When we embark upon a career, few of us want to remain in the same place until we retire. While we might continue to do the same job, we want to increase our levels of responsibility, make a difference through our profession, and be able to meet our needs while finding some level of fulfillment and personal development and growth from our work.
Increasingly, though, people are finding themselves changing jobs more often, or having multiple jobs at the same time. Usually occurring with younger people, this happens for several reasons, including increased flexibility in working spaces and mobility between cities or states, boredom, the desire to increase income by having several side-hustles, and more. In all this, you must ask yourself what it is you want from your work.
Personal Development at Work: Developing as a whole person
Your personal development at work should include your growth as a person, not simply as a worker. For most jobs, people interact with others, be they clients or coworkers. Building your relationships with the people that you work with is one way to grow.
You may not have to know the people you work with to do your job well but getting to know them can help. Investing in getting to know the people around you, whether you are a subordinate, middle or upper management, positions you to work better with others.
Not only will you better understand your workplace culture, but it also earns you the support and trust of your team. If you leave your place of work, you’ll have an existing network of people who know and trust you and are willing to work with you on future projects.
Another part of your personal development includes getting to know what motivates you. Your company likely has a “why” behind what it does. As author Simon Sinek has pointed out, the great movements and even organizations have a clear “why” that runs through everything they do. The other side of this is that you should understand your own “why,” what motivates you, and the bigger picture behind your work.
Your “why” might be simply to pay your bills. That matters. If you’re in the service industry, your work enables others to do their work. Seeing the bigger picture behind what you do drives a sense of purpose, and this is important in those seasons (we all have them) when work seems more of a slog than a joy.
Knowing and understanding your own “why” for doing your job is part of a bigger picture of getting to know yourself well. Several personality and strength finder tests can help you figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and how you can better follow or lead others. Tests such as the Myers-Briggs personality test, or the 16 Personality test all help you in your process of self-discovery.
Some of these will supply insight and direction that may show you ways to improve skills such as communication and leadership styles. These insights can help you decide if a move to a particular job or taking up a certain position in your company will suit you and allow you room to grow.
Setting and achieving your personal development work goals
Getting to know yourself is one part of the personal development journey. Having a personal sense of vision and mission can aid you immeasurably in developing a set of goals. You know what you want, and you know why you want it, and that helps in focusing your attention. When you know your areas of strength and weakness, and you’ve charted out your vision and mission, along with your paths for growth in several areas of skill, what then?
Know your field
The other aspect of developing is to understand the profession or the field you are in. Every profession has some similarities and some key differences from others. Knowing these differences and knowing what the path of progression looks like for your profession will help you immensely in meeting your personal goals. It lets you know what’s possible, and how you can achieve it. An example might help.
In academia, apart from teaching, the path toward advancement in the field (toward professorship and tenure, for example) is usually through writing books, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and delivering papers at accredited conferences. If you’re not publishing, but you’re doing an amazing job at teaching, that might not get you where you want to go.
In another profession, say stock-car racing, what matters is the number of races you run in, and how many wins you post. Writing pieces about the cars won’t get you far if you’re a driver aiming for a championship!
When you know your field, you can set goals appropriately that will get you where you want to go. If you need to, go for those enrichment or training courses, if that’s part of your development plan and something that will help you achieve what you want.
Setting your goals
Everyone should have goals for our work. They direct your focus and keep you on task. When setting your development goals, set goals that are clear, attainable, and measurable. As pointed out earlier, one way of doing this is to write a ten-year letter, in which you paint a picture describing where you see yourself in ten years.
Life coaches sometimes use this to help their clients in formulating a mission and vision for their own life. The letter is written and dated ten years from now, and it summarizes the last ten years, including details such as promotions, areas of growth, and spiritual changes. The purpose behind the exercise is to develop your vision and mission, along with self-awareness about where you want to go and what you want to achieve given your unique passions, skills, and values.
Your goals should be clear. What exactly do you want to accomplish? A clear goal might be “I want to be a full professor at this institution in five years.” You know a clear goal when you see it because you can tell when you’ve achieved it. An unclear goal might be something like “I want to grow my sales.” That goal simply isn’t clear or specific enough. By how much do you want to grow your sales?
Your goals should also be measurable. Back to the example about sales, if you add a numerical value, not only does the goal become clearer, but it also becomes measurable. If you want your goal to be growing your sales by 25% this year, that’s something you can measure and see if you’ve accomplished by the end of the year.
Your goals should also be attainable. Let’s say you set a sales target of 25%, but the average increase of sales in a year within your field is 2%, then that target is likely unattainable. Your goals should stretch you, but not be so extreme that they become unattainable.
Having set those clear, attainable, and measurable goals, what comes next?
Set a timeframe. Set a reasonable timeframe for achieving your goals. Some goals will take a few years to reach, while for others a shorter timeframe is more meaningful.
Get accountability. It’s one thing to get started on your journey, and quite another to finish it! One way to get motivated and stay motivated is to find someone you can be accountable to for meeting your goals. It can be a colleague, a friend, or a life coach; someone who will ask you questions and give you a push if you need it.
Get to work! Get started with the process. Many great ideas are stillborn because they never leave the idea or development phase. You need to put legs to the goals you’ve set and get going. The sooner you set out to reach those goals, the better.
“Teamwork”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “What can you do today…?”, Courtesy of Mikel Parera, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Always Room to Grow”, Courtesy of Kyle Glenn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Begin”, Courtesy of Danielle MacInnes, Unsplash.com, CC0 License