This article was originally published on Women in Print Alliance here.
When we hear “back to school”, thoughts generally are all about children, rejuvenated by a summer break when they had time to be free from their rigid school schedule. For adults, the back-to-school routine rarely involved our own learning. Instead, it’s all about gathering materials, figuring out schedules, and nailing down the logistics. But what if we rethink that? What if we learn new things each year, just like the kids? What if we develop our skills every year and consequently advance our careers?
For people new to the workplace, as well as for those who are still interested in broadening their skills and achievements, career development plans are essential. In particular, Gen Z considers career development to be the number one reason to take a job, and poor career development the number one reason to leave a job.
So, if you are reading this and you are in management – listen up: If you don’t have a career development strategy in place at your company, now is the time to do it. Gen Z is the future of our workplace for the next few decades, and having a career development strategy for your employees will be critical for recruiting and retaining Gen Z.
But it isn’t just Gen Z that wants career development. Research shows that for all employees, if a more senior person at their company helps them reach their career goals, they are twice as likely to be confident in reaching the highest position that they desire. Companies that keep their employees happy benefit from higher productivity, greater retention, and a positive culture. Consider making the “back to school” time of year an annual opportunity to offer your employees to grow their skills and talents.
While it is fantastic if your company has a career development strategy, many companies do not. Also, it is important to take control of your own career development because it may expand your opportunities outside of the boundaries of your current employer.
People make career choices for two basic reasons: Instrumental roles that are chosen for where these jobs will take you, but not necessarily because you like it, or it is meaningful to you. Alternatively, there are Fundamental roles that are chosen because they have inherent value, regardless of where that job will take you. For instance, newly minted teachers know that there isn’t a lot of career growth in their field, but they find that the job has meaning to them outside of ascending to a higher-level position. They have chosen teaching because it has fundamental importance to them. For a new business graduate, it is likely that they will accept a position at a company where they see a clear pathway to a higher-level position within a relatively short timeframe. They will take that job because it has instrumental importance to them as a way of advancing their career.
Here is how to make a career development plan:
First, think about the jobs that you want in the future. Ask yourself if you want to ascend on the same path or are you ready for a big change? Do you want your next role to be instrumental in moving you along a path or do you want your next role to have a fundamental importance that is not so much about the path, but may actually be the destination?
The next critical step is to look at the skills needed for the role(s) that you want. For each skill that you identify as necessary for a role, think about the level of proficiency needed for that role and rank it on a scale of 1 through 5, with one being a skill that isn’t very necessary, and five for a skill that is essential for getting and succeeding in that job.
Then, perform an honest assessment of your skills. Include all the skills that you identified in the roles you want to achieve but go ahead and add any additional skills that you believe you possess. Rank your proficiency for each skill on a 1 through 5 scale, with one being the least proficient and five being the most proficient.
Next, match them up. If you are a “one” on a particular skill, but the role you want puts that skill at a “five” for getting the position and having success, then you have identified an area that you need to learn. Now it’s time to go “back to school”. This might mean taking classes, maybe even getting a certificate or degree. But it also might mean training. If you work in production at a printing company or an apparel decorator and want to learn to run a different press or machine, ask your supervisor to arrange training that will teach you everything you need to know. If you are a salesperson and want to move into a non-sales management position, ask your company’s executives to allow you to shadow other managers and sit in on business strategy sessions. Supplement these training experiences with business classes online or at a local school.
Once you have identified the skill that you want to hone, and plan about how to improve those skills, determine what you need to execute the plan. This might be money, child care, or other elements. Then create a timeline. Try to be realistic and keep in mind that “life” happens, which means leaving a little more time than you think it may take to execute your plan.
Back-to-school season for adults can be the time of year to check in with yourself and your career goals, see how you are doing with executing your career development plan, and make any changes to reflect where you are in life and on your skills development. Enjoy the process and know that learning is a lifelong adventure.
In this article, Adriane Harrison addresses career development. More information about career development can be found at Center for Human Resources Support or reach out to Adriane should you have additional questions specific to how these issues may affect your business: email@example.com.
To become a member of PRINTING United Alliance and learn more about how our subject matter experts can assist your company with services and resources such as those mentioned in this article, please contact the Alliance membership team: 888-385-3588 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adriane Harrison is Vice President, Human Relations Consulting at PRINTING United Alliance. Adriane assists members with a wide variety of HR matters involving statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, culture, and staffing, as well as the gamut of day-to-day HR issues. In addition, she supports professional development by conducting webinars, participating in panel discussions, and speaking at industry events on human resources issues. Currently, Adriane is the Chairperson of the Graphic Communications Workforce Coalition, a member of the Women in Print Alliance, and a founder of the Women’s Print Mentoring Network.
Adriane received a journalism degree from the University of Illinois and a law degree from DePaul University in Chicago. As an attorney, Adriane practiced in both the public and private sectors. Her work was in the areas of Constitutional, commercial, securities, and criminal law. Adriane and her family live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.