If you're currently employed, chances are, your employer has some tools or programs available to help you advance your career. I'm always surprised by how few people make use of them. But not only that, I think we often overlook some tools almost all employees have at their disposal to help them on their career journey.
These 7 tools may not be what you typically think of as career development tools, but in my experience, they can be invaluable.
1. Past Performance Appraisals. Often, during our performance appraisal meeting with our manager, our primary focus is to showcase our accomplishments and influence our compensation adjustment. We forget to pay attention to the details of what our manager has to say about our performance. But our performance appraisals usually contain really valuable feedback about areas of weakness that we need to focus on developing in order to progress in our careers. They also can give us a better picture of our true strengths of passions. So take some time to go back and reread your past performance appraisals, looking at some of the "negative" feedback and the praise you've received. Then work to address any identified skill gaps that may be standing in the way of your advancement and leverage your strengths.
2. 360 Degree Feedback. As part of their performance appraisal process, many organizations allow employees to solicit 360 degree feedback from others. If you can, take advantage of this valuable tool. It can help you get a broader picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Take any feedback to heart and again use it to focus your development activities and prepare yourself for that next job.
3. Job Postings. Reading your organization's job postings is a great way to familiarize yourself with the education, skill and experience requirements for a new job. You can use your company's job postings to find out what you need do/learn in order to qualify for a promotion or to take your career in a new direction. And don't forget to regularly look for any new openings you might be qualified for and interested in.
4. Job Descriptions. If your company makes them available, reading job descriptions is another great way to learn about the requirements for that next job you'd like. You can find jobs you didn't know about that use your core skills in a different way, or an entirely new position that really interests you. Just like job postings, job descriptions will give you a great summary of the requirements for the position so you know what you need to do to prepare for a move. Job descriptions are a great way to figure out if you'd even like the job you think you want.
5. Employee Profiles. If your organization has online employee profiles you can browse the profiles of those already in a job you'd like to move into and see what their background, education, skills and experience are. It's another great way to learn more about job requirements and focus your development activities. You can also use them to build your network or identify potential mentors.
6. Training. Most organizations allot a specific training budget for every employee. Yet it's amazing how many employees fail to take advantage of this. Find out what your training allotment or entitlement is, then make use of it. Sign up for learning activities that will help you prepare for your next career move and help make you more valuable in your job today.
7. Cross Functional Teams. Almost every organization has cross-functional teams or committees in place. Sometimes they're focused on special work projects, but often they deal with business processes, employee engagement issues, customer satisfaction challenges, corporate social responsibility initiatives, etc. Working on a cross-functional team is a great way to broaden your knowledge and skills and meet people from across the organization. It can expose you to different parts of the business, broaden your understanding of your industry and build your network. All these are great career advancement tools. So find out what cross-functional teams your organization has, and sign up to work on one.
If you think creatively, your organization has a number of great tools and resources that can help you define or refine your career goals and help you prepare for them. You just need to take the initiative.
About the Guest Blogger:
Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software, one of the leading providers of performance management software. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog.