Thursday, September 14, 2006

Personal career development plan

What's your career development plan? The unpleasant reality of today's employment market is that every employee needs to be prepared to be back on the market. If you're just doing your job, counting on your employer to take care of you, you're setting yourself up for a big surprise. The better approach is to work actively on your own professional development, so you'll be ready if you need—or want—to look for something new.

Here's my outline for a personal development plan. Add your own details, and you'll be on your way to long-term employability. If you do it right, you'll enjoy your career more, too.

Training

Formal training isn't the easiest thing to fit into a busy schedule, but it shows a commitment to your career, and it's something specific you can point to on an application or in an interview.

  • If your employer offers training, take it. It doesn't get any easier than that.
  • Check your local community college or university extension program. Don't forget smaller schools that may offer continuing education courses.
  • Professional associations frequently offer or sponsor training events. You can network while you learn, too.
  • Training is as close as the nearest Internet connection with free online training.


Current awareness

Beyond formal training, identify sources of information to keep you aware of the world outside your cubicle. A free clipping service can bring you industry news. Newsletters and blogs can help with current practices and identify influential people in your specialty. Once you find a source you like, pay attention to its contributors and links to find other sources. Maintaining current awareness is a good use of your RSS feed reader.

Connections

Are you plugged into a community of peers? It's easy to focus your networking effort inside your own company, but that's not where you'll get the most help if the company shows you the door. Use LinkedIn as a tool for building your network. Volunteer in your community. Find a professional association or two, or a regional industry group. You'll meet interesting people at the meetings, and you'll be much better connected in the local economy if you reenter the job market. The newsletters, magazines, and other resources offered by most associations are another good source of continuing education and industry awareness, too.

Visibility

Networking is everyone's recommended way to get your next job, but don't stop there. In addition to retail networking (one-to-one), consider these ways to scale up your personal visibility:
  • Participate in trade show panels
  • Be a speaker at your association meeting
  • Write articles for industry publications—both print and online
  • Contribute comments on relevant blogs
  • Write your own blog
  • Create your own web site
  • Build your LinkedIn profile


As with any strategic plan, your personal development plan will benefit from a plan with smart goals. What are you doing to maximize your career this year? This month? Today?

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