As November draws to a close, we thought we’d collate our thoughts on career progression given it is National Career Development Month. Established by the National Career Development Agency, the month long awareness campaign encourages professionals to celebrate their career goals, hopes and aspirations.
At SMART Garden Offices, we love nothing more than investing in our people and watching them grow. We make a conscious effort to stay connected and include everyone in new ideas, especially when it comes to manufacturing and designing our garden offices.
But how do you stay focused on your career development when you work from home, either as a freelancer or employee? Well, it’s quite easy when you put in place all the right building blocks, environment, networking and allow for that all important down-time.
This November, we thought we’d focus our National Career Development message on supporting people working from home. After all, many of us have been doing so for the best part of a year now.
Setting Career Goals
Whether you’re employed, self-employed, just been made redundant or about to start a new job, having a professional development plan is important.
One of the first things you’ll want to do is make sure that you have a SMART career development plan. SMART is an acronym you may already be familiar with in project management. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. But what does it mean in the context of a professional development plan?
Well, goals are part of everyday life, business included. They provide us with a sense of direction, motivation, and a clear purpose. It makes sense then, that your career development goals should be SMART, and by that we mean:
General aspirations tend to get lost. When you weave in specific ambitions into your professional development plan, you’re much more likely to accomplish them.
For example, this is a general goal: I want to double my revenue. A specific goal would is – I will join two new networking groups, dedicate half an hour each day to social media, tender for new work and reach out to old contacts to grow new business.
You need to be able to measure the goals within your professional development plan. Ask yourself ‘how will I know if I reach my goal?’ If it’s revenue growth, that’s quite an easy one to track. If however, your goal is to increase your knowledge or improve your skills in a certain area, you might want to record the time you’ve spent learning and how you’ve been able to use your newfound skills.
Nobody likes setting themselves up to fail. It can be really demotivating. That’s why it’s important to set goals that are within reach. This doesn’t mean they have to be easy though. They still need to challenge you.
The goals in your professional development plan need to be connected to your company’s goals or to your longer-term plans. If your goal is not connected to other ambitions, you may find it difficult to dedicate the time and energy. Remember not to set too many goals at once. If there’s one thing 2020 has taught us all, life is unpredictable.
Every goal should have a clear time frame. Without one, there’s no sense of urgency and things will slip. You might even choose to set a diary reminder once a week to check in with yourself on your progress that week.
Common Obstacles to Career Goals
There are several career development barriers that people face in their career. Most of them are of our own making, which thankfully means that they can also be overcome.
Many employees and freelancers convince themselves that they don’t deserve that promotion or contract, which can be a huge barrier to their career development. They don’t feel ready and so they will make excuses. The only way to overcome this ‘imposter syndrome’ is to reframe your thinking and let go of your inner perfectionist. Reed.co.uk has some great tips for fighting the fear.
Lack of a structured plan
Some people get stuck because they’re not doing anything to move forward. To avoid this, make sure you keep that career development SMART plan active. Know exactly where you want to be in 5, 10, 20 years’ time and stay prepared for your next role.
Being too closed off
No matter how ‘good’ someone is at their job, they can still be ‘invisible’ and miss out on that promotion. The best form of praise is from colleagues or clients. How others view you can really help your career development. Others you work with need to know about your strengths, values, and expertise though. That way, they can vouch for you and tell other people how good you are. You need to spend time developing your network and well-wishers, so be sure to make the most of your new-found virtual environment and have that 15 min Zoom check-in!
Progressing Towards your Professional Goals
Whilst it’s not quite the same networking without the coffee and cake, it’s important to nurture your network for career development. If you’re a freelancer or work in sales, collaboration is an important aspect of keeping work coming in. Most established business networking groups are now online. If you’ve not been networking for some time though, pop a post on LinkedIn and ask your connections for good virtual networking groups.
Oh, and when you are online, pay attention to what’s behind you when on camera. It’s great if you have your own home office, but if you don’t have a designated working space, there are lots of clever backgrounds on Zoom.
Rethink how you use your ‘commute’ time
As we mentioned in our previous blog on road safety, the average person spends 221 hours a year commuting. Imagine what you could do with that time if you attributed even just half of it to your career development?
Dedicate time in your home office to do that online course, read that e-book or listen to that podcast – you may never get this time again. Most importantly, share those learnings with your manager and co-workers.
Be more ‘productive’ with your time
If you look at any successful business leader, you’ll find they share remarkably similar traits and one of those is ‘super-human’ time management. A huge part of their career development is the ability to minimise distractions and prioritise. Always start your day with a check-list. A good tip is to always do that slightly tricky job first rather than putting it off until the end of the day!
Improving your work life balance
By far the most beneficial to successful career development is making time for doing all the things you love in life. In our Work from Home survey 2020, 60% of business leaders said that more time with their family and friends will impact their happiness the most over the next 2-3 years.
If you’re working from home, having a dedicated garden office is a huge advantage. It helps to ‘ringfence’ that precious time with family and friends and keeps you focused on business when you need to be.
Thankfully, a garden office doesn’t have to be large or costly, and if you’re self-employed it’s a great choice. Unlike rent, a garden office is not dead money. If you choose to finance one over five years, you’ll own the building at the end of it. With a 10-year structural warranty and minimum life expectancy of 25 years, it’s a fantastic investment for the future.
SMART has been creating thousands of small garden rooms over the past 19 years. With 7 beautiful and diverse ranges available in up to 64 sizes, there is a garden office to accommodate you and all your future career ambitions!