The importance of career development

It’s easy to let career development slip off your to-do list, but carving out some time to think about where you want to go can be incredibly valuable.


I think it’s fair to say everyone working in housing has plenty to keep them busy right now.

Faced with a tough environment and fewer resources, it’s natural to simply keep your head down and get on with the day job.

I’m sure you’ll recognise the pattern of always doing the most urgent thing – which means things that are important but not ‘urgent’ can be lost.

Lurching from to-do list to to-do list means you risk not doing things that are more strategic and could have real long-term benefits, both for your organisation and your customers – and that applies to your own career development as well.

Having said that, if you’ve not thought about where you’re heading career-wise for a while, it’s not necessarily a negative thing – it probably just means that you enjoy your current job!

If you’re broadly happy with where you are it’s very, very easy not to think about where you want to go in the future.

One of the things I realised when I did CIH’s Be bold in your career course is that generally people think about career development when they hit a crisis point.

That might be something like a redundancy or because you’ve become really unhappy in your current job.

So you only think about it when you’re looking to make a big change, which isn’t necessarily the best approach.

I know before I did the course I’d previously thought career development meant big things – potentially with a risk attached – like leaving your job or moving to another organisation.

But that’s not the only kind of career development.

There is also value in making smaller, less irreversible changes, in trying new things and being open to new opportunities when they come your way.

That could be volunteering for a project that takes you out of your comfort zone, or shadowing a different team – anything that allows you to try different things without walking away from a job you like.

Personally I am mid-way through a temporary secondment as CIH’s head of membership, having previously been a policy and practice officer for seven years, and I’m loving every minute of it.

I’m really glad I made a commitment to carve out a regular bit of time to think about where I want to be in the longer-term, and what I need to be doing to prepare myself, and I’m going to be doing my best to keep it up.

Career development doesn’t have to mean plotting how to get promoted (although there’s nothing wrong with that!), it can mean reflecting on what matters to you, what you want from your career, what you’ve done before, what you’ve enjoyed and what you want to do more of in the future.

‘Sideways’ development can be just as valuable as being promoted to a more senior role. It can also mean thinking about how you present yourself, and about how you want people to see you in a reflective way – what would you want people to say about you?

Of course, making a commitment to your own career and personal development is one thing – it’s also vital that your employer is supportive.

Allowing people to spend ‘work time’ on their development can only benefit both individual and organisation – to paraphrase Richard Branson, give people the tools they need to leave, and treat them well enough so they don’t want to.

The next CIH Be bold in your career online course kicks off in October.

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