The DIY concept is not new. We have DIY for home improvements, personal makeovers, self help, and pretty much any every art or creative activity known. There are instructional videos, plugins, plug and play option to do just about anything you can think about and we are so comfortable with this. We don’t think it is strange or unusual at all. In fact by all accounts we love it. We like the idea of learning to do new things and finding our how-to by simply popping the question into a search engine.
But how many of us think about a DIY option for our careers. Research suggests that many people are still leaving this crucial element of our lives in the hands of a manager. Many people are still asking what can you do for me. The truth is the days when“personal development” was treated as a major company initiative is long gone.Organizations today are unknowingly leaving employees with skill gaps and blind spots that can derail their careers and an organizations effectiveness. Managers aren’t helping either because they are too worried about their own hides. Many managers don’t have time or energy or interest to focus on anyone else’s needs.
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. Korn Ferry found that when managers rated themselves on 67 managerial skills, “developing others” came in dead last.
Ideally, organizations should 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. The reality however, is this burden is on employees. Workers at all levels must learn to identify their weaknesses, uncover their blind spots, and strengthen their skills. Employees must drive their own development within an organisation.
Here are six things you can do to take control of your career development.
Understand what you are 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. Have the discussion with manager and get their agreement. Engage in an ongoing dialogue to ensure you stay on the right track. Knowing what you will be measured on will keep the guess work out of your performance.
Solve for your own blind spots. Top performers are always learning and adjusting, and routinely seek feedback from their managers, peers, and subordinates. If your manager 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 manager for the feedback. Becoming an active participant in your career development will encourage your manage to have progressively more interest in the type of support you may need.
Codify your leanings. You can capture feedback and learning by keeping a journal. List the five to 10 skills or competencies you need to develop in your position.Rate yourself (either on your own or with the help of a trusted adviser) on each. For example, if you’re a brand marketer, you might give yourself an A in advertising development, a B+ in pricing analysis, and a C in trade marketing. Focus on the C’s to close skill gaps. Seeking feedback from someone who previously held your job can speed up your learning. Continuously monitoring your own performance will allow you to recognise your areas of improvement and your areas of expertise.
Increase your visibility with the C-suite. It’s not always possible to get noticed by senior leaders through your direct work.Avail yourself to do some volunteering for initiatives, such as charity work, company events, or other activities in the organisation. This is an easy but often overlooked way to rub elbows with senior people who will see you in action and ideally take notice of your contributions. Remember the people in the C-suite are almost never blissfully oblivious despite the impression they may give. They did not get there by being unaware of what is happening around them.
Become a specialist in an area of increasing importance to your company. Your company may be grappling with a disruption from a new technology such as the internet of things, artificial intelligence, or cloud-based computing. Become the go-to person in your department on an emerging issue. Conduct research and literature reviews, attend conferences, or write on the topic. Developing expertise in a nascent area of growing importance can lead to promotions and other career opportunities. Specialists are noticed and because they stand out they have a skill or competence that generalists don’t have. They are also seen as an authority in a field or subject and often the specialists get paid better than the generalists.
Seek good counsel and mentoring. The perspective of a senior person is invaluable, but pouncing on someone — “Will you be my mentor?” — is likely to scare them off. Try to meet in an informal way: in the coffee shop in your company’s lobby, or at the company picnic or golf outing. Know the person’s bio, and be prepared to ask a few good questions related to their area of expertise. If things go well, you’ll hear, “If I can help you, let me know.” A week or so later, you can extend an invitation to “continue the conversation” over coffee. In time, a mentor relationship may develop organically.Generally people who have been around and have the knowledge and experience are only too happy to teach and share their expertise with someone who is willing to learn.
Strong functional skills take time to develop. In most positions, whether it’s enterprise sales, brand marketing, supply chain logistics, or corporate finance, being competent often consists of having deep functional knowledge in four or five key job areas and a good working knowledge in another four or five. Without the willingness to take multiple assignments, or even strategic lateral moves, a well-rounded skill set will be elusive. It takes time and it takes patience.
Your skill set is ultimately your career capital, so take the time to develop your functional skills. Jumping from job to job too quickly (say, in 18-month or two-year increments) won’t allow you to develop the functional expertise you need to advance your career. With time, a lot of patience, a willingness to continuously improve your skills, and by taking the initiative, you are far more likely to thrive in this DIY world. Remember it is your Life, your Career don’t leave it in someone elses hands.
DIY doesn’t not mean you have to do it on your own. It simply means Drive it Yourself.