by Alan Vengel
When you have a clear understanding of what you bring to an organization, you become an empowered individual who uses today's projects to build tomorrow's skills. Using the influence model in career development will give you an extra, powerful tool to achieve your career objectives.
The Three Steps of Career Development
Having a written career development plan with specific goals is important. But first you must understand yourself and your options.
- Understanding yourself. By developing an accurate picture of yourself, you are better able to educate others to what you can do. You can also demonstrate your potential for future learning. This step begins with the influence behavior of assertiveness. Identify clearly the key skills that you use now and have used in the past. How can you leverage them now?
- Understanding your options. Today's businesses are constantly changing, and the most successful professionals regularly seek to leverage those changes to achieve personal goals. It's not enough just to do a great job at work. Developing multiple career goals will help you look into the future and be ready for the changes that will take place. Create opportunities for yourself by taking deliberate action. Network within your organization and the industry in which you work. Where will the industry be two and a half years from now? Whom can you talk with in your organization to find out more?
- Understanding your next steps. Once you've identified your career goals, you are ready to develop your career development plan. Your plan must be written and measurable with a specific time frame for completion. Once this plan is outlined, speak with your boss or a mentor in the organization. Gathering feedback and support for your plan is a key link to achieving your goals.
Using Influence Strategies
Once you have written your career development plan, it is time to put it into action using influence skills.
Sharon feels that she has reached a plateau in her career and has decided that she wants some new experiences. She wants to influence her boss to allow her to attend a three-day professional conference and have the company pay for it.
- Assert. State your objectives clearly and directly.
Sharon's boss likes direct talk, so she approaches him with a plan of action. She states when, where, why and how her objective will be achieved.
"Joel, you know that I really want to attend the Technology Conference next month. We're lucky to have it in town this year, and it will be a great benefit to my continued learning and my on-the-job performance. If I could have your signature on these forms, then the accounting department can send the $60 fee with my registration."
- Suggest. Many people develop concerns when new ideas are presented to them. This is a natural step in an influence situation. Your challenge is to suggest solutions that are relevant to the concerns.
Joel is worried that Sharon will fall behind in her work by missing three days of work while at the conference and questions how the rest of her group will benefit by her attendance. She has anticipated Joel's concerns and presents her suggestions.
"First, I will make sure that my priorities are delegated to the other members of the group while I'm gone. Second, as soon as I return, I will have a brief meeting with my group to report what I've learned and how it can be applied to our present and future projects."
- Create a Vision. Paint a picture of the positive repercussions that will occur when the person you're influencing agrees with you.
Sharon notices that Joel is impressed by her forethought but still may be wavering over the decision. She knows she'll get his approval by demonstrating at least one of the important effects that his decision will have.
"It's important that you support me in my continued learning. If you were to do so, I would definitely feel valued by you and the company, which really motivates me to do my best work."
By creating a career development plan and actively involving influence strategies in that plan, you implement a powerful tool for your career advancement. Whether you are at a plateau (as in Sharon's case) or just beginning in your career, a strong, written plan accompanied by your practice of influence skills will help you reach your goals.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Alan Vengel is a consultant in management training and organizational development and author of The Influence Edge (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Email him at: alan(at)vengelconsulting.com. Phone: 925-837-0148.
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