Take control of your career plan

How do you give your career a reboot? Andrew Harvey, chief executive of VMAGROUP and board director of the Institute of Internal Communication, has this advice to help you get started.

Most of us think about our careers and how they are progressing but perhaps not in any systematic way. It could be that you’re keen to upskill, or perhaps you want a new role entirely. Whatever your view, it’s important to have a career plan that spans longer than a year or two.

You might feel it’s a little redundant to look that far ahead, after all, you could change your mind at any time. But that’s the brilliant thing about plans, they can adapt as you do.

Setting yourself longer-term career goals will provide focus and a guide to the skills you need to develop. You wouldn’t begin a long-term comms project without a plan, so why not do the same with your career?

Career and skills development plans

If you’re struggling with the planning process, consider breaking it down into 2 core streams:

  • the career development plan
  • the skills development plan

The career development plan will focus on the specific positions you want to reach and map out a career ladder from one job title to the next. The career development plan acts as a framework as you move from one position to another, often increasing your seniority, or perhaps even moving sideways into a slightly different field altogether, for example, channels manager, social media manager, IC business partner, or even head of IC?

The skills development plan will focus on the skills and experience you need to develop, to reach the next steps in your career development plan.

For example, if you want to be the social media manager, but you don’t have the skills, then you will clearly need to learn them. If you want to be an IC business partner, but you’re worried about your stakeholder management or coaching skills, then find the training to improve. Use this plan to identify the skills you need to progress. This will allow you to take control of the training and development you need.

It’s worth looking ahead at lots of job descriptions of the type of role you’d like to do. Then understand the requirements and skills needed and spend time developing yourself to achieve them.

Keep an open mind about the type of role you want to go for, it doesn’t have to be another permanent contract. You could consider interim, contract or freelance work. Freelancing is a great, flexible option if you have some experience under your belt and you enjoy delivering bespoke projects and tactical campaigns. Or if you’re looking for flexibility and strategic level work, then consultancy is an option too.

Even if you’re not the planning type and prefer to take things as they come, consciously make that decision. Don’t let your career and the development of your skills drift unconsciously…

What are employers looking for?

When you’re reviewing your skills and thinking about developing your career, it’s also important to be mindful of the skills and experience currently in demand, by organisations, both large and small.

Internal communications as a discipline and sector has grown hugely over the past 15 years and the skills in demand now, have changed.

It may sound silly, but being able to create comms strategies and plans, write well, and develop and manage campaigns is a given and entirely expected of any IC professional. These skills and experience should be developed as an absolute minimum.

The bigger challenge is to develop the skills and experience expected of an IC professional that may not have been so obvious a decade ago.

Over the past six months, VMAGROUP interviewed around 30 CEOs from a broad spectrum of organisations both in the UK and Europe and we asked them the question: “What are the skills and experience you require from your comms teams and comms leaders?”

Surprisingly, their responses didn’t really focus on communications.

CEOs and business leaders are looking for:

  • a strategic mindset
  • the ability to lead and manage through ambiguity
  • business and financial acumen
  • expert credibility, judgement and advice
  • in-depth knowledge of your business, sector, competition
  • courage
  • resilience
  • a digital native
  • someone who is results orientated.

Arguably these skills are the difference between being a good communicator and a great communicator, certainly in the eyes of senior stakeholders.

So, keep in mind these skills when you’re thinking about your Career Development and Skills Development Plans.

I highly recommend that all IC professionals take a look at the work of the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC). They recently launched a new IoIC Profession Map, which is a fantastic guide to developing your skills and career and will provide expert guidance every step of the way.

Having worked at the centre of the IC industry for more than 15 years, I’m confident there has never been a better time to be an IC professional. The profession is in huge demand and is respected more than ever before, with more career opportunities opening up.

Too many people let time pass by without thinking about or planning their future career. Don’t let this happen to you. Make 2020 the year you take control of your career.