• June 2010

Take Charge of Your Career — And Your Life

By Dr. Alice Waagen
founder and president
Workforce Learning

In my work and in life, I am a huge proponent of strategically planning personal development. By planning, I mean more than just attending a sporadic conference or seminar. I advocate writing a clear and succinct development goal, which should be future oriented and closely linked with your business goals.

Consider Caroline Lucas (pictured below). Caroline is the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, and a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South East England region. Along with Jean Lambert, she is one of two Green MEPs from the UK, a post she has held since 1999.

Caroline is noted for campaigning and writing on green economics, localization, alternatives to globalization, trade justice, animal welfare and food —and she is a hero of mine. In fact, in her time as a politician and activist, she has worked with numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and think-tanks, including the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), Oxfam, and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

So when I think about being powerful, I reflect on her accomplishments and hunker down to make my business grow. For starters, I come up with a strong list of development goals.

What are your development plans for the rest of 2010?

Each December, I create a list of goals for the following year. It usually takes me a week, and I refer back to the list regularly. If you haven’t created this list yet, do consider doing it.

Following are some ideas to get you started.

1. What is your primary business goal for this year? Do you have the knowledge and skills to achieve it? If not, write a development goal that will get you what you need.

Why? Because the link between the goal and your business should be strong and clear. When tempted to focus on work and ignore development, the business impact of not completing your development activities will become abundantly clear.

2. Identify all of the tasks and activities that you will schedule and attend to address your goals.

Don’t limit your learning to the standard classes and seminars. Try to build a plan that involves active learning, like forming a mentor relationship with someone who you feel is an expert in your learning area. Or, look for volunteer work that lets you try “dry running” skill sets. Free or low cost webinars are prolific these days. Many of these will come with reference lists and tips for increasing your learning. Be creative, and try to come up with at least three tasks or activities per quarter to help you grow and learn.

3. Find a learning coach. This person need not be a professional coach. He or she can simply be a supportive colleague who will meet with you, hear your goals, and keep you accountable and on track.

I have a small group of “development buddies.” We meet every four to six weeks to report progress on our learning and to challenge each other to stay on track. Some of my best overall learning comes from my development buddy group because I not only share my accomplishments, but learn from their successes.

Begin your development planning exercise by answering the following question:

What did I learn last year that had a positive effect on my ability to meet my business goals?

Use the answer to this question as the springboard for your new development plan.

And if you are struggling to come up with an answer, then start today to plan your personal learning to support your 2010 business goals. Here’s to your success!


About Alice Waagen

Alice Waagen, Ph.D., is president and founder of WORKFORCE LEARNING LLC, a leadership development company she founded in 1997. In the past three years alone, more than 125 leaders from 24 different organizations have graduated from Alice’s unique leadership-development workshop series.

Previously, Alice served as senior director of corporate training for Amtrak in Washington, DC, and director of education, training and development for Freddie Mac in McLean, VA. In both of those positions, Alice created and implemented workplace development programs that served clients from the shop floor to the executive suite.

For more information, contact Alice at alice@workforcelearning.com

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