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by Sean Conrad | March 19, 2013


By Sean Conrad, Halogen Software

We often think of switching jobs as one of the best ways to advance our careers. And while that may be true—a new job does often offer new opportunities to learn and develop, take on greater responsibilities, move up the ladder, etc.—we sometimes overlook the career development resources our current employer offers us. Your company's talent management programs offer you a whole variety of opportunities to develop new skills and prepare for career progression.

Here's a run-down of a few of the ways you can take advantage of them:

1. Pay Attention to the Feedback You're Given

Whether it's given during your performance appraisal as part of a 360 degree review, or just in the course of your day-to-day work, pay attention to the feedback you're given on your performance. The feedback will help you identify your strengths as well as the areas where you could improve. Then, set goals and take action to improve wherever needed. Of course, you can also use feedback as means to check your progress. You may be stuck in  your current job for a while, but that's no reason to stagnate.

2. Complete a Self-Evaluation

Whether your company requires you to or not, complete an annual self-evaluation, using the same form your manager uses to assess your performance. Self-evaluations invite the kind of introspection that leads to growth. Be honest, and look for areas where you can improve. Draft goals and development plans to help you maximize your contributions and prepare for career advancement, then share these with your manager as part of your performance appraisal.

3. Take Advantage of Development Opportunities

Most companies offer their employees opportunities to take courses, attend conferences, participate in webinars, etc. Often, planning for this is done as part of an annual performance appraisal, but many employees fail to take advantage of this. Don't let this opportunity pass you by: make use of every learning opportunity available to you. Using the feedback you've been given, your own self-evaluation, and your career plans, then identify areas you'd like to develop and resources for developing them.

4. Sign Up for Stretch or Cross-Functional Goals and Assignments

One of the best ways to learn is on the job. So when you're setting your goals for the coming quarter or year, sign up for stretch goals or assignments that will help you develop the skills and experience you need for career progression. Cross-functional teamwork is also a great opportunity to not only stretch yourself but learn about other parts of the business and make new connections.

5. Dive into the Talent Pool

Most progressive companies have some form of succession planning program in place. The best ones create talent pools to develop high performing employees in all key areas of the business and prepare them for career advancement. Find out what kind of succession focused develop programs your company has in place. Then talk to your manager or HR rep about your career aspirations and see if you can take advantage the company's program.

6. Research the Requirements for Your Desired Job

Sometimes, we don't have a clear notion of what's required for the position we aspire to. If your company has job descriptions, you can use them as a way to better understand what you need to do to prepare for your next move. The job description should lay out the education, qualifications and experience required, but also the key job accountabilities. Figure out what you need to develop or acquire, then set out to do just that.

7. Build Your Network

Many of today's talent management tools also offer some form of employee profiles or social networking facility. Leverage them to build your network, find a mentor, get guidance from someone in the role/area you want to move into. Or just make your own skills/experience/qualifications/career aspirations known to your organization.

8. Make Your Next Move

When you do decide to move on to a new opportunity, make sure that during the interview process you ask your prospective employers what kind of talent management and career development programs they have in place. It's a great way to get a feel for the support you'll get once on the job, and the company's commitment to its employees' career development and progression.

Sean Conrad is a Certified Human Capital Strategist and Senior Product Analyst at Halogen Software. He writes regularly about career development and other management best practices for the Halogen Exploring talent management blog.

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