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As you get more senior in your career, increasingly what people are going to value is less of what you do. Now what matters is what you have learned, what you know, the different range of experiences you have got and the skills you’ve developed. Skills, knowledge and experience are the future for you as you become more senior.
There are number of ways in which you can maximize your learning and development.
Agree a learning and development plan with your boss
This can be much more than just access to relevant training. You want opportunities to try new things where you demonstrate fresh success. Consider the development available from mentors, role models and colleagues as you get stretched. You will need to think ahead and make realistic proposals to your boss. For example:
- Are there internal projects that you can sign yourself up for that are beyond your existing job?
- Are there opportunities to contribute to internal initiatives, perhaps as a rep or CSR leader?
- Are there ways that you can look at partnering with external organisations that will grow your skills, knowledge and experience?
Commit to the training you need that your employer won’t fund
If you are a professional, then your professional body will offer you lots of opportunities to engage and develop. You could move from being an associate, a trainee within that professional body, to becoming a chartered professional. You can get involved with special interest groups or develop your presence within the region.
Maybe your employer will allow you to pay for training on a salary sacrifice basis. In other words, they pay for it out of your gross earnings and you sacrifice some of your post tax income, it reduces the effective cost of that training to you by the amount of employers national insurance, employee national insurance, pension contributions (yours and theirs), VAT and income tax.
Strengthening your personal development
This is your own capacity to understand who you are, what you do, your strengths and your weaknesses. It is an opportunity to deal with the internal barriers to your own future such as imposter syndrome, low emotional intelligence, procrastination, co-dependency. There is a huge range of personal development programmes available and you can easily spend thousands of pounds on each programme.
Train as a coach or a mentor
You don’t necessarily have to commit to a postgraduate diploma but training as an executive coach is a powerful discipline that will support you in your whole career. When I was running an executive coach training business, we did some research into the value added from people who were trained as a coach. We found that people who had had coach training not only contributed to the success of their own teams, but their salaries increased significantly faster than a comparable group.
You might be saying to yourself, “I am never going to have a sales role, I am never going to win business. What’s more, with my experience of second-hand car salesmen, double glazing salesmen and those people who ring me at six o’clock in the evening trying to sell to me, I never want to be a salesman.”
The truth is, to advance your career, you are going to have to understand how to influence other people, how to help people to make decisions that will release resources that are important to your future and that, believe it or not, is sales. There are a range of sales courses out there that could be helpful.
The programmes that I have done were from Huthwaite and Sandler. Both powerful and foundational for me.
Speaking and writing
Public speaking may be your worst nightmare or perhaps you just realise you’re not very good at it. However, I believe it is a crucial skill for developing your career. A relatively low cost but high contact option is to join your local Toast Masters chapter. If you want to go further then find your local Professional Speakers Association group. Experienced and successful speakers will help you develop and hone your craft. This can be a great stepping stone to doing a TEDx talk.
If that feels like a step too far, then why not just find a partner and do a regular podcast? It could be a video podcast or an audio podcast. The simplest format is to interview guests.
Now look for opportunities to teach your colleagues, run workshops for your colleagues or do training sessions for your colleagues. Look for opportunities to speak at both internal and external events that your organisation has and use that, not only to develop your confidence as a public speaker, but also to get more familiar with developing bite sized, content, writing articles, producing slides.
To get experience writing, look for opportunities to write for your company newsletter or develop a series of blog articles around a passion you have. If you struggle for ideas, try a list: 10 things that make a difference, 10 things that I wish I had known, 10 things I will never do again…
As your career progresses, technical skills are unlikely to be enough to guarantee success. You need to actively develop your skills, knowledge and experience across a wider set of domains which include personal development, coaching, mentoring, sales, influencing, speaking, writing and broader leadership and management capability.
Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.