Trends: career planning

Just two weeks into the New Year and many of you will be reflecting on your professional goals for 2006. Most of us take a reactive strategy to our careers, thinking about things only when something goes wrong. However, recent research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows it is critical to be proactive about your career. The single most important factor in getting to the top in HR, the research found, was personal drive and ambition.

Getting started

Early on in an HR career, you’re likely to be frustrated about not being able to move up the career ladder as quickly as you’d like, or you may struggle to get on in the first place. Many well-qualified graduates end up taking administrative jobs just to get into HR and then find they need more experience or qualifications to apply for more senior-level jobs. Make sure your manager is aware of your career aspirations and elicit their help in gaining suitable career development.

Wider experience

Gaining varied career experience – within and between organisations and internationally – is hugely beneficial.

The CIPD’s research emphasised the importance of making ‘zig-zag’ career moves between HR and other business roles. Respondents listed business awareness as the second most important factor in getting to the top. Talk to your manager about opportunities to build up your business experience – can you get involved in any cross-functional projects, or would you be able to do a business role secondment?

Gaining specialist expertise in a particular area of HR, or in a different area of HR if you are already a specialist, can build up your CV. And if you have been a specialist for some years, perhaps it is time to think about whether some generalist experience might be helpful. Qualifications are also important.

Things to watch out for

Staying in one organisation and over-specialising are two examples. If you are a specialist, it’s important to be proactive, since your career path could narrow and you may find yourself struggling to escape your specialist route. Keep your career options as broad as possible to avoid this situation.

The hardest thing about reaching your goals is taking that first step, but remember whatever you do, no matter how small, it’s a start.

Jessica Jarvis is the CIPD learning, training and development adviser.

Make the change

Are you stuck in a rut?
Are you too comfortable in your job?
Are you resentful of others who get on in their careers?
Do things happen to you instead of you making things happen?
Have you been too scared
of rejection to apply for jobs or promotion?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of these, it is probably time to start making some changes.

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