Continuous learners have the best chances of being noticed for new opportunities and promotions. It is important to be structured around what you will focus on learning next. Ask for feedback from more senior people around you or from your manager/supervisor. Then create a personal development plan for yourself. As you complete learning goals, set new learning goals and update your personal development plan accordingly.
The best way to have a structured learning approach is to have a Development Plan. Creating your own development plan is the first step towards mapping out your learning needs and priorities. Ask someone with experience to help you with it. It could be your supervisor or manager and it can also be a coach or mentor that you are working with. Such a person should be able to provide you with valuable feedback as you aim to prioritize your planned development actions.
Start the plan
Capture your own strengths and development points as you see it. You can get information from assessments you have done in the past, from performance feedback you have received from your supervisor/manager or simply ask those who know you well two questions: What am I good at? What could I improve upon or learn in order to be better at my job?
What are the priorities?
Do you know what your career ambition is ? Most people have a short-term vision (something to accomplish in the next 3 to 5 years) and a longer term vision. Writing that down can also help you focus on next steps and set your priorities accurately.
When you have captured the list of development needs you think you might need to work on, ask for feedback from a manager, supervisor or mentor on whether you have right priorities in the column to the right. You will focus on the one of two items with the highest priorities to start developing new skills or improving on existing skills.
Set the activities
Using the priorities you have set, select the item with the highest priority. What specific activities can you undertake in order to develop in that specific area? Capture your best 3 or 4 ideas in the list above and set out to do those over the next 3 to 6 months.
Ask for feedback or advice if you run into obstacles along the way. And be ready to provide an update on those planned activities when you meet with your supervisor, manager or coach to discuss your development goals and progress
- Don’t choose too many development goals for a 12-month period. You typically have other activities which also require your attention during a normal day or week and this would be only one portion of your discretionary time. Too many goals may make you lose enthusiasm as you feel overwhelmed or failing in meeting your expected goals.
- Be patient with yourself. If your development goals include soft skills and behavioral changes, this can take time. Choose maximum 3 goals and just work with those.
- Celebrate successes to help motivate yourself to keep going. When you have completed a goal and have received feedback that you have learned something new and/or have successfully demonstrated new behavior – do something that you love doing.
- Create an environment that helps you succeed by telling others (that you trust) about your development goals. Ask them to observe and provide you with feedback when they see you demonstrating new behaviors and/or skills.
- Be active in your coaching. When you plan to meet with your manager/supervisor/coach/mentor… first review your own plan and update where you are with regards to actions you had committed to take the last time you met. Come prepared with specific questions or specific situations where you were not sure you had made the right choices given your development goals and learning how to do things in a new way.
- Remember to thank others who are helping you on your development journey. Most of them may be giving you feedback and advice without getting compensation for that. A sincere thank you from you will go a long way to helping them feel that their investment in your learning is appreciated.