As an EHS leader within a large corporation, I regularly get asked for input related to professional development. The difficulty in answering these questions is that there are no simple answers on this topic. Every company, person and situation is unique. However, there few items that have been helpful for me as a leader in my organization.
Having a plan of where you want to go and what you want to do is easier said than done. As busy as we all are, it’s really hard to set time aside to think about professional development. However, if you don’t have a plan, it makes it difficult to vision how you’re going to get somewhere. It’s like getting in your car and going on a cross-country vacation, and not having even looked at how you’re going to get there. A sketch or “mind map” can be really useful. As a part of this plan make sure to include both short-term and mid-long term components.
From there, you can incorporate the some of these short-term items as tactical action items into your annual goal setting to ensure you are taking the time to make progress on development. Developing a long-term plan can be tough. Work on developing skills that could be applied to multiple positions that possibly interest you in the years to come will provide more value (towards your long-term goals) rather than focusing on a specific title that might not even be available a few years down the road.
As you implement this plan leverage your resources to help you in this process. If you’re in a setting where you can make your career interests know to your manager, make sure to do so. I have found that having a manager who knows your professional interests can be very helpful. It provides more focused guidance and insight in many areas such as: skills development, expanding your network, setting annual goals and insight on opportunities not within immediate department/group.
A mentor or a group of trusted resources serve as a great sounding board and can be really helpful in providing feedback on career development and assessing opportunities. In many cases they have been in the same situation and can provide great input based on their experiences. I rely on a group of trusted resources. It allows me to get guidance from within my current organization, as well as input other resources outside my organization. With this approach I’ve been to: 1) continue to expand my network get great guidance from outside my organization, and 2) get specialized feedback when needed from individuals that know me and understand me and current organization well.
Be patient, the opportunity you are looking for quite likely won’t happen overnight. It may take time for an opportunity to arise. Sometimes it is simply being the in the right place at the right time, but usually there is more to it than that. With an aging workforce and change within large companies over time, opportunities will arise. If you spend the time now on professional development, you can position yourself well as opportunities arise in the future.