Our career development revolves around our ability to grow. We need to grow both our soft skills and our hard skills to progress in our careers.
Challenges in Measuring Skill Development
At times it is easy to tell if we are positively developing those skills. For example, you take a training class on a piece of software and begin utilizing the software on the job. After a period of time, the basics of the software become second nature.
Other skills, though, are harder to measure. Your annual review states that you need to improve your adaptability and flexibility. Besides your boss’ opinion, it can be difficult to compare one year to the next. Leadership, communication skills and so on can be challenging to establish a baseline and to measure.
Choose the Skills to Develop
What skills are you trying to develop this year? Keep the list reasonable. Individuals typically don’t have time to complete all their job tasks and develop multiple skill areas they targeted. If you list out too many areas to develop, you are likely to be overwhelmed and ignore all of them!
Measure Your Progress
How are you going to measure your improvement? It is possible that the skill development is on your official performance plan. At the end of the year, your manager will rate you on your skill development so make sure you understand how you’ll be measured. For true skill development, you cannot wait until the end of the year to review. So, set a few milestones throughout the year. For example, if you are trying to become a more clear and concise communicator in your writing, take time every few months to compare your writing and see if there is improvement. Ask the recipients of your writing for their opinion on your improvement and ways you could have done better.
Routinely Solicit Feedback
Asking for feedback is crucial in skill development. For example, if you are working on presentation skills, you can ask for feedback directly after a presentation. However, you don’t want to ask the generic question “How did I do?” Individuals will typically give you a positive and non-detailed response. Ask specific questions: Did I seem nervous? Did I use a lot of filler words? Was my volume appropriate? Did I have too much information on the slides? Did I speak too quickly or too slowly, etc? Now, you also don’t want to corner someone for 30 minutes peppering them with questions like this. Find individuals you trust to give you honest feedback. Let them know you are seeking honest feedback as a way to improve your speaking skills and you are really trying to improve. Then have a few questions ready that can help you illicit some specific feedback. Another point to mention is to be open to the feedback. Don’t debate with the individuals that their perceptions were incorrect. This is a time to gather feedback. There may be some irrelevant items mentioned and that’s fine. You can easily sift through to the ones that are meaningful.
Skill development takes work, but if it is a skill you truly want to improve on, it’s worth investing your time. The extra time now will pay dividends in the end.