Some Organizational Tools You Can Leverage to Develop and Advance Your Career

A Guest Post by Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

Every organization, no matter how large or small, has a variety of tools and resources available to help employees advance their careers. But it’s up to you as an employee to take advantage of them – not every organization or manager will proactively promote them. Here’s a list of some of the common resources available to you.

Annual Performance Appraisal
Your annual performance appraisal is actually an excellent career development tool – if you choose to view it that way. Here’s where the organization identifies the competencies that are central to its culture and mission. Your manager will you give you feedback on your performance of these as well as on any job specific competencies and on your goals. Listen carefully to the feedback your manager gives you on your performance and don’t be afraid to ask questions or solicit examples. You’ll gain valuable insights on how your manager perceives you, and what’s expected of you in your current role. You’ll also identify areas for improvement or for further development.

As a result, most organizations include development planning as part of their performance appraisal process, though some run it as a separate process. Make sure you take advantage of any and all opportunities to address weaknesses, as well as to broaden or deepen your knowledge and skills. Ask your manager for support, and also for ongoing feedback to help you in your development.

Your performance appraisal is also the time when you set goals for the coming period. Discuss your career interests with your manager and see if there are work assignments or goals you can be given to help get there.

360 Degree Feedback
360 degree feedback is another great tool that can help you develop and advance your career. Many organizations have a formal process for this and often include it as part of their annual performance appraisal process. Others use it solely for leadership development. If your organization supports 360 degree feedback, make use of it. But even if it doesn’t, you can still solicit feedback from peers, other managers, and the various stakeholders you work with on a regular basis. Your manager will often have a limited view of your work and capabilities; 360 degree feedback gives you a broader picture. Here again, pay careful attention to the feedback you’re given, use it to identify areas for development, then follow through with action.

Succession Planning Programs
Succession planning programs tend to exist in larger organizations. Sometimes they are made know to employees, other times, only managers are privy to the details. Start by asking your manager and or HR representative if your organization has a succession planning program in place, and an associated development program to groom key contributors and potential future leaders. You may be able to benefit from the program. At the very least, you should have an open discussion with your manager about your career aspirations and solicit their help in preparing you in whatever way they can.

Mentors
Many organizations offer internal mentoring programs designed to help guide and develop employees. If your organization has one, take advantage of it. If not, start your own. Identify the people you think would be great career mentors for you, then approach them and ask if they’d be willing to advise you. You can look within your organization, but also outside it.

Cross-Functional Teams
Working on a cross functional team helps expose you to people with other skills and people who work at different levels in the organization. They provide can provide you with valuable experience, broaden your knowledge of the organization, and build your network. Look for opportunities to work on cross-functional teams so you can reap their benefits.

Volunteer Committees
Volunteer committees also often provide great opportunities to network, learn new skills, gain experience and broaden your horizons. Many organizations have volunteer committees that organize employee events, social corporate responsibility initiatives, employee health and wellness programs, etc. You can also look outside your organization for volunteer activities that help foster your development and career progression.

Tuition Support
Some organizations also offer support for tuition at colleges or universities, as long as the courses taken help benefit the organization. Look into the existence of any such program at your organization and take advantage of it.

Conclusion
Whether they’re formal or informal, your organization likely has lots of tools and resources that can help you develop and progress in your career. Are you taking advantage of some or all of them?

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance and talent management software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen Software blog.

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