Career Development: It All Starts with Care

Tips for self-care for your career development.

By Julie Winkle Giulioni, Co-Founder, DesignArounds

Have you ever noticed that the first four letters of the phrase, “career development” spell “care”? Coincidence? I think not. Because even beyond words on a page, care is at the very core of authentic and effective development.

Unfortunately, career development doesn’t receive the care many employees need to feel valued, satisfied, and like they’re moving forward. As a result, too many organizations see engagement and results suffer.

Are you among those feeling stymied or frustrated...like your career isn’t getting the attention it deserves? Perhaps it’s time to take more responsibility for your own satisfaction and growth at work with a little self-CARE. Here are a few tips:

Construct a Vision of Career Success: Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” No one else can determine what your heart wants to express, what talents are waiting to burst forth, what difference you want to make—in the big wide world or in your own. You have to do that for yourself. Put it out there. What do you want? It can be modest or audacious, but it has to be yours.

Caution: Don’t cop out and allow your vision of success to focus exclusively on the role, title, or position you aspire to. You’ll gain greater clarity about the future you really want if you also consider broader questions such as:

  • What will career success feel like?
  • What kind of work do you want to be doing? Under what conditions and with whom?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What talents or abilities do you yearn to leverage?

Assess Yourself (Honestly): The first step on the path toward reaching any career goal involves taking a realistic look in the mirror. That kind (but candid) look inward provides a foundation of knowledge upon which to build.

But don’t leave it at that. To ensure the most complete and accurate view, you’ll want to consider other data points, as well. These include:

  • Past performance evaluations
  • Experiences: good and bad
  • Feedback from those around you

Glean from as many sources as possible what you’re good at, drawn to, and energized by. At the same time, clarify what you struggle with, what lessons you find yourself learning over and over again, and those roles or tasks that just don’t suit you.

Rethink Your Paths Forward: In today’s leaner, flatter organizations, movement among roles and promotions up the ladder simply don’t happen the way they did in the past. But that shouldn’t hamper career development. Shift your thinking from going somewhere else for your growth to growing right where you are. In-role development is the most accessible strategy because it is completely within your control. Work with your manager and others to engineer experiences—stretch assignments, special projects, events, action learning teams, community service—that will help move you toward your goals. Expand your capacity while adding additional value to the organization...it’s the ultimate win-win.

Execute Multiple Plans Simultaneously: Fluidity, flexibility, and scenario planning describe what’s required in today’s environment to ensure enterprise-wide success. They’re also key requirements for the success of your own development. Regimented career paths have given way to a swirl of opportunities that morph at the speed of business.

Rather than trying to move through the sequential steps of a career plan, cast a wider, broader net and have several plans playing out at once. This will ensure continued momentum forward and toward your goals even if business needs alter (which they will), the industry goes through a sea change (which it may), existing positions disappear (which they could), or new ones materialize (which they definitely will).

Today, there’s no need to wait for Human Resources or your boss to offer up career development. There’s plenty you can do for yourself. It just takes a little “care.”

Julie Winkle Giulioni is co-author of “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want” and co-founder of DesignArounds. She’s spent the last 25 years improving performance through learning, partnering with hundreds of organizations to develop and deploy innovative training products that are in use worldwide. To learn more about Giulioni’s consulting, speaking or blog, visit juliewinklegiulioni.com.

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