Developing your own continual learning plan

If you are an ambitious professional, the chances are you have a clear idea about where you want to go in life and what you want to achieve in your career.

But the big question is this - how will you go about achieving your goals? In order to keep moving forwards, and to progress at the desired rate, employees need to take responsibility for their own professional development.

Employers may run training sessions, fund education initiatives and offer other development opportunities, but job-related learning is most effective when it is tailored to the needs of each individual.

This is why it makes sense to develop a continual learning plan, to be followed - and revised where appropriate - during the course of your career.

Applying for jobs with training opportunities is always a good start, as employers can have an important role to play in this process.

But ultimately, each individual should set their own professional development agenda and ensure they act upon it, helping to position themselves for career progress.

  • Professional development is important

So do the majority of employers take employee training and learning seriously? According to a leading technology industry body, the answer is yes.

BCS, The Chartered Institute of IT, claims that many organisations have well-established continued professional development activities, which are designed to help individuals reach their potential.

"But it’s still good to be proactive in order to develop your current role, achieve greater satisfaction and effectiveness in your current work or take a new career direction," the organisation urges.

BCS advises professionals to put aside some time to reflect on their work and take stock, noting that opportunities may slip away if they fail to do so.

The body also calls on workers to adopt a systematic approach to continual learning - writing a plan and setting targets to be achieved.

  • What goes in a continual learning plan?

But what should the plan include? Ultimately this depends on each individual, their own level of motivation, and how they work most effectively.

Typically, the plan will consider current projects and issues relevant to career development - in terms of what is going well and what isn't.

Other considerations may be learning and development needs, required resources, people who can assist with development, obstacles to overcome, and both short and long-term goals.

Most continual learning plans will also set a timescale for each task, helping the individual to keep on-course to meet their career targets.

  • Taking immediate action

It may be possible to take action now to improve performance in your current role, and accelerate the process of targeting a promotion or a new job.

Your managers will conduct appraisals - considering what you have achieved in the last quarter or year - but this does not have to form the basis of your own learning plan.

An employer-led review is likely to be job or company specific, and may not consider your long-term career aspirations.

And if this is the case, and there are gaps in the training and development offered to you by your existing employer, you need to think about where these can be filled.

Options include further education, vocational training courses, independent learning and one-on-one mentorship.

Acquiring a career coach - someone who can provide independent advice from an objective viewpoint - can be particularly beneficial.

They can use their own experiences as a professional to help point you in the right direction, and ensure you lay the foundations for successful career progression.