Career Development Opportunities: boondoggle or survival skill?

"I am provided career development opportunities"

How about you?  Are you satisfied with the range and quantity of career development opportunities for you at work?

What does “career development opportunities” mean, anyway?  And if you don’t have “enough” of them, what can you do about it?  Plenty!

“Career development” can mean anything and everything that helps you advance in your job or role, your long term career and path in the company or industry, or it could mean something as pragmatic and important as time management and life/work balance. 

How can you get it?  It can be in the form of classes or seminars internally or externally.  It can be in the form of mentoring and coaching from others.  It can be in formal management development programs at the larger companies, or it can simply be in an apprenticeship with a “master” practitioner (if you’re lucky enough). 

What if your company is lacking in programs and formal offerings?  Go out and grab the opportunities yourself!  Sign up for industry and trade seminars and programs.  Go to conferences.  Help organize and volunteer at industry and trade events.  You can do so and get entrance free in most cases.  Take the initiative to set up a speaker series in your company to have internal experts and external gurus share their experiences and expertise and advice.  It gives you personal exposure and relationships with these amazing leaders.  Find a mentor and ask for coaching.  Be a mentor.  Teach others what you know.  All of this adds-up and creates confidence, builds a reputation for you as a leader, and puts you on a great track, no matter who you are or what your goals.

So don’t wait around for your company to come up with a menu of career development opportunities!  Make up your mind and start taking advantage of the many local activities and rich content available in your industry, and start reaching out to assemble your own program of tutoring and leadership coaching.  

Its easy and in most instances it’s free or nearly free.  Stay away from boondoggle "business courses on cruise ships" but aside from that, once you start to explore the possibilities you'll see more than you can possibly take advantage of.  Most employers will pay for costs you do incur even if there is no formal “program” in place.  Just ask.  Great companies and great leaders know this is the best expense they can ever cover.

And remember to offer to help others and share what you’ve learned.  It’s the fastest way to the top--- helping others.  It’s rewarding and it’s a lot of fun!