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Here are eight strategies to plan and maximise your career development

Your career development plan

Whether you’re still studying, or you are a recent graduate setting out on a new career path, landing that first job can be challenging.

Whether you’re still studying, or you are a recent graduate setting out on a new career path, landing that first job can be challenging.

When looking for a position you need to put your best foot forward, but you also need to keep achieving and working hard once you’ve landed that job to ensure that you advance steadily in your career development plan.

Career Development Plan Tips

Here are eight strategies to plan and maximise your career development:

1. The reference letter

A reference letter or endorsement is important because it gives your future employer insight into your characteristics, capabilities and work ethic. A positive letter from someone who worked with you can help convince a potential employer to hire you. That’s why it is critically important to always give your best in any work situation. It's the best way to guarantee a glowing reference that will convince future employers to place their faith in you.

2. Identify what your personal brand says

Personal branding goes beyond just dressing for the job you want – it's about work ethic. How you present yourself in meetings and at office events, how you interact with staff both above and below you, and how seriously you take your work, all form part of your brand or the image of yourself that you wish to project.

As Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon says: "Your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room," You want to develop the reputation for being hardworking, having a solutions-orientated attitude and showing initiative.

3. Understand the 'why' of your position  

To improve your work performance at your new job you need to ensure you understand exactly what is expected of you, and what your key performance areas include. Then take the time to understand how your position fits into the bigger picture. This is the 'why' of your role.

Understanding the 'why' means that you understand the objective of your work relative to the company’s goals. This will help you to evaluate your own performance and to assess whether you are delivering sufficient value in your role to meet those bigger objectives.

4. Be effective and efficient

Do you know if you’re an asset or a hindrance to your manager? To find out, ask yourself the following:

  • Does your manager have to follow up on tasks they've given you?
  • Does your manager ask you for progress reports often?
  • Do you often have to repeat work or fix mistakes?

If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, don’t expect career advancement anytime soon. If you only said ‘yes’ to two out of three or one out of three, then you know which areas need improvement if you want to put yourself in the running for a better position.

The key is to work harder than all your colleagues. That means arriving at the office before everyone else and being the last to leave. It’s tough, but there is no better way to demonstrate your work ethic – and a solid work ethic is what commands respect.

5. Have a positive attitude

This might seem like common sense but, if you’ve ever had a pessimist or unhappy person on your team you’ll know how draining they can be. They also tend to be challenge-orientated rather than solutions-orientated, which reduces everyone’s efficiency.

Maintaining a good attitude at work will have a positive reflection on the work that you do, as well as increase your productivity. This will also have an impact on the quality of your tasks and how managers perceive your value. Having a good attitude, may also increase your chances of getting a promotion or a raise, because it means you have the ability to be a positive role model for others who would report into you.

6. See feedback as a gift

Learn to look at criticism or ‘feedback’ as an opportunity to make yourself better at what you do – to improve your performance. Regardless of the person or their method of delivery, take out the lesson nuggets and move on. Feedback will help you to continuously improve, which is definitely something you need to do when attempting to advance your career.

7. Put your hand up for more

The average employee resists taking on additional responsibility. Some even going so far as stretch out their work and ‘look busy’. But you don’t want to be average. To move up the corporate ladder, you should show your manager how reliable and exceptional you are, and that you always have a ‘can do’ approach.

Once you’ve completed your responsibilities to your manager’s satisfaction, volunteer for more work. Even if you’re just taking something off your managers’ plate, they’ll appreciate the assistance. By asking for more and showing initiative, you are proving to management that you are capable and proactive.

8. Take responsibility for your own development

Not all companies will offer you opportunities to increase your knowledge and further your abilities. This is why you need to take the reins when it comes to ongoing learning.

The first step is to learn as much as you can about your field, whether this means going to work-related seminars after hours, or taking online courses. Once you feel your knowledge is solid, start to learn about what your boss does, or learn about other areas of the business that interest you.

You never know when having these extra skills will come in handy. Moreover, this approach will keep your mind open to learning more when something new and interesting comes along.

The best way to land that dream job is to work as though everything that you do will have a positive impact on your reference letter. Work hard, ask for more, manage yourself and keep learning – and you’ll be well on your way to advancing your career.