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Wednesday, August 4, 2021
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Arrows plugged in the scoreboard Defining clear goals
Tips & Training

Set your professional goals for 2020 through a competency lens

Imagine it is December 20, 2020. You sit down and evaluate the informal or formal learning you have done over the past year. Writing out a list of sessions you attended, webinars you watched, a conference at which you presented and coffee chats you held with colleagues, you begin to see a pattern emerge that identifies enhanced development. You can clearly identify specific achievements that you made through each learning activity. As you submit an annual report or update your LinkedIn profile or resume, you clearly state specific professional attributes that you have gained over a one-year period through thoughtful planning. Doesn’t that sound a bit better then simply attending a three-day conference you may or not be interested in, just for the sake of a trip to the other side of the country?

A new year brings upon us a time of new, fresh and revived learning. Daily, I receive notices for courses, conferences, workshops and webinars. All look appealing, but with budgetary cuts and time limitations, I remain challenged as to what to choose: What will allow me or my team to achieve our goals?

Competencies are one lens you can use to help target your professional development (PD) efforts. I recently read on a PD approval form, “What competencies will you achieve through completion of the requested professional development?” This led me to consider what indeed it would help me achieve and why I was making this request. As we educate our clients or students on direction, we often allow our own personal planning to fall off. We aimlessly trudge along, attending or watching one learning opportunity after another, without the careful framework to guide it.

Let’s begin to target your professional development now, so that next December, when someone asks what you enhanced or achieved in the past year, you can clearly explain how the professional development you took on in 2020 helped improve your skills or knowledge.

Top view of empty notebook ready for New 2020 Year planning or wish list
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A framework for competency development

The Canadian Association of Career Educators (CACEE), a not-for-profit organization focused on supporting career educators and employers, has developed a useful framework that gives professionals an opportunity to first benchmark their competency levels and then set reasonable plans to achieve their goals. It includes the competencies of collaboration, communication, digital literacy, equity, diversity and inclusion and ethics.

Here’s how to get started: Use the competency blueprint created by CACEE, which you can download. CACEE Ambassadors can help you or your team complete a benchmarking exercise via a webinar or you can complete your own. The benchmarking activity will determine the competency level that best reflects your skills, knowledge and attitude. Regardless of your professional experience, you may be mastering one competency, but still building in another.  After completing the benchmark, the framework guides you to identify the evidence of how you meet that level.

Next is an action plan; you need to consider how you will move to the next benchmark level. Looking toward December 2020, write a statement in the future tense that specifies the action items you will need to pursue this year in order to achieve the next level of your goal.

Think small goals and begin to research; moving levels doesn’t require you to complete a full course or program. Consider how you gather your team to discuss best practices, enhancing your subject-matter knowledge by sharing with each other. Increase your collaboration by arranging virtual or 1:1 coffee chats with professionals who have similar roles. If you belong to an organization that uses a program to connect you with others, accept the next request that comes along.

To enhance your knowledge in equity, diversity and inclusion, arrange for a speaker from a local community organization to come to your next team meeting or attend an on-campus event. Many schools run educational series through their equity, diversity and inclusion offices. Short series, like the online, one-hour CACEE Career Educator series, are extremely helpful ways for junior staff to enhance their competency knowledge. Digital literacy can be gained through mastering a new social media tool or embedding a tool like Microsoft Teams into your own teams’ communication and collaboration practices. When a conference comes along, review the program carefully, considering how each session and keynote will help you enhance your competencies.

The next time you’re asked to reflect on what competency a PD activity is helping you enhance, you will be able to clearly describe how it is helping you advance toward achieving your career goals.

So, new year, new you? Absolutely not. But a better-planned you is definitely within reach.


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Kathryn Leistner, has extensive experience in both the private sector in human resource management roles, and within the public sector, at McMaster University, Niagara College and Brock University. Leistner currently works for McMaster University, leading a team of career educators who guide students career development. She has a BEd from Brock University, Human Resources Management Diploma from McMaster University and MEd. from Queens University.
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Kathryn Leistner, has extensive experience in both the private sector in human resource management roles, and within the public sector, at McMaster University, Niagara College and Brock University. Leistner currently works for McMaster University, leading a team of career educators who guide students career development. She has a BEd from Brock University, Human Resources Management Diploma from McMaster University and MEd. from Queens University.
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