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Over the past weeks I have had numerous people approach me on career development advice. I have worked with several folks both face to face and virtually in specific areas around development, and even though I may not have 30 years of experience on my belt, I do believe the one or other thing I may have to say could be of relevant use to somebody. The same way I talk to those with more experience and try to soak in my surroundings best I can to grow myself, that same knowledge, perhaps modified to my liking is what I like dispensing towards others. I mentor with mentee’s and I love a good discussion to spur thought around career, career interests, development areas and so forth.Regardless of what company you work for or your role within that company, be it bus boy at a local diner, concierge at a hotel, or executive within a multinational, the topic of career development should always be one of importance to all employees and managers. Bottom line before even getting into any further paragraphs. You own your career. Nobody is responsible for what happens aside from you. You may think that person X or situation Y caused event Z, but in reality you, let’s say W, cause that ripple effect that initiates X, Y or Z.

When it comes to a career development discussion, always ensure taht you have thought out and prepared yourself, having done and gone through what you believe is important. Ensure that the foundation for an effective career discussion is put down by prepping yourself in advance. A good manager, leader or anyone else you may seek advice on career advancement from needs to be someone who, in my opinion can spur your thought process. That person doesn’t give you straight forward answer rather asks the right questions to help you get to the information you need. They can make suggestions, and assist in your professional development but it is up to you to actually do the doing.

I have included below a few questions you may want to ask yourself when it comes to development and career progression. Questions I ask myself and often the very same questions I have asked my employees. Again, I do not want to give any answers. In reality I can’t. I can be the sounding board, I can be the one to give advice, I can be the one to give my opinion, but I see it my responsibility to spur your thought process. Get that train in your mind going to have you think about the why’s and how’s. To break it down areas you need to think of are current goals on the job, professional growth goals, questions around abilities, job satisfaction and new skills and capabilities. So with that, consider a few of these questions.

Career Development

Questions that help you examine where you may feel you are at in your career. These types of questions will also allow you to dig a bit into strengths, successes and goals.

1. What type of projects have you/are you working on that make you proud?

This allows you to reflect on and explore what you enjoy most/are interested in.

2. In your current role, what type of activities motivate you to excel?

Explore interests and motivations.

3. Where do your talents and skills lay?

What are your own realistic observations about strengths and how they contribute to your and your companies success.

4. What values are important to you? Can you apply them?

Further explore the important factors relevant to you in executing your job.

Organizational/Company Awareness

I often find that employee’s want to grow and develop but never take the initial effort to understand the broader picture of their organization. If you work at McDonalds as a cashier and if you are looking to grow within the franchise or towards corporate, than I would assume that you not only carry out your duties well, but that you, out of self-initiative begin learning the McDonalds hand book, managerial guidelines, understand how your franchise works vs corporate, what rolls exist and what does it take to get there? Who are in those roles now and why?

There have been countless nights where I have sat and researched on products, looked at various organization charts, read job descriptions, browsed through process presentations and listened into media to gain a better understanding of the overall HP culture, the various organizations and who does what. Do I have the complete overview. No! But what I do have is key information, to a certain extent, that will allow myself to see what I need to do to go where I want to go, ie: develop.

Here three basic questions you need to understand:

1. What are my organizations goals this year and how does my role contribute?

Gives you an understanding of your individual goals while allowing you to align with the organization.

2. What projects, committees or other responsibilities outside of your role are you engaged on?

Doing a good job is great and should be your call of duty. Heck, you get paid to do it. You may have a bad day but be part of something bigger than just being the cashier.

3. Who and how can you be helpful to support others in achieving their goals?

Never kiss-a**. I hate that. I appreciate honest, direct feedback and we don’t do this often enough however an organization is bigger than just you. If your the cashier, how can you help the bus boy clean trays? They just might return the favor.

Looking Ahead

These are action related questions. They should facilitate and ensure the the responsibility is with you. Be encouraged and take ownership.

1. What self-development activities do you feel would be most beneficial to achieving career goals/steps?

Give this one a thought. Its not a trick question.

2. I have an idea, how do I execute?

The key word for me in this question is “how.” Not “can” or “may” or “who,” but “how.” You have an idea that you think may be beneficial to your growth, support the organization in your current role. Go figure out how to execute. Be experimental. Talk to those you may think have information or something to say on the matter, figure out the do’s and do not’s and execute. If you fail, you fail. Period. You tried. If you succeed, the rest will be history.

3. What additional responsibilities would allow you to pursue your passion?

It may not be exciting, it may not be rocket science, but ensuring that the delivery is on time and all the burgers and bread are in the freezer is one heck of a responsibility. You learn something and someone else knows you can be counted on.

4. What skills do you need to acquire?

You may know how to calculate quickly in your head. You tipped in the amount the customer gave you pressed enter and oops another 2 euros. Quickly do the math and give back the right amount of change. But do you know what temperature the burgers need to cooked too, how much soda mix with carbonated water gives the right coca cola flavor? Bingo.

In Closing

Now I am not saying that these are the magical questions you need to ask and answer to move ahead in your career. These are simply a few, logically simple questions to spur some thought and get your juices going. Motivate yourself to find and seek more. Soak in your surroundings. Understand what you may think you understand. Be true to yourself. Be patient. An opportunity will come to those who are diligent and not only study the play book, but make the plays.

Career development is more than just coming to work and doing it well. Its more than just networking. Its more than what you think you already know. Take the time, invest.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or drop me a line!

Make it happen.