I was trying to find an attention-grabbing headline. I feel like what I have isn’t quite it, but if you are reading, hopefully you will finish the piece.
Thank you very much to all those who engage me on social media to tackle some of the issues raised directly or tacitly in my writing.
We previously talked about taking the initiative in your professional development, and many readers wrote back asking what specific techniques they could use apart from getting another qualification. And I savoured the level of interaction, and the quality of debate – it was refreshing and encouraging because, quite frankly, when I got my first degree in 1996, the general thinking around development was skewed exclusively towards qualifications.
Continuous professional development mostly referred to maintaining compliance with the academic proficiency, so yes, it was about ensuring that you have the highest and the most current qualification. Of course, qualification is of unequivocal importance if you want to continue to be employable at whichever level your career is at, but there are other skills that enhance your position you as the preferred candidate. And what skills are those? Further, where can they be found? Ok, so let’s talk about them. Let’s call them Internal Resources.
Disclaimer. I may get a bit technical but I promise to make this as accessible as possible without losing or diluting the point. What are internal resources? What is the difference between Coaching, Mentoring, Counseling, and Training? Can these approaches access my internal resources and help me to be the best version of me I need to be professionally (and personally) so that I continue to identify, access and exploit opportunities?
Basically, your internal resources are the skills, practices and abilities that support you to be self-aware, self-motivated, self-confident and self-regulated. In other words, do you know who you are, what is important to you, and why, what you are good at, where you need to develop, and how; what triggers what sorts of reactions and behaviours in you, and when triggered, what does it take for you to return to a productive (or should I just say balanced?) state.
So, if you look at professional development from this angle, you can see why academic qualifications alone will not always position you for success. Well ok, position you they will, but enable you to access and exploit the opportunities they probably won’t because if you don’t know who you are and what you value, then how are you going to set meaningful goals for yourself, how are you going to maintain any level of resilience and self-motivation
Because you know, as you evolve from entry level positions to executive, it becomes as much about influencing people and managing relationships as it is about enabling high performing teams. Your technical qualification may be relevant to “core business” but will not necessarily help with this often-called-soft-skill. Right. So where to go for this type of development? Assessments. Counseling. Coaching. Those three are the combination I typically defer to. I will admit here that until recently, my attitude to coaching was not as supportive, but on reflection, I recognise that honestly, we all need that space where we can be nurtured, guided and challenged by a trusted professional. But what is the difference between them?
The career coach is mostly focused on guiding you towards the achievement of your goals by asking questions and structuring a process that helps you map your way. In comparison, a mentor may also guide you in achieving your goals but mentoring is less focused on performance and specific tasks. Mentoring is a relationship between two people with the goal of professional and personal development. The “mentor” is usually an experienced individual who shares knowledge, experience, and advice with a less experienced person, or “mentee.” The counselor you may contract with seeks to explore the underlying dynamics of your choices and your relationships. Counselors and coaches both ask questions but counselors tend not to address tasks and performance. The goal for counseling is to promote self-understanding and self-acceptance whereas the goal for coaching is to create action goals to take you from here to where you want to be.
And then there is training. In whatever form (classroom, online webinar, shadowing, on-the-job, etc) training is all about the acquisition and mastery of knowledge and skills. It is about the qualifications that we started discussing at the beginning of this.
So, as the proactive professional, why don’t you get yourself on a path to growth and development? You can start by getting an assessment – a psychometric assessment suited to your professional or organisational level – and then, on the basis of that, get a counselor and a coach to help make sense of everything. It will be the best money you have ever spent!