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Who's Responsible for Your Professional Development?

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: My manager keeps telling me it's my responsibility to improve my skills and abilities. I think it should be the responsibility of my organization. Who's right?

A: Sorry, but I agree with your manager. It's your responsibility to constantly learn and grow so that you improve your skills. But your organization should be responsible for providing you with some opportunities for development and for supporting your development.

If you give this some thought, I think you'll agree that you're the only person who really knows what your career goals and aspirations are. So you're the one who should put together a career development plan for where you want to go and how you can get there. Your manager can guide you through this process and help you see what opportunities exist for you at your current organization or elsewhere.

Start by considering where you are now and where you want to be in five or 10 years. What new skills will you need to get there? How will you develop those new skills?

Discuss your career goals with your manager and ask about the possibility of getting a mentor to help guide you. Research any training opportunities your organization provides and take advantage of everything available. Look at your organization's tuition reimbursement program (if it has one) and find out whether you can use that program to get a degree or take classes that will move you toward your career goals.

It's your job to manage your career development, but you should have some support from your organization as well.

If an opportunity arises to participate in a staff task force or serve on a cross-functional team, throw your hat in the ring. These are a great chance to develop new skills. And make sure your manager knows you're eager to take on any stretch assignment that he or she thinks you're ready for.

Webinars and podcasts are also great learning opportunities, and many of them are low or no cost. You can listen at a time that works for your schedule. If you're looking for more in-depth study, many colleges and universities offer online programs—these can be cost effective and efficient for busy professionals.

Be sure to keep your manager and your HR department informed of what classes you take and, of course, if you get an advanced certificate or degree.

It's your job to manage your career development, but you should have some support from your organization as well.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

Employee Training Career Development