🍀 How to Prioritize Professional Development and Set Yourself up for Success With Career Growth

Melissa Chenok
7 min readJul 23, 2022

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Not everyone cares about career progression and professional development — that is okay and, in fact, great! We aren’t all the same; what is essential to one of us isn’t always crucial to another person and may not look the same.

However, it is sometimes hard to know where to start for folks who want to prioritize professional and career development. Lattice has an excellent suite of interconnected products that can help you grow your career or facilitate the growth of folks who report to you, most notably the “Grow” product.

At my previous organization, Quorum, I was learning how to be an effective leader and manager related to helping my team grow their careers and ultimately help the business. I took some learnings from using the Grow product in Lattice and wrote up thoughts I share with new members who joined my team at Quorum and now join the teams here at Lattice.

Before getting into the meat of what I like to share with my teams (and what you can leverage for your career), I like to caveat with folks that career progression is an optional process and is ultimately up to the team member to take charge of. I had a fantastic boss and leader at IBM who shared, “No one cares more about your career than you,” which has stuck with me. I am happy to follow, unblock, and provide opportunities and feedback. Still, the team member (or me for my career progression) are responsible for defining what is important to them and making that happen.

Now, let’s get into how to prioritize professional development and career growth through individual development plans. Let me know if something has worked well for you or your teams in the past and what resonates here!

🌿How to Prioritize Professional Development and Set Yourself up for Success With Career Growth

When I have a new team member join my team, I schedule a monthly hour-long professional development sync with them and share the information below — note, this is something you can schedule with your boss too! Take the initiative in your journey. This session is a dedicated space to provide feedback, share and update goals, and talk about opportunities they would like to continue learning and growing in their careers.

I like to use the initial session to set the stage by discussing a typical career growth cycle. The career growth journey has a few key components and the IDP we are focused on today to help us set ourselves up for success falls under part 2 of the journey below:

Career Growth Journey Steps — Melissa Chenok

After running through the career growth journey, I walk my direct report through the following document related to point two above, “develop your skills.”

🌱 Individual Development Plan (IDP) Overview

⚓ Owning your career is one of the most complex parts of work, but the reality is, there’s no one more qualified to steer your career than you effectively. It’s up to each of us to identify our career objectives and chart a development course that works for us. That means identifying opportunities for personal and professional growth, proactively pursuing those opportunities, and adopting a growth mindset.

📅 I’ve scheduled monthly professional development 1–1s with each of you to discuss IDPs, give 360 feedback, and discuss anything you think would be helpful. I find this dedicated space productive, although I am always happy to talk about IDPs and career growth in our weekly 1–1s.

⬇️ I have used versions of the following method with over a dozen direct reports (ICs, Managers, Manager of Managers) in product, engineering, and design and found it incredibly helpful. That said, we don’t have to use this! Your career trajectory is up to you, and I am happy to work with this method, another method you provide, or support you in being content with where you are. Career development and growth are important to some folks, and also, work is not everything for most people — if you would like to discuss personal goals or work-life balance or anything not specifically career growth related, I’m happy to talk about that instead/in addition 🙂 See more below for setting specific individual development plans and figuring out what skills to work on.

✅ IDP Potential Action Plan per Quarter

(Note: For those of us who are perfectionists, please don’t spend more than 1–2 hours total on the below items):

  1. Read the Key Resources links (see appendix).
  2. Create or leverage a google sheet or excel document and for each competency on the career growth matrix, highlight where you believe you fall (note: you don’t need to have all competencies fall in your current career level — some can be below and some can be above — be truthful with yourself about where you are).
  3. For each relevant competency, add notes in the far right-hand column with why you believe you are at that growth stage and what you think you would need to do to get to the next step.
  4. Select 1–3 competencies that you would like to work on to create growth areas for (these can be strengths to continue to hone or areas for improvement.)
  5. Fill out the 3Es for each growth area you have identified for the quarter, and add the growth areas to Lattice!

👀 3Es overview for creating specific growth areas

The 3E’s help you come up with development ideas for a specific competency or skill. 3Es help us focus on 3 of the ways we learn as adults: Experience, Exposure, and Education. There are macro and micro skills that allow you to focus on specific actions to help you grow and work towards accomplishing your individual development plans. Here are some examples of Macro and micro-skills that you may add to your IDP:

  • Macro: Communication, Micro-skill: Concision in writing
  • Macro: Project Management, Micro: Project plan for one project
  • Macro: Strategy, Micro: Opportunity solution tree for an objective

Once you have identified skills, go through the 3Es exercise to identify an actionable IDP. Remember that some skills can be learned quickly, and others may take more time. Make sure to check with yourself whether this skill feels reasonable to work on in the quarter, given your capacity. If it doesn’t feel reasonable, is there another micro skill you could prioritize working towards?

Experience — 3E Development Ideas Brainstorm

  • How will you develop this skill on the job?
  • Think about what you are currently working on in your role. Is there an opportunity to practice this skill on an existing project, client relationship, or team process?
  • Are there opportunities happening around the organization that you could leverage?
  • What does the business need? How can you tie your growth to what is going on at Lattice?

Exposure — 3E Development Ideas

  • Who will you learn from or ask for help?
  • Who does this skill well?
  • Who could I learn from that has experience with the skill I am looking to develop?
  • Who could I talk to that could help?
  • Are there any communities I could join/leverage around this skill?

Education — 3E Development Ideas

  • What training or resources will you use?
  • Are there any online courses or workshops you could take?
  • Are there any good books, videos, podcasts, etc., on this skill?

Next Steps

  • What (specifically) will you do, and by when? Pick 1–2 ideas to commit to from the 3E brainstorm.
  • Using the ideas you brainstormed above, pick 1–2 that you will commit to doing during the growth period you specified.
  • It is important to only select a couple at a time; this makes it easier to say on track. Once you finish one of the development ideas you picked, review your brainstorm and select a new one to commit to! You can always update and edit your Growth Area as you go.

Sure this sounds nice, but when do I do this?!

✔️ Opportunities for development can be done during working hours or “on the job” or can be done in spare time depending on the type of professional development. I expect each team member to spend 1–3 hours per week of “on-the-job” time on professional development. Please feel free to block your calendars for this. If you decide to spend more than 3 hours per week, for example, completing an online course that requires 10–20 hours per week over a sustained time period (i.e., not a week-long intensive course but an additional degree), please plan to use some personal time for this. Happy to talk if you have questions about this!

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Melissa Chenok