Plan Your Growth: Tips for Career Development

April 30, 2021 |

Updated April 30, 2021

5 minute read

There are many popular sayings about the importance of education and the ways in which learning is a lifelong endeavor. That’s all true, as is the reality that no two people have identical educational journeys. Likewise, ongoing professional development is crucial to expand one’s skills and facilitate career growth, especially in highly competitive markets.

Many of us innately understand the value of continuous learning and career development, but face challenges when trying to create and implement a career development plan. You have a vision for where you want to go in your career, but how do you get there?

Fortunately, there are many resources to help you map out your professional journey and reach your full potential.

Personal Tools for Professional Development Success

Ultimately, your professional growth is up to you, and it begins with an investment in your own future by committing to career development. At its core, this journey is a personal one and you can decide how short or long to make your map. Perhaps you excel in leasing and want to stay focused on growing your skills and talents in that area. Or perhaps you want to take on additional responsibilities or challenges and seek promotions within your organization or somewhere else.

Regardless of your path, having a Professional Development Plan (PDP) is vital and should be tailored to your career goals. No matter your job title or responsibilities, the apartment service and management sectors continuously evolve. From technological advances to new regulatory requirements, change is a constant and you must grow your skill set to remain effective. 

A PDP is a document that you develop to outline your career goals during a specified time period, such as three months, one year or five years. Having a written plan is essential because it keeps you focused and accountable. It is also a great tool to share with a manager, mentor or trusted peer who can provide feedback and guidance. This plan should be a living document that changes with time. As you meet current career goals, use those as the foundation for the next set of objectives.

Importantly, your PDP should have a list of SMART objectives, meaning your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound.

Likewise, the most effective plans are structured using the “70/20/10” model, which was developed at the Center for Creative Leadership and has become a standard tool for effective development plans. Follow this format:

  • 70% of your best development will occur through purposeful, on-the-job experiences.
  • 20% is with exposure to coaching, feedback, mentorship or networking.
  • 10% is through formal learning channels.

Use these tools to create a PDP and then revisit it at least quarterly to ensure you’re on the path to meeting your goals.

Industry Tools for Professional Development Success

In addition to creating personal tools, there are several industry resources that support professional development for industry professionals, including the National Apartment Association.

NAA’s website has an extensive library of resources as well as online classes and credentialing programs through the NAA Education Institute (NAAEI) that provide great learning opportunities. Conferences are another valuable resource to further career development. Learn the latest about our industry, hone your skills and grow your network.

Involvement with your local apartment association is also critical in career development. These groups host continuing education events as well. Many classes have moved online and still offer great insights. Additionally, we’ll be back to in-person events soon, so getting involved now can help prepare you for a return to in-person professional gatherings.

With the return of in-person opportunities, a significant amount of career development can happen just from networking. You not only make strong connections, but you can learn key lessons from the experiences of others in our industry. Education doesn’t always have to be formal and structured.

Finally, it’s important to note that professional development doesn’t have to be restricted to the apartment industry. You can gain insights about professional development, leadership, emotional intelligence and other skills from a variety of sources. Find what works best for you.

Employer Tools for Professional Development Success

Many companies recognize the value of investing in their team members’ professional and career development. Consult your employer to see what type of support they offer for continuing education.

For example, HHHunt has established a centralized learning management system dubbed HHHunt University. Team members can access thousands of online classes on a wide array of topics. Additionally, educational and training programs tailored to specific employees are available. Participation in these ongoing programs occur on company time and most classes are open to any team member.

Another valuable program that many companies offer is peer-to-peer learning. Like a mentor relationship, peer advisors work with other team members in similar positions. This peer-based learning creates a valuable resource to turn to with questions and for help.

Often, employers offer additional opportunities, such as financial support and time to travel to conferences, attend events, etc. These programs are often ingrained in a company’s culture. The most successful programs require that attendees report back to the team with lessons learned. This process reinforces the value of peer learning and ensures that everyone benefits from the information shared.

A final note for managers and senior leaders: Investing in your teams’ career development will benefit your bottom line. Professional development ensures that you have a deep bench with lots of talent. As you grow and plan for future leaders, you can have people ready to step into leadership positions. Furthermore, companies that invest in their teams through ongoing education attract engaged, loyal and exceptional employees.

Career development is a personal process, but with these tools and resources you can create and implement an actionable plan that helps you reach your goals.

Gabrielle Bouknight is Director of Training and Development for HHHunt Apartment Living, which develops and manages multifamily communities. She oversees the company’s professional development and training for all team members and manages HHHunt Apartment Living’s learning management system. She can be contacted at [email protected]