Professional Development Tips
Welcome to our professional development tips page. At Dow, we invest in our employees to keep them at the forefront of their respective fields. We believe that there is always room to grow, which is why we nurture talent, enable employee growth and support career development. We have provided some essential development tips to better plan and progress your career. To learn more about Dow’s focus on development and culture, visit our Working at Dow section.
PLANNING YOUR CAREERDetermining what you want to do and where you want to work and then preparing for this journey is a difficult decision and can have a large impact on your professional and personal development. Do your research. Review the company’s culture when determining which company you want to work for– does it fit with your expectations. Consider the attributes of the position that matter most to you to narrow your job search. If the job you are interested in doesn’t meet one of these expectations, are there any actions that you can take to address the gap? If continued development is a priority for you, search for companies that have a strong focus on development and provide the opportunity to grow within your role. Most companies provide information on their careers site regarding their focus on development – you can also discuss opportunities with recruiters, at career events and by reaching out to employees in your network that work at the company.
Establish a Vision for your Career.Answer the following questions to help you consider your career preferences, strengths, development gaps, personal drivers and potential limitations associated with accomplishing your career objectives.
- How would you describe your career progress?
- What are the most important skills you’ve learned? Why?
- What have been your most impactful experiences? Why?
- What is your favorite part of your current role? Your least favorite?
- What is the one task or type of project you would like to do more frequently in future roles? Less frequently?
- What do you do really well?
- What are you recognized or rewarded for most often?
- What are your unique experiences or capabilities?
- Which of your accomplishments are you most proud?
- For what do most people come to you for help?
- What experiences or capabilities do you lack that people on a similar career path have?
- What do others perceive as your greatest weaknesses?
- What development gaps do you need to address before you can pursue your career goals?
- What other experiences do you need to accomplish your career goals (e.g., experiences in different functions, geographies,)?
- What additional education or certifications do you need to reach your career goals?
- How well do your career goals align with your current development opportunities?
- What do you value most in terms of your career (e.g., opportunities for achievement, opportunities for development, autonomy, work-life balance, management, collaboration, independence, recognition, prestige, diverse nature of work, influence, compensation, interpersonal relationships, etc.)?
- What drives you (are you more creative or concrete in your mindset, outcomes – or process-focused, compensation – or altruistic-focused, etc.)?
- What non-work goals and priorities may influence your career decisions? In what ways?
Deciding Whether to Make a Career Transition.Your short and long-term goals, along with your personal circumstances should be considered when making a career transition. Whether considering an internal or external career change, review the benefits and consequences of the decision. For example, how will the change impact your pay, where you live, long-term career options, work-life balance, etc.?
Volunteer.Volunteering is both rewarding and helps to build your resume, but it can also be valuable in informing and developing your interests and abilities. Seek volunteer opportunities that are aligned to your career interests. For example, consider volunteering at a professional or trade association to expand your network within your field while developing skills critical to your area of expertise.
Get Back in the Classroom.
A great resource for those who are preparing for a specific role or are looking to transition into a new career can be found at a local community college, state university, or public library. Consider taking courses pertaining to a particular type of software (e.g., Microsoft Excel), finishing a degree, or simply getting a head start on a skill that you know will benefit your career in the long run. There are many free online courses to help prepare you for future roles, such as through Coursera
DEVELOPING ON THE JOBThe follow tips provide an overview of methods of continuous development and learning that you can apply to your current role.
Networking.One of the best ways to continuously develop while working is to expand your network. Making introductions and expanding your network can help you to develop new ideas and ways of thinking, share experiences, find sources of support, develop your skills and increase your awareness—just to name a few. A few ways that you could expand your network include:
- Set aside one day per month to have lunch with someone outside your current network
- Work with your mentor to identify co-workers that would be beneficial to network with for your current role and potential future roles
- Identify volunteer events where you can work alongside co-workers outside of your immediate work-group
- If culturally appropriate, attend after-work events
- Invite someone outside of your current network to go for a coffee
- Identify a key stakeholder or someone that could impact your work project and schedule time to share your project strategy and seek feedback
Mentoring.Though some organizations provide formal mentoring and coaching for employees, it is also a great idea to seek out these relationships on your own. This can be a great way to engage in a less formal developmental relationship and get constructive feedback and advice about your career progression. No matter where you are in your career path, we encourage you to take part in mentoring. For those who have specific development goals or learning needs within a current job, a mentor can help you improve in these areas by sharing their wisdom and experiences. If you’re a newer employee, you can learn from your more seasoned peers, gaining valuable knowledge that will, ultimately, help you excel in your profession.
Identifying a Mentor. Mentors can be found through personal contacts, recommendation of a leader or supervisor, an employee network event, social networking, communities of practice, employee groups, etc. Consider the following questions when searching for a mentor: Think of a possible mentoring issue you could discuss in one of the four categories: experience/topic, skill building, expertise, or career paths/opportunities. Assess what you are looking for in an advisor/collaborator in order to address your mentoring issue:
- What knowledge or skills do you hope to acquire?
- What areas of expertise would be helpful?
- Should this person be from a specific location, business or function based on your needs?
- What job level should your mentor be (peer or higher level)?
- Summarize in a brief goal statement what you hope to develop or learn as a result of the collaborative learning relationship.
- Determine who might be a good addition to your network.
Being a Mentor.Are you an experienced professional? Do you have a desire to help others grow in their role or advance along their career path? Mentoring is a great way to share your knowledge, experience and expertise with your colleagues. Offering support to others could include new hires, people who are at a transition point in their job or career and people who could benefit from your background and/or expertise in a particular area.
Goals of Mentoring. The mentee should share their goals of the process with their mentor. The following questions can help to identify your goals of the relationships.
- Provide a brief statement on what you hope to develop or learn as a result of the collaborative learning relationship?
- How is this relevant to your goals or priorities?
- Who might your development impact (e.g., your team, department, customers, stakeholders, organization, family)?
- What is a past example of the current situation or a story that clarifies what you hope to accomplish?
- Who or what are the key factors influencing this outcome?
- What are your initial thoughts or opinions about what underlying issues might need to be addressed?
- What dilemma does this pose for you? What choices do you have to make?
- What assumptions are you making in this situation? About yourself? About others?
- What have you tried so far to understand or address the issue? What happened and what have you learned from it so far?
- What are your feelings about the issue or situation?
- What are your initial proposals for actions or options to pursue?
Outcomes - what kind of help do you need:
- Clarifying the issues/concerns?
- Deciding possible options?
- Clarifying values and motives?
- Reaching a final decision?
- What resources would you need to further explore or address this issue?
- What actions or choices could you make to get started on a resolution?
- What changes do you need to consider?
The First Meeting.The goal of the first meeting should be to make introductions, set expectations and determine administrative details to ensure a successful start to the relationship. The mentee and mentor could start the discussion by answering the following questions:
- What is your background (personally, professionally)?
- What is one area of expertise or experience you feel might be helpful to me or to others?
- What contributed to your growth in that area?
- Who has had a significant, positive impact on your life?
- How did this relationship impact you personally or professionally? What opportunities might you have missed without the influence of this person.
- Capture the clarified goal(s) for the mentoring relationship.
- What are the ground rules for discussion (in terms of truthfulness, confidentiality, etc.)? Are any topics off limits? Determine the level of confidentiality of the relationship – is there an expected level of confidentially with what is discussed with your mentor? Is there an approval process for the mentor seeking additional information for the mentee from peers, etc.?
Determine Administrative Details:
- How long will the mentoring relationship last (2, 4, 6, 9, 12+ months)?
- How often will you meet? By what modes of communication will you interact?
- Who will schedule the meetings?
The Last Meeting.All successful mentee-mentor relationships will come to an end. When ending the relationship, consider discussing the following topics:
- What are the successes you are both celebrating?
- List the achievements of the relationship for both of you.
- What would you particularly like to thank each other for?
- What useful learning will you take into any future mentoring relationship(s)?
Look for Learning Opportunities.
A relatively simple way to master continuous learning at work is to request training and development opportunities from your leader. Tell your supervisor that you want to further develop yourself and find ways to increase your strengths. This can come in the form of a formal training, attending a conference, or even shadowing someone else in the organization. Regardless of the format, continuous learning will guarantee continuous development.
Goal setting is an effective tool for enabling professional and personal development, as well as for meeting expectations in your current role.
Setting SMART goals.SMART goals refer to goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. All of these elements combine to create a goal that is achievable—stretching you to achieve greatness whilst also remaining realistic in terms of expectations. As you begin to create SMART goals for your career, you will begin to understand the value that they can add both in the short term and the long term. SMART goals are:
- Define a precise target or outcome.
- Key Questions: Does the goal include enough detail for decisive action to be taken? Is it easy for others to translate the goal into outcomes? Is the goal stated clearly enough to ensure broad understanding?
- Include a description of the expected quantity and/or level of quality of the action, result or behavior.
- Key Questions: When you achieve the goal, will there be tangible evidence of completion? Will the evidence of goal achievement allow for evaluation of its quality? Could others easily quantify the results of completing the goal?
- Your goals should not be too grand or too small, but they should be challenging.
- Key Questions: Do you have the knowledge and skills needed and/or do you need support? Are there sufficient resources and time given everything you need to do? Is the goal sufficiently challenging?
- The goals need to describe what needs to be done. There should be a clear tie to the organization, function, or country’s strategy, goals and objectives.
- Key Questions: Does it support one of the function’s goals? Does it support your job expectations?
- Include a date by which success will be achieved.
- Key Questions: When does it need to be completed by? Does the timeframe embedded in the goal fall within the performance period for which you are planning? Is the timeframe realistic?
Common Goal Setting Mistakes.Avoid the following goal setting mistakes: Goals that are at the task level and are short in duration.
- Setting goals that are impossible to achieve.
- Setting goals beyond your power to control.
- Setting too few or too many goals.
- Setting goals without desirable outcomes or results.
- Setting impractical measures to track the progress of the goals.
Sample Goals.The following are sample SMART goals:
- “Ensure team compliance with current regulatory and quality assurance standards by establishing three new testing procedures by June 30th.”
- “Reduce downtime of tool XX from 3 hours to 2 hours each quarter for the entire 20xx year.”
- “Increase annual sales in XX by 15% for the year 20xx.”
Identifying Your Goals.The following process can be followed to select your goals. Focus on establishing challenging goals that leverage your strengths and abilities, while meeting the objectives of your current role and development needs.
- Review your organization/country/function objectives with your leader. Discuss what goals would be most appropriate for you to work on for the given period. Your leader may also define a shared goal for the team
- Identify an opportunity or challenge in your specific job area
- Include at least one developmental goal
- Provide a summary of the following for each of your goals
- Goal Statement:
- Metrics for Success:
- Activities for Achieving the Goal:
- Obstacles / Barriers to Success:
- Actions to overcome Barriers:
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