By Stephanie Beard, Human Resource Manager, Harwood Andrews
"What can you do to ensure that you are ahead of the game and you can play above the line?"
Don’t wait for someone else to provide you with opportunities for your professional development, take responsibility for your own career path. Here’s how:
Never stop learning
One thing that we can take control of is how much we want to continue to learn.
It is a competitive world we live in, and committing to professional development can set you apart from your competitor. It can be your point of difference.
It also builds confidence and self-belief. Look for things that are going to give you a broad perspective. Read as much as you can. Social media also provides a fantastic platform to follow thought leaders.
Take control of your career path
The first step is simply to write it down! You need to answer the following questions:
- Where you want to get to?
- What you need to do in between?
Really identify where you want to be and how you are going to get there… then fill in the gaps.
But before you do this, you must identify your strengths and the areas where you need further development. Ask yourself the following questions and be honest with your assessment.
Some questions might be -
- How do I rate my ability to do the job? Where are the gaps? What do I need to focus on?
- Can I build relationships easily, am I liked and respected?
- Do people want to follow me? If not, why not?
- What do I need to do to improve my leadership and interpersonal skills?
- How do I rate my personal drive?
- How much time am I prepared to commit to this?
Back this self-review up by seeking out some feedback from other people that you trust, both internally and externally - mentors, HR Managers, Principals and supervisors can all offer valuable insights to help you progress your career.
Review and Adjust
Review your progress and, if necessary, adjust your goals. Start undertaking professional development targeted at addressing your weaknesses and supporting your desired career path. This does not have to be overwhelming - you can start with small goals. Remember that professional development doesn’t take away time, it adds value. It is an investment in yourself and your future – you deserve it!
Professional development comes in many forms
Professional development is not just about advancing your technical skills in what you are doing; it is a whole range of things. Don’t forget to look at your less tangible skills. While it is important to continue to develop and enhance your technical skills, don't neglect building stronger interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, communication and negotiation skills. The importance of these softer skills in moving your career forward cannot be under estimated.
Have the courage to put yourself outside of your comfort zone; this is when you will grow both personally and professionally.
It can be as simple as joining a professional membership association within the industry that you are working in, learning and consulting with your peers or attending networking events. Speak to your mentor, shadow someone that you aspire to be and learn from them. Read as much as you can - this is a must!
What have I done?
I have been a member of ALPMA
for many years, which has enabled me to deepen my understanding of the legal sector - from understanding trends in the macro environment to driving change in the micro firm environment. It has also given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful like-minded people, where I have formed some great friendships and working relationships with people who I know I can trust and rely on for assistance and support.
I regularly attend conferences where I have been inspired by great speakers from all over the world. Sometimes that is just what I need to reignite my passion and to continue being the best that I can be. You can learn so much at a conference, and it provides a broader perspective. No matter what you are doing, you need to understand the business from a holistic approach. I always walk away from these events with some key take-aways which I can take back to my work place.
I have been involved in the ALPMA Summit Committee
for the past three years, where I have been able to learn from my fellow committee members who work in different areas of the legal industry - which has provided a broader perspective. This has also given me the opportunity to chair a panel session and to present at national level. This was outside of my comfort zone, but I felt that real sense of achievement by doing it.
I am a certified member of AHRI, the national body for human resource management and I am involved in the Geelong Regional Committee for AHRI.
I read a lot. I follow the top fifteen thought leaders and coaches in the world on Twitter and LinkedIn. I take the opportunity to read and share articles on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Personally, I also invested time in formal study which I paid for myself. I have undertaken two Masters Degrees, an MBA (with a major in HR) and an MBC (Masters of Business Coaching). Undertaking these studies has enabled me to form lots of networks with people outside the industry that I work in. I left school at 16 and returned to study in my early 40’s. Anyone can do it if the motivation is there. Full time work, study and managing a home life was difficult to balance, but I was determined to succeed because I wanted to!
Share your knowledge
Don’t forget to share your knowledge when you do get the opportunity to attend a seminar or a conference, or you have read an inspiring article. You can do this in many ways. Sharing articles on your intranet, writing a report to your Board after attending a conference or taking the opportunity to present at a lunch and learn session. This will help you demonstrate the firm's return on investment in your professional development, help position you as a thought-leader at the firm and encourage others to seek out new ideas.
I have done all the above and, as a result, my firm has sponsored me to attend both the ALPMA Summit and the AHRI National conferences for many years. I know that I am a better HR Manager because of attending seminars, conferences and participating on committees. It is a win/win for both myself and for the firm as I gain a better understanding of what is happening from a global point of view in the world of business and I share that knowledge.
This is the challenge:
Having read this post, ask yourself “What am I going to do to invest in my personal development?"
Take responsibility for your own career now. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you, by then it might be too late!
About our Guest Blogger
Stephanie Beard is the Human Resource Manager of Harwood Andrews
where she provides both strategic and operational support to the business. Stephanie holds a Masters of Business with a major in Human Resources Management together with a Masters of Business Coaching. She is a passionate HR professional who works closely with the CEO and shareholders of the business to build a positive and supportive culture where everyone can be the best that they can be.