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7 Simple Career Tips to help you reach your goals

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With National Careers’ Week done and dusted, we thought now would be the perfect time to share some of the best career advice we’ve heard over the past year.

While writing for our Careers blog, we’ve spoken to hundreds of colleagues about their career journeys – from comedians to life-coaches, and senior managers to new apprentices just starting out. Everyone’s approach is different, and there are no easy, catch-all solutions, but we’ve seen some key themes coming up again and again.

We’ve distilled this into 7 simple points that will be of use, no matter what stage of your career you’re at and where you want to be heading.

1. Take time to figure out and reflect on your career goals

Some people seem to know exactly what job they want, but for many of us it’s not that simple. We may be juggling a range of ideas, or figuring things out as we go along.

Whatever your approach, it can be really useful to put regular time aside to reflect on your career options and aspirations.

Understanding your ‘Career Drivers’ can be a big help with this. As Content Writer, Cat Nangle explains “Career Drivers are a fantastic tool to discover where your strengths lie and what you really enjoy in a job, whether that’s being creative, influencing others, becoming an expert, or a range of other things. You might be surprised by what you uncover and the job ideas that spring out of this!”

You can find plenty of Career Driver questionnaires online to get you started, and we have a dedicated article coming out on the topic next month.

2. Make a Personal Development Plan that works for you

Writing an up-to-date Personal Development Plan (PDP) is a great way of focusing your career thinking and setting definite, achievable goals. Again, this is something that takes time, but as Kerryn Higgins told us, “it can actually be a really enjoyable and rewarding activity.” Kerryn is an HR Controls and Assurance Manager and has been using PDPs to make great progress in her career.

“There’s no one way to do this” she said “you can use whatever style and structure works for you. It doesn’t have to be something written on corporate paper and it doesn’t just have to cover work – you can build in personal aspects too. It’s yours to do with as you please.”

Once you’ve set clear career or personal goals, you’ll be able to start mapping out the skills, learning and experiences you’ll need to take you there. Having a clear plan will make it much easier to take the practical steps that are essential to making those goals a reality.

3. Be frank with your manager about your career goals

Maybe it’s a British politeness thing (not wanting to come across as too demanding or career-minded), but many of us shy away from saying what we’re really thinking about our careers.

This was another theme that came up repeatedly in our conversations.

When we spoke with Leigh Risley, Director of Asset Finance, she had this piece of advice:

“Be clear with your manager about what you want from your career, and then you can start building the skills you need to make it happen. That sounds obvious, but I assumed for ages that if I performed well my managers would somehow know what I wanted without me saying it. Turns out they’re not mind readers. Once I shared my goals, it was amazing how much support was there for me to draw on.”

Similarly, Charlotte Borg, a Senior Relationship Manger, suggested: “Talk to everybody around you, tap into their expertise. There are people close by who are fountains of knowledge.”

4. Take Career Risks

This doesn’t mean quitting your present job, and relocating to Peru . . . well, not necessarily. It’s more about being prepared to try new things and take yourself out of your comfort zone.

When asked about career advice, Chris Green, Head of Commercial Credit, put it like this:

“When you look at a job spec, don’t feel you need to be 100% qualified, look for a role where you can do say 70% of it and see the rest as learning. Also, take advantage of the flexibility that’s out there. Lots of managers here are happy to be flexible – with location, home working, job sharing– to get the best people for the role, so don’t be afraid to explore these avenues. The same goes for exploring secondment opportunities, and getting involved in new projects. Take yourself out of your comfort zone, that’s where you’ll find growth and breadth.”

Late one Friday afternoon, Project Manager Gemma Thompson added, jokingly: “I’d give the same advice I’d give to anyone in a relationship: never stop looking for other jobs, always keep an eye on what’s going on!’

5. Take the initiative and be creative

Being pro-active here is the key. Don’t just wait to be given an opportunity to do, or learn, something new, but take the initiative to come up with ideas and get the ball rolling yourself.

Managing Director Andrew Harrison said in a recent blog – “If you look out for opportunities to add value and contribute beyond just what’s expected, this will definitely get noticed.”

This might involve looking at a problem from a different angle, proposing a new solution, or spotting an area where there’s something new to be tried. It could mean looking outside of your immediate field – getting involved with employee networks or community work, for example. Why not make it a joint venture and collaborate with others to devise a plan or get new ideas off the ground?

It’s a great way to keep working life interesting, and you’ll gain new skills in the process.

6: Find a good mentor

The value of mentoring is something that came up again and again in discussion, from colleagues at every level. To clarify, a mentoring relationship is one that’s separate from your immediate team and line manager.

A good mentor can give you an outside perspective on your career and the journey you’re charting, they can provide guidance and support, share their own experience, and challenge you to stretch yourself.

As an experienced mentor explained: “typical things we focus on include managing transitions into new roles, discussing career goals, helping to build strong networks, and sharing my own network to support mentees.”

No one mentoring style suits everyone, and it takes time and planning to find the right mentor. Next month we’re publishing a series of articles aimed at helping people find, and make the most of, a mentor relationship – so watch this space!

You could also consider becoming a mentor yourself, and helping someone else on their career journey.

7: Take it easy

Coming after all we’ve just said, this might seem like a contradiction. But there’s value in relaxing and taking your time. Maybe it’s a case of career Ying and Yang.

What we mean is don’t be too hard on yourself. With career development change is often slow and incremental – so don’t put pressure on yourself to transform things overnight. Make sure to find a good work-life balance, and be open to change and new possibilities.

Sarah Cooper-Jones, a Regional Director for Corporate and Commercial Banking, made an excellent point when she said: “Don’t chase the grade – but look instead at equipping yourself for the future. It’s good to have a direction of travel, but don’t be too rigid in your approach, because you never know what opportunities could arise.”

Why not develop your career at RBS?

We hope you found something useful in these 7 tips, and we’d love to hear your own thoughts about career development. Is there something that’s worked particularly well for you? Is there something we’ve missed?

We’ll take this opportunity to wish you the very best of luck on your career journey.

You can always check out our current vacancies, and see where a career with us could lead.