Start at the beginning.
Decades of career counseling and coaching have taught me there are indeed a few fundamentals that really matter in just about every field. Building solid relationships, demonstrating integrity and empathy and having a solid technical foundation are chief among them.
Yet there is an additional factor which may be the single biggest differentiator between those who enjoy great success in their work and those who are constantly looking for the brass ring: what have you done for you lately?
In one of those ironies only the commercial world can manufacture we prize those who continue to develop themselves even as we fail to ever underline that, much less share it. In other words, no one tells you how important this is.
Think of star athletes (not those who party all night) who continue to work year after year to improve their game. The artist who continues to study the effects of light on their work well into the senior years. The gardener who won’t stop adjusting soil, water and plant over time to get the best yield. In so many parts of our life we take it for granted we must continue to pursue knowledge and learning despite our past achievements or current age.
Except in business.
We jump into a job head first, thrash about as we swim with the sharks and in a few years time are surprised to learn we’re on the wrong track, and clearly not the fast one. Why? People forget the cardinal rule: continued development is fundamental to continued success. And each of us owns our own development.
Show me someone who parks their development efforts waiting for the company to “develop them” and I’ll show you someone who has parked their career. Most companies are pretty bad at development: they just don’t get it.
But they want it.
As a costly resource they want you dear reader to continually define, refine and refresh your skill set. But they won’t often give you the map because few of them know the path. They just know that continued development separates the few from the many. And you should know it too.
You own your career and professional development – mph like motivation – is an inside job. It’s your responsibility to become familiar with the top trends, blogs and associations related to your career. It’s your job to network with others and study emerging thought about your field. It’s your job to mine the news for what works and doesn’t in businesses and industry related to yours.
It’s absolutely your job to understand some varying model profiles for your role to understand what “good” really looks like. And without question its your to-do to put in place a long-term action plan of learning, doing and re-thinking what your personal skill set should include.
In short, you have to develop you.
Yes, you can and should enroll others in your development plans, and your boss and company can play supporting roles in that. But be clear on one thing: you are responsible for driving your development. And those who thoroughly enjoy their careers are the ones who invest in them over the long-term by continuing to develop their skills and knowledge.
Stay curious my friends.
And the next time you grumble about your lack of progress or meaningful challenge in your work, ask yourself a question: what have you done for you lately?