For employees there normally needs to be a valid business reason for whatever training course you plan to attend – which, in turn, means the training course has to be directly relevant to your role. If you’re experienced then you are likely to already know how to do your job, making a limited number of available training courses worthwhile. Therefore, training courses become a means to getting up-to-date in your field, rather than learning new things per se.
So where does this leave personal development? And, indeed, what exactly is personal development?
Wikipedia defines personal development as “activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realization of dreams and aspirations.” To compliment this, Wikipedia also defines human capital as “the stock of knowledge, habits, social and personality attributes, including creativity, embodied in the ability to perform labor (sic) so as to produce economic value.”
Personal development, therefore, is far more than picking and attending a training course.
Across prior roles I have often been told that my personal development is my responsibility, and is not something that others (especially line management) can dictate. Yes, they can advise or at least let you know what options are open but it is up to the individual to set their own path which leads to their own objectives – even dreams and aspirations as per the Wikipedia definition. Years ago I thought this was a cop-out from my direct leadership, but now I agree completely.
Answering the question of ‘what comes next?’ in a work context doesn’t have to be confined to our realisms (or even constraints, frustrations and perhaps pessimistic sense of our own abilities) that we face today and faced yesterday. In fact, answering the question doesn’t even have to be considered in a work context at all. Why not open our minds to what we really want to achieve to make us happy and fulfil our dreams and aspirations…and then set a personal development plan to get there whether it is with or without our current employer?
If following dreams is too nebulous and impractical then let us trim the definition of personal development down to “activities that develop talents and potential, facilitate employability, and enhance the quality of life.”
Personal development can now be thought of in terms of what skills and experience you want to obtain and what role you would like to do that may differ from what you’re doing currently (especially if it is not fulfilling).
From my experience I have found that secondments or job-swapping is an excellent method to explore. This is subject to opportunity and how employers are structured, but can be weaved into performance reviews and voiced in such meetings and objective-setting. It can even be achieved through proactive investigation: make friends with other departments and start to broker the possibility of secondment or job-sharing.
In summary, by all means investigate and attend training courses but for your wider personal development I recommend internal secondments to broaden experience and open up options of moving to a role that develops potential and your quality of life.
This article was written by Peter Bryans.