“Challenge Consulting have added considerable value to Energetics for our long term needs”

Matt Wilkin – Energetics
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Stephen Crowe

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Many people have shared their views on who is responsible for career development.  Answering the question of where the responsibility lies, is like asking who is accountable for Usain Bolt’s success. While he was the face in the public eye, there were teams of people, each with their own duties, helping him become number one.


The employee needs to be passionate about the career path and have a desire to work hard towards being the best they can.  Like Usain Bolt, they need to put in the hours, training to achieve their goals and pushing to get to the next level.


And every employer, small or large, needs to appreciate that if they are to thrive as a company, they need to make investments to get the best out of their staff.


For people working for large organisations, training and development is often defined by the HR team, who plan for staff at different levels. A grad accountant for example, may be put through the CA program or form part of a rotation program to gain on the job experience. Senior leadership may be given an opportunity to take part in career development initiatives including career coaching, mentor programs or leadership training.


But for many people working for a smaller firm, these career plans are not in place and the emphasis is on the employee to ask for training and support.


While most employers are likely to cover the cost of training courses and further study, ultimately, the employee needs have a plan and know what they are aiming for. The long-term responsibility lies with the employee. You need to have a clear idea of what your career aspirations are and how you plan to get there. You should set goals and milestones that you can scratch off once completed. Ask your manager for regular one on ones, to discuss what you’d like to do, what support you need and to update them on your progress.


Career development is not all about training courses and further study though. Both the employee and the manager need to be thinking about opportunities to gain practical experience. The managers should be thinking about what else they can give the employee to do, where can they be seconded to and what the next step on the ladder is. For people working with larger firms, you should be looking for openings as and when they become available, whether it be a sideways move or a promotion, you need to let your manager know that you’d like to express your interest and be considered for the role.


So, if you don’t have a career plan in place right now, you need to put something into place. To round off, here’s a quick summary of the steps you should take:


  • Set some time aside to sit down and consider your long-term career goals
  • Break it down and list the things you want to complete in the short term
  • List any training or development opportunities you’d like support with
  • Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss your plan and make sure it aligns with the business to ensure you get the support you’re after



Once you have been considered for the interview process, it is important to know that the employer or recruiter will ask questions to assess your suitability for the role.

One of those questions they tend to ask is: ‘Why did you leave your previous position?’ Depending on your current situation there can be a variety of answers associated with this, but what answer will best get your foot in the door?

I decided that it would be best to ask the experts in my team for their point of view when it comes to screening a candidate with this particular question. This was their feedback on suitable responses:

  • Looking for a new challenges/ Wanting more responsibility – You may have been excelling in your current role but the opportunity was not available to take on new challenges or move up in the company. You are taking on the initiative to pursue new options and take on more responsibilities.
  • Something different/ change of scenery – This is fine to admit, but not in the event that you are applying for a role that exactly matches the outline of your previous one.
  • Redundancy/Restructure – Of course this can be a sensitive subject but the recruiter can often relate to these situations.
  • Cultural change within the company – This can also be an acceptable answer, just make sure you try to be diplomatic and where possible try to avoid sounding too negative about the situation.
  • Career Change – if you have any transferable skills that you could bring to the new role it can always be advantageous to mention them.
  • The role became too demanding/long hours/not enough work-life balance – Think carefully before describing what ‘demanding’ or ‘long hours’ mean to you. Make sure it is relevant to why this new role is more appealing and fits with your career prospects.

Do keep in mind there are also responses that should be avoided and this is why:

  • Being negative about a company or person within your previous employment – There may be circumstances where you have had a bad experience, however, how you relay this information is important. You don’t want to appear bitter about management or your previous work environment. Try to make your answer is more diplomatic rather than accusing.
  • A higher salary – Most managers/recruiters won’t hold this against you however, if it appears that money is the only driving force for behind you pursuing this role then the chances of getting this new position may be slim.
  • Not being able to give a valid reason – This can be a concern to the employer if you have a history of moving employment frequently. It may cause the employer to question your longevity in this upcoming role.

Try preparing answers to these types of questions before the interview takes place so that you are not caught off guard. It is the employer’s way of trying to get to know you, what your interests/passions are, and whether you are the right fit so make sure to put your best foot forward.

What have you learned from these types of questions in an interview? And for employers, what are some of the responses you have received from star candidates?


‘A goal without an action plan is a daydream.’ – Nathaniel Branden

We have covered personal goals earlier in September, but now I would like to focus on careers, and what I liked about putting together an ‘action plan’ is that it is more than just writing down an aspiration, it is something that drives what you want to accomplish.

You may be wanting to step up in your current role or you may want to change roles (or even career paths) but regardless of where you are I hope you can benefit from some of the steps I have found beneficial in putting career goals into action.

1. My Profile – Understanding who I am and what I want to achieve

What you want to do with your career is not up to anyone else but you. As with personal passions are you in line with what you are passionate about professionally? What steps do I need to take to get to where you want in your career?

• Have you considered career guidance to reflect on your strengths, career interests and where you want to take your career next?

• Update resume and LinkedIn profile – are they all up to date and accurately represent you and the next career step you want to take?

• Audience – Who are you trying to reach out to so that you can start getting your career goals on track? Are you connecting with others through networking? Is your boss aware of what you are currently seeking or trying to achieve? Are you presenting levels of enthusiasm and reaching out for opportunities when they present themselves?

2. My Progress – Reflecting on my past achievements and what I have gained up until this stage of my career.

Let’s face it, what we have achieved or have made decisions on in the past have led us to where we are today. Whether it is training courses, networking events, recognition for hard work resulting in promotions/ publications etc.

Once you have accurately reviewed your previous achievements, ask yourself:

• What can you learn from these experiences to get you ahead?

• How can they be a benefit for you now (e.g. transferrable skills)?

• Is there anything that you need to be refreshed on?• What have you achieved recently to take you to that next step in your career?

• Are there any courses or projects that you can put your hand up for at the moment?

3. My Goals and Plans – What am I hoping to achieve and by when?

This is similar to what I have covered with personal goals. You cannot expect to complete any goal unless you write it down and put a timeframe on it.

Some people have one year, five year or even ten year goal plans. Take the time to brainstorm, set out a plan, and then for that first year break down the tasks to achievable timeframes (weekly, fortnightly, monthly, every six months etc.) Just think of it like a daily schedule that has been extended by twelve months!

It can be hard sometimes to imagine where you will end up in six months’ time let alone a year or more but having a sense of direction is the key. It’s the force that drives you even if the direction might change slightly or may not go exactly according to plan. Having written goals and plans lead you into action, and keep the list near you or in your calendar as a reminder so you don’t fall off track. It will save you from distraction. This helps me more than anything to have reminders and information written down so that I can act now and also plan ahead.

4. My Review – My continual follow up and reflection on where my career goals have taken me to move on to the next step

Managing your career means managing your progression. Once you have reached one of your goals and ticked it off your list it is important to reflect on the steps you took to achieve the goal. Established what had worked and what didn’t work so that you know what to avoid in the future.

• Have you received any valuable feedback or direction from someone along the way?

• Have any doors opened as a result of completing this goal?

• Do you need to tweak any of your remaining goals?

There can also be the case where your goals have not gone according to plan. If not handled properly it can leave you bitter and disappointed. It could even lead to you giving up on that direction all together. My advice on this point would be to make sure to evaluate all avenues before letting go of any goals. If you are not open to the prospect:

• That other doors may open as a result of this roadblock or

• Asking yourself if you could review this at a later stage (if it wasn’t the right time)

Then you could be missing out on potential opportunity. And if something is really bothering you, speak to someone you can trust – a friend, family member, a mentor or colleague. Having a second opinion can really help you make your decision.

Have you ever had a career action plan? If so, where has it taken you in your career?