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In today’s competitive job market and turbulent economic environment, personal development is a critical component in job retention, career progression and enhancing employability levels. Employees must strive to improve on their employability skills or career competencies in order to remain relevant in the job market. According to the University of London (2010), employability skills are “…abilities, aptitudes and qualities developed in any context that can be applied to an occupation or career” (Pg.1).
Bills (1995) opine that the modern working environment has evolved into models of skills upgrading and learning centres. At the core of this “skills upgrading and learning centres” is personal development plans. Personal development plan (PDP) is a “… structured and supported process undertaken by a learner to reflect upon their own learning, performance and/or achievement and to plan for their personal, educational and career development” (University of London 2010, Pg 1).
The need for a personal development plan can’t be over emphasized. The tough economic times has the net result of making the job market extremely competitive. Companies are folding up, merging departments, consolidating job roles, restructuring systems and cutting on jobs, in order to survive the prevailing economic situation (Block, 2009). Consequently, relatively fewer job opportunities are becoming available. With a large pool of skilled manpower, companies are recruiting candidates with more than average qualifications for the given job (Cottrel, 2010). The tendency is take ‘over qualified’ candidates for the task at hand. With this scenario in mind, employees must continually strive to learn new skills, adapt faster to the changing technology and skills demands, and be up to date with the changing contexts of their careers (Smith, 2006; Armstrong, 2008; Grit, 2009). This is the only why that they can remain competitive and desirable in the job market.
Working in the operations department of a bank as a vault custodian, I have increasingly felt the need to develop skills aligned to a sales-based job. In my current job role I have developed key skills that would also be beneficial in a sales job including team management, time management, and workflow management, amongst other skills. These are skills that have enabled me progress from a junior clerk to the current role. While they have served me well in the past, and they will continue to do so, nevertheless there has been need to continually seek to learn new skills.
My current job is a ‘process oriented’ job in the sense that it only requires compliance with a set group of rules and processes. On the other hand , a sales job is a ‘people oriented’ job as it involves meeting with potential clients, negotiation of product and service features, and follow up on sales leads through various means such as emails, phones etc. Some of the general skills suitable for a sales job include leadership skills, good communication skills, soft people skills, negotiation skills and persuasive skills. I also think that these skills are interlinked and as such it is easier to learn them collectively.
In relation to the Personal Development Plan (PDP) I would like to develop in five broad areas namely; self management competency, interpersonal competency, self development competency, personal leadership competency, and engagement with others competency. The specific competencies selected in those five broad competencies areas include learning styles, interpersonal communication, self awareness, emotional intelligence, and valuing diversity amongst colleagues.
The need for development in the sales direction in my career line has been informed by the market realities in the banking job market. Within the larger banking environment, there has been relatively quicker career progression for sales oriented jobs in comparison to operations oriented jobs. The sales job skills are in higher demand in the banking industry as opposed to operations job skills. It is thus easier for career sales persons to make more interbank career moves, with better working conditions, as opposed to the operations staff.
Analysis of Learning
There are several steps in the execution of a personal development plans. The main steps include reflection, recording, action planning, executing and evaluating (Loughborough University, 2011).Reflection involves consolidating the different views and trends in the skills demands for a chosen career path with view of working on the weaknesses. Experiences and ideas are recorded through various means so as to act as a future reference point. The action planning is critical in setting up actions to be taken including the timescales for the same in order to achieve the desired results. One must then execute the action plans. The evaluation is critical in the determination of the efficiency of the action plans.
The learning module does fit in my career plans and progression in a fundamental way. At the moment my career progression has stagnated due to relatively fewer job openings in the operations line of the bank. This has resulted in lack of motivation in the day to day execution of the job role as well as a declining job satisfaction. At a personal level, I am having more financial commitments brought about by the increasing family size and the associated costs. A higher job role would imply a better remuneration hence higher disposable income. This would enable me to live a relatively comfortable life.
In the context of career progression, I hope to move across job grade to a personal banker’s position. Such a career move would be strategic in the sense that it relatively easy to move across the job grade. This is so as similarly graded jobs have the same salary and benefits. This implies that the bank incurs minimal expenses in such staff movements. This would put me in a strategic position to move up the ladder. There are increasingly higher roles in consumer banking that I would get a chance to apply for. This would be subject to satisfactory performance in the personal banker’s role. The movement to personal banker’s role would thus easily escalate my career progression.
Having evaluated the needed learning aspects in my personal development plans, I formulated an action plans around leads provisions. At the operational level in the bank, the operations employees such as tellers and vault custodians are expected to give sales leads to the sales staff as part of their performance targets. The bank expects that operations staff come into contact with customers in the day to day execution of their job functionality and are thus in a position to provide some sales leads to the sales staff. This offered a critical learning opportunity for me. Among the action plans formulated was the extensively looking up for leads and exceeding the performance targets in this area.
In the execution of the personal development plan, I focused on the ways in which the provision of sales leads would develop the intended competence areas that is learning styles, interpersonal communication, self awareness, emotional intelligence, and valuing diversity amongst colleagues. In relation to learning styles I had to evaluate the means by which I would effectively learn the sales skills required for a personal banker. To get an arena for practising interpersonal communications, self awareness and emotional intelligence, I capitalized on speaking engagements in work meetings and customer service fetes. I realized that while I may not be extremely articulate, I was nevertheless able to capture my audience through jokes and funny informal personal insights in the subject matter. This had the overall effect of boosting my self esteem. The ability to influence people and shape their way of thinking gave me the much needed self esteem.
In terms of learning styles I learn better through reflection. The reflective learning method involves observing, internalizing, analysing trends and making up action plans around the observations and the inferences there after. In the context of learning on a sales job and in particular the personal banker’s role, it would require me to observe the ways in which she persuades the customers to buy into a product or service. I would also need to observe the ways in which she deals with customer rejection as well as customer complaints. Reflective learning is ideal in an academic setting. When there are written materials to be studied, I tend to be better off than my colleagues. On the downside reflective learning module implies that one is not able to make decisions on the feet (Schon, 1983: Honey & Mumford, 1986).Reflective learning implies that I take relatively longer periods in decision making thus appearing as indecisive. The areas of improvement in this regards would be shortening of the decision making period, and quicker execution of action plans after reflective learning.
In the interpersonal communication area, I need to improve on my assertiveness levels. In the work environment, interpersonal communication skills are directly linked to interpersonal relations (Pearce, 1994; Floyd, 2008; Turner & West, 2008). Interpersonal relations can sometimes be in the context of conflicting professional interests between me and other colleagues. In situations where I have clearly recognized my own needs in comparison with other colleagues needs, I have often sacrificed my own needs in a bid maintain the prevailing interpersonal relations. This fear of conflict sometimes makes me needlessly sacrifice my own interests. In the context of the career progression to the personal banker’s role, I must understand that in the sales field I may come upon competitor’s workforce. I must therefore be more assertive in taking care of my self interest in such a context. This would imply that I have to find ways of speaking for myself. Assertiveness is the relatively ideal balance of passiveness and aggressiveness.
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In an effort to create an ideal self image I have continually reflected on my self awareness. This is informed by the need to conceal factors that would make my contribution in a team setting to be less than adequate. One such factor is the level of indecisiveness on my part. An objective self awareness measure enables me to cognitively develop by improving my assertiveness in speech, and influence on others (Inglis, 1994; McCarthy & Garavan, 1999). This competence is expected to contribute to my career progression in a fundamental way. In the sales role the ability to assert one’s self and influence on the other person is overly critical in the execution of the job role (Ziglar, 2003; Schiffman, 2005). Sales roles thrive in the ability to convince a customer to take up a product or service.
As stated earlier, a sales role is a ‘people oriented’ job. This makes the development of interpersonal communication roles overly critical. However effective interpersonal communication involves the ability to induce people to speak on their emotional problems including dissatisfactions at a personal level, obstacles and tough situations they are undergoing (Goleman & Lantieri, 2008; Cartwright & Solloway, 2009; Book & Stein, 2006). Emotional intelligence is the ability to sieve through other people’s feelings and use the information in guiding your actions towards them (Segal, 1997; Bradberry & Greaves, 2005; Wharam, 2009). This emotional intelligence can be utilized in several ways in my career progression. The ability to be able to make people confide in me on their personal dissatisfactions can be useful. I can use such ability to find the dissatisfaction of my competitor’s customers with the company’s products, service or processes.
In the engagement with others I have often felt that I should improve on the valuation of diversity in the team member’s way of thoughts and of doing things. While a healthy tolerance of diversity is critical in getting a long in a team environment, there should nevertheless be a shared culture and way of doing things (Wiitanen, 2001; Lam, 2002; Parker, 2006).
Learning is a continuous process and thus personal development plans is a continuous exercise in both the professional life and personal life. This is because the social-economic contexts keep on changing on a daily basis. In order to effectively respond to the changing social economic factors then I must also keep on learning and improving myself.
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