conversation yourself. After a presentation or big meeting, state one thing that you think went well, and then ask for advice on one thing you could improve. It’s best to keep it simple; most people can only absorb one area to improve at a time. Listen to and thank your boss for the feedback.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Carter Cast is a clinical professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and author of The Right (and Wrong) Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made – and Unmade.

 

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