How to prioritise your personal and professional development

My career in energy and sustainability has so far spanned a decade and in that time I’ve grown from being a graduate energy analyst with no practical experience to a senior energy manager with chartered energy manager status.

Through thoughtful career development, I’ve managed to climb the corporate ladder, learn valuable life skills and grow as a leader. Although to many finding the time for professional development is a nice to have, to me it has always been a must. Both personal and professional development has been pivotal in advancing my career.

It is, however, so easy to get sucked into the day job, forever trying to cross things off your never ending ‘to do’ list and feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. But, by consciously putting your development at the top of that list, you’ll soon find yourself on a journey of self-improvement.

Here are my top 5 professional development tips:

  1. Make it a part of the day job

Assign and diarise 2 hours of your working week to a development activity. Be it reading some articles, attending a course, listening to a TED talk or even meeting someone from another area of the business for a coffee. Imagine it’s a critical meeting and make that time non-negotiable.

  1. Grow intentionally

Keep an up-to-date personal development plan. Many of the organisations I have worked for required me to do this. It prompted regular conversations with my line managers and got me thinking about the future in both a professional and personal capacity. It’s important to create a plan that helps you move purposefully toward action and learning.

  1. Own your own development

Whilst others may take a vested interest in your development, ultimately, it’s yours to proactively drive. You can do more for yourself than your employer ever could and the first step is recognising that it’s on you to develop yourself. From there on, your options are infinite. 

  1. Volunteer your time and skills

I volunteer a lot of my time as a STEM Ambassador to help raise awareness of energy and engineering careers. Over the years I have found I’ve learnt and grown most through such volunteering activities. I’ve gained confidence through presenting to large audiences, developed my communication skills and have had a positive impact on the lives of students. There are hundreds of charities, schools and universities screaming out for this type of help. Doing something you love and learning along the way is the perfect development combination.

  1. Your network creates your net worth

One of the best ways to continuously develop is to expand your network. Making introductions through your peer group, industry institutions or associations can help you to develop new skills, ideas and ways of thinking, share experiences, and find sources of support.

As the energy industry is so fast paced, continued professional development is key to making an impression with employers and staying abreast of what’s happening in the industry. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, which is why personal goals, priorities and reflections are key to creating a bespoke and effective development plan.

I’ve met people who feel guilty about taking the time out of a working day to focus on themselves. My professional development activities ultimately make me better at my day job – benefiting the company I work for just as much as it’s benefiting me.

Remember, investing in your development isn’t selfish, it’s self care!

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