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Career coach: I want more development opportunities

Question: I don’t feel I’m getting the development I want. Is it best to stick it out and wait at my current job, or move somewhere else?

Duncan Hughes

Chartered Accountant, Principal, The Hughes Consultancy

“Personal development is an extremely broad church – there are fundamental things like whether you want to eventually work in-house, or in practice, and what specialisms you want to do. But the basic question you need to ask first is: “Have you even had regular reviews to start with, and if so, and you’re still not progressing as you expect, are there reasonable blockages that could explain this?”

“It may simply be that there are no new openings, no one is moving up, and that as soon as there is one, a role could be made ready for you. In the meantime, you need to show that you’re serious by asking for training, or taking on extra responsibilities. 

“There’s no point demanding development or roles in a specific area, such as auditing, if this is not your firm’s specialism. In other words, having an emotional response about lack of development isn’t much use if you’ve not got a good understanding of how you want your career to pan out. 

“Do this groundwork first, and you might realise that what your company can do for you does not match your ambition. But don’t make rash decisions. Say what you want to have exposure to during the next six months, and you could be surprised by the support your employer gives you. They don’t want to lose good people.”

Jonathan Mardall

Founder, career transition consultancy, Jonathan Mardall Consulting

"In my experience, people who have had these sorts of thoughts don’t tend to have them on a whim – they’ve often tussled with their feelings for some time, so it would be very surprising if they’ve totally misread their organisation, or have misjudged how their employer sees them moving forward. But if you do make your mind up to leave, you need to do so enthusiastically and with purpose.

“For instance, if you can, don’t look for a new job while you’re in a job already. Finding new opportunities is a full-time commitment. You need to network, attend events, show yourself to people, and talk to people who work at other companies you’re interested in. That’s when you find out precisely what it’s like at an organisation. It’s only by doing this that you’ll know if companies really do walk the talk when it comes to their developmental promises.

“Just be aware that it can be cold outside, and if you are leaving for the promise of better development elsewhere, consider whether this might involve leaving behind great colleagues and people you really like working with.

“In other words, you need to decide what your priorities are right now, and in the short-term. But just don’t forget something else too: you could feel your developmental needs aren’t being met because of the longevity of certain managers. But these people also leave, or get their own internal promotions. So it’s highly likely a new manager could come on board, and here you have a great opportunity to say what you really want early on in the relationship.”

Philip Beddows

Founding Partner, personal potential consultancy The Silk Road Partnership

“People start to think about their careers on the back of lots of triggers – maybe a disappointing appraisal, the new year resolution, or changes in personal circumstances. But while a gut-feel might often be correct, it’s still worth stepping back and rationalising things a bit more. For instance, ask yourself if the organisation actually knows about your ambition. Managers can’t know everything, and sometimes people do need to take some ownership of their career for themselves.

“It’s perfectly possible to ‘re-pot’ yourself in the same organisation, if that’s what you want – but you do need to indicate this wish. I’ve coached people who may have expected, hoped and worked to reach partner level by X-year, and if it’s not achieved by then they feel let down. But my response is that delaying things by a year or so isn’t as bad as it seems if – in that period – you’ve laid down stronger roots, built better connections, and established what you enjoy doing most.

“You can also use this time to confirm that the firm hasn’t actually written you off, but simply wants you to achieve partnership at a more opportune moment. Biding your time is not giving up, and better this than having a strong but ill-judged emotional reaction. Yes, moving on doesn’t have to be a bad thing, and in some cases, it’s the only way to progress.

“But if you do move on, you must make sure you look at the lie of the land. It may well be that you can’t make your intended leap in one go, so are you prepared to wait again at another firm? If you do want to leave, make sure you do so for the right reasons.”

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