You need to have resources on which to draw in order to set yourself up for success on your personal development journey. These are some of the resources which I’ve found support, inspire and motivate me:-
Bullet journal/diary/notebook: if you are going to be successful you need to be organised and find a way for you that works. You also need a place to document your ideas and a place to draw out our plans. You need a way of clearing clutter from your mind and documenting things in such a way that nothing disturbs your sleep at night. If it helps, take a notebook to bed and if an idea or thought is keeping you awake, writing it down will mean that you can instantly go back to sleep and won’t be kept awake by the same thoughts going round your head. I find it helpful to have a ‘Today’s Objectives’ page at the start of every day. If it doesn’t get done today, it carries forward to the next. Don’t mistake this for creating a giant To Do list – they’re unproductive and will serve only to overwhelm you. Keep it succinct to only the things you must do today, prioritise it.
Support network: as you go through your journey of professional development you will engage with different stakeholders along the way. Each person you speak to becomes part of your support network to a varying degree. You will meet likeminded people who have the same challenges as you. Creating a mutually supportive network will benefit the development of you and your peers. Make time for people, no (wo)man is an island and you can’t do this by yourself. Have a genuine interest in nurturing those relationships. Be appreciative for the help and support you receive – if you’re not you won’t have it for very long! Make time to connect, to go for coffee, to drop a one line email, to send a text. There will be times when your journey has its challenges and it’s at those times that a support network is invaluable.
Create a personal development plan: you can find a myriad of templates online to create a PDP, however, it doesn’t have to be something fancy, as long as it’s functional. You need a way of documenting where you are today and where you think you’d like to get to. Make personal reflection a part of your routine in order to assess where your strengths lie and what opportunities you have for development. This isn’t something that should be a one-off but something you do on an ongoing basis. Think about where you are now and where you’d like to be, before considering how you might get there as well as why you want to get to where you’re going. If the why isn’t enough to motivate you then you’re probably on the wrong path (and if that’s the case consider how and why you’d like to change that).
The challenge most people find with creating a PDP is that there is an illusion you must have all the answers now and that’s not true. You should see it as a guide that’s flexible, after all, you will no doubt change direction as your career progresses and you may end up going in a completely different direction. A PDP is a living, breathing thing.
Reference tools: I remember when I was in my early 20’s and had been given the responsibility for conducting regular Personal Development Reviews for my team. I didn’t have a clue where to start and I didn’t have anyone who was prepared to coach me through it, so I went to the library and found a book on it. That was how I learned the basics back then but there is so much more available now. Text books, audio books, the internet, specialist websites, coaching and mentoring opportunities, formal courses, the list goes on. As you go through your development journey you will find some gems that help support you so tuck them away in your toolbox to call upon when you need them.
Regular 1-2-1’s: feedback is important, it helps you grow and gives you some perspective as well as insight into things you wouldn’t otherwise know about yourself. Regular 1-2-1’s should be a two-way street and should encourage reflection and motivate you to take action. Invite feedback, don’t just wait until you next sit down with your line manager. Invite feedback in the round from peers and colleagues to get different perspectives. Having a relationship with someone who is open and honest in giving constructive feedback and even criticism where it is warranted is vitally important for your development.
Nurture your attitude: I’ve written about positivity, courage and confidence in another blog. It is key to your success. A positive attitude is a critical element of your toolbox. It will get you through tough challenges. It will advance your development faster and more effectively than others with the wrong attitude. It will bring you to the attention of people that matter on your journey and get you noticed. It will make you stand out from the crowd. A little inward reflection on how you react to the world around you and how you can modify your thoughts and actions to bring about positive outcomes will make a world of difference. Never underestimate the importance of your attitude towards people and circumstances – it will be the difference between success and failure.
Get a mentor: if the organisation you work for have a mentoring scheme, sign up to it in a heartbeat! The benefits are proven and it will do nothing but good for you personally and professionally. If your organisation doesn’t have a formal scheme, speak to your line manager about introducing you to someone senior who has an interest in mentoring. These kinds of people are usually well known for their involvement in mentoring and coaching initiatives, even if it’s not in a formal capacity. You can reach out yourself if you know someone, preferably outside of your existing reporting line, who you respect and admire and feel would make a good role model for you. The final thing you can do is look to a nationwide mentoring scheme like http://www.onemillionmentors.org.uk where they will look for mentoring opportunities on your behalf.
Join LinkedIn: online professional networking has its benefits and LinkedIn will showcase your talent whilst at the same time connecting you to like-minded professionals who you have commonality with. Increasingly recruiters use it as a ready-made pool of potential candidates so it’s often a great way to come across your next opportunity. Just remember, keep it professional, it isn’t Facebook.
Create a skills bank: make some time to take stock of the skills you currently have. Document them in a folder. When you conquer new challenges and grown your skill set, document them and add them to your folder. Take time to organise it into different types of skill, so for example, giving presentations, dealing with conflict, going above and beyond the call of duty, team working. The usefulness of your skills bank really comes into play for regular 1-2-1’s, end of year reviews, when pulling together your CV and is worth its weight in gold when you are looking for your next challenge. Remember being sat in an interview and being asked, “Could you give me an example of a time you dealt with conflict…..” – you have a ready-made bank of skills brimming with examples on which to call when preparing for an interview situation.
The 365: 365 days a year make a note of just one thing each day that went well, that you achieved, or that gave you a sense of satisfaction. When the going gets tough it’s a marvel to reflect on the successes you have had throughout the year and it will provide a boost to keep you going and make you realise how great you really are.