Your long-term preparation is closely linked to your career plan and is something that you cannot ignore if you expect to progress upwards through the levels of your chosen occupation or profession. It is worth pausing at this point to consider what a career plan is and whether you need one.
A career plan is simply a road map which details how you expect your career to develop throughout your working life. It is not designed to be over-prescriptive or to prevent you from taking advantages of unexpected opportunities. It should evolve in response to changing circumstances whilst acting as a tool to help you get to whatever career destination you are aiming for.
One common fallacy is that career plans are only for the ultra-ambitious and that Company President is the only worthwhile objective. While it is true that many high-achievers have planned their careers in detail from the outset, a career plan is something that almost everyone would benefit from developing whatever stage of their career they are presently at.
Consider the career plan of a marketing professional – let’s call her Jane. She has been with the same organisation for four years, joining as a graduate trainee and now working as a senior marketing executive. So far her career progression has been incremental, she has progressed from performing certain tasks to performing higher-level tasks. She has also gradually assumed some supervisory responsibility for a part time member of staff and a recent graduate trainee.
However, 90% of her working day involves actually producing deliverables – press releases, advertising copy, etc. For Jane to achieve a management role she will need to exhibit the behaviours associated with managers and not those of a supervisor. She will need to show her skills of delegation, timescale setting, prioritisation, evaluation and decision-making.
The next step in Jane’s career is promotion to the role of Marketing Manager. This will represent a fundamental change in the nature of her work. As a manager, she will spend almost all of her time organising the work of other people, managing budgets and assuring the quality of the deliverables that they produce.
If Jane is going to be successful in getting the promotion, then the organisation that employs her will need solid evidence that she can make the fundamental switch in behaviour from someone who produces deliverables to someone who manages people. The important point to note is that the organisation does not have that evidence at the moment.
Perhaps in less competitive times they would have taken a chance and promoted her anyway. After all, she has been with the company for four years and has shown herself to be a very competent employee. Perhaps if the organisation was expanding quickly as it did in the ‘80s and ‘90s then internal career progression would be the norm and she would have benefited from a structured development program designed to help employees move up through the organisation.
Unfortunately, neither of these options apply now. The organisation that she works for has been under intense competitive pressure for a number of years and no longer has the spare resources to run a meaningful employee development program. They are also aware that there is a large pool of experienced personnel ‘out there’ and would be quite happy to poach someone from another organisation who brings all that intelligence with them, or take someone who has worked at this level but is currently between jobs.
As a result, they have decided to use an assessment centre to select from a pool of both internal and external candidates. Jane’s problem, and that of many people in her position, is that she needs to provide evidence that she can display the necessary management behaviours, the competencies (Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes), even though she has not had the opportunity to do so in her career so far.
This is a very common problem for candidates who are seeking their first promotion to managerial or board level. Fortunately, Jane has had a career plan in place for a couple of years. She has foreseen this problem and has taken the necessary steps to overcome it as part of her own CPD (Continuous Professional Development).
Exactly how she did this, and how you can do it too, is described in the 'Assessment Centre' eBook, which shows you how to use the KSA Development Cycle and how to create your own KSA table for a specific Role, in Jane’s case that of a Marketing Manager. Remember, there are many skills that you cannot develop in the space of a couple of weeks. You need to be realistic about the time it takes to become an accomplished public speaker or an effective chairperson.
If you are pursuing a career where these sorts of skills are required then you will need to take the time and make the effort to develop them. This may mean that you have to do so outside of work. Volunteering for administrative work for charities, sports clubs and school parents associations can all be excellent ways to develop these types of skill.
Similarly, there may be professional qualifications that will add to your knowledge and skills, but the time taken to acquire them may be measured in months or years.
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