I spent part of yesterday delivering one of my favourite training courses we offer via the Benefex University: CPD and Personal Development.

For me, taking ownership of my self-development is always something which has come naturally, perhaps because of my background training as an actor, where ownership of one’s own personal development is essential in order to progress. In the cut-throat world of professional theatre, there are no line managers, annual appraisals, or KPIs. Actors are taught from their first day of training to seek out every opportunity to upskill. After all, if you don’t do it, no one else is going to be doing it for you.

Handholding employees

Contrast this with the relatively cossetted world of regular employment. It is not atypical for employees to be handheld through an induction and onboarding process before falling into a regular cycle of one to ones, KPIs and goal setting with their line manager. All of which is important for ensuring alignment with the business objectives and maximising the employee experience. I would ask one question though. By handholding employees in this way… are we providing them with an excuse not to take ownership of their own personal development?

Fresh out of drama school, it didn’t occur to me for one moment that anyone was going to be holding my hand. More by luck than design, I drew up a series of career targets with clear deadlines. I would only later go on to realise that I had just set my first set of learning goals.

Taking ownership of your career

Learning goals are, in my opinion, essential for everyone to have in order to take ownership of their career, chart their progress and development, and ultimately achieve their ambitions. It therefore never ceases to surprise me when I come across employees – both those new to the workplace, and those who have been employed for many years – who not only don’t have a clear set of learning goals, but wouldn’t have a clue about how to go about setting them.

If that’s you, then the good news is that it’s never too late to take control of your own development and start setting learning goals. If you’re wondering how to do so, then it’s a simple case of identifying three different things:

#1 Desired Future State

When you think about your future career, where do you want to be? It might be that you have a specific job role in mind, but if not, think about the outcomes you’re looking for from your career. Whether it’s to work in a particular industry, head up a particular team, or even make a particular amount of money! Clearly identify what that desired future state is.

#2 Current Situation

In contrast to the above, what are you doing currently? Relate it to your desired future state – for example, if you’re aiming to work in a particular industry, what’s the industry you’re in currently, and does it have any similarities or crossovers with the one that you’re targeting?

#3 Fill The Gap

Once you’ve identified #1 and #2, it’s then a case of identifying the skills and experience that you need to bridge the gap between the two states. So, if you currently work in a back office role, but are looking to become client facing, the skills you will need to acquire to get you there might include account management, presentation skills, industry knowledge, etc. Together, these break down to form your individual learning goals. For example: I want to become confident presenting in front of third parties. You can then write down the activities which will get you there, which become your target development activities, e.g. Take a presenting course, volunteer to present at the team meeting, etc.

And it really is as simple as that. Over time, those goals and activities stack up. No longer are you stagnating in your role, waiting for someone to drop an opportunity into your lap. Instead, you’re taking ownership of your own development and giving yourself every possible chance to achieve your aspirations and fulfil your potential.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds to me like something worth doing.