There are various definitions of ‘Professional Development’, but they all allude to the process of increasing your skills and competencies to progress your career within a chosen profession. It can include a wide range of activities from the ‘black and white’ achievement of a professional qualification, to the learning you can evidence from attending external events. Whatever combination of factors you choose to adopt, they nearly always come back to one thing – professional development needs to be owned by you.
I’ve had the joy of driving my own development whilst also helping others – whether direct reports or not – in growing their own professional capabilities. In doing so, I’ve found an approach that has been flexible to adapt to individual preferences whilst being consistently successful in helping people grow.
Depending on the industry or profession within which you work, there are often quite traditional and linear routes to progress your career. Many employees will typically see their future lying in either being a technical expert or by progressing up the management ladder. Whilst this may offer clarity to the individual, and anyone supporting their development, it does bring a lack of flexibility. What if the person in the role above you never moves on? What if the organization changes structure and the ‘next’ job no longer even exists? You’re back to square one.
Instead of looking at these linear routes, I’ve found greater success in focusing on what I want to do in my dream job – identifying the roles and responsibilities I’d love to have and the skills and competencies I want to utilize. This gives a starting point to complete a GAP analysis; what do I already possess and what does my current role already provide? Completing this forms the basis of a professional development plan. From there, I’ve been able to identify where my gaps are and explore the ways in which I can plug those gaps, in methods which match my learning preferences.
This approach also takes away some of the risk of being too focused on a specific job title or linear route to progress. The components of my ‘dream job’ are, I believe, transferable and help me futureproof my professional attributes. For example, various reports suggest that up to 50% of the content on some university courses is obsolete within 3 years of Graduation. That’s a situation that professional development can tackle head on.
Relating this more specifically to our world of CX and it was the approach above which led me to the CXPA and CCXP. I’m fortunate enough to work in an organization that provides a wealth of learning and development opportunities. However, and I’m sure this won’t surprise many readers, there wasn’t anything which related to my aspirations to develop as a CX professional. When exploring external options, I quickly came across the CXPA and it didn’t take long to make the choice to join and undertake the CCXP accreditation.
In terms of professional development, it ticks many boxes – an external, independent validation of my skills and competencies; experiential recognition (not textbook learning); ongoing support to continue growing; and so on …
I’ve also used it as a resource to help others explore CX as an avenue for their professional development. As a rapidly growing discipline, what we do isn’t just about creating better experiences for our customers. It’s about growing the skillsets of ourselves and our colleagues, and I’ve used it to great effect to help direct reports reach the next stage in their careers.
Many roles carry sales or referral targets and if you want to get to the next level – let’s say from an account manager to a mortgage advisor – you firstly need to demonstrate that you are good at what you do today. It’s therefore pretty much a given that all candidates who are applying for the new role are at, or above, 100% of their current targets. They’ll also have support from their current manager to help prepare the best they can for the interview.
So, what’s the key to getting the job?
I’ve worked with people to highlight how a true customer focus, evidenced by positive feedback through NPS or CSAT surveys, can make them standout against their peers. CX is increasingly recognized as the key differentiator for organizations to ‘win’ in today’s ‘experience’ economies. I also believe it’s a key differentiator to help individuals to standout and progress in their careers, even more so where CX is not typically seen as a core component of their role.
In short, professional development is about continually growing your skillset to help you achieve long-term goals in your career. And moving away from traditional linear routes of progression will help you futureproof yourself against the ever-changing needs of the economies in which we work.
But as someone reading this post via the CXPA, you’re already a step ahead …