National Career Development Month: Take Charge of Your Career

by Nancy Outlaw, Senior Human Resources Analyst, Organizational Learning and Talent Development Division, Department of Human Resources

Have you thought about your career lately? Well, now is the time! November is National Career Development Month, so whether you’re currently working on your career goals or it’s been a while since you reviewed your resume, now is the perfect time to focus on your career path and aspirations.


Career development for people at all stages of their professional journeys is the purpose of National Career Development Month. It’s a reminder of the importance of taking charge of your own career and professional growth to increase your job satisfaction and fulfillment. Henrico County supports this mission through our HR Career Resources Program, where you can find tools, resources, and personalized guidance to help you along your career journey.


There are many ways to invest in your career development. If you need ideas or inspiration to get started, here are some examples:


  • Self-reflection: Set some time aside to reflect on your current job and what you want to achieve in your career. Some questions you might ask yourself include:
    • Am I happy with my current role?
    • Do I already have a career path in mind or am I struggling with direction?
    • What are my interests?
    • What kinds of tasks and projects do I love doing? How can I fit them into my career?


  • Career coaching and assessments: If you’re not sure which career is the best choice for you, there are assessments that can help you match your skills and interests with a variety of jobs. Many qualified career counselors or coaches can administer and interpret these assessments to help you discover your ideal job fit.


  • Researching different jobs and careers: Another way to find the job or field that interests you is to do some research to get a better understanding of the knowledge and skills that are needed. Reviewing job descriptions, classifications, or postings will provide specific information, and websites like O*Net OnLine allow you to research careers using criteria like interest, abilities, and work values.


  • Informational interviewing: One of the best ways to find out what an occupation is really like is to have a conversation with someone who does the job. This is known as an informational interview, and it’s a great opportunity to get a more realistic idea about the job or career and what key skills and abilities are needed. You can view our informational interviewing video to learn more about how to conduct one.


  • Creating a career plan: Once you have decided on the job or career you want to pursue, devise an action plan to identify your goals and outline steps to reach them. Include short and long-term goals, action items, deadlines, and support/resources (people, finances, organizations, etc.) in your plan. Check with your department to see if they have their own career development plans or equivalent resources for employees, or use the Individual Learning Plan created by the Human Resources Department.


Discuss your career plan with your supervisor. While they can help you chart a course toward your goals, it’s up to you to start the conversation and make things happen. 


  • Getting the skills/training/education you need: Identify the gaps between your current skills and those needed for the job you want. Then, determine what you need to do to acquire them. Can you learn these skills on the job? In a single class, such as Excel? Through more formal training and/or education? Through volunteer or other outside activities? OLTD offers a variety of learning opportunities and videos that can help you learn new skills. For leadership skill development, consider joining Leadership Henrico (LH)or the Emerging Leaders Certification Program (ELCP).


An excellent way to grow your skills on the job is to ask for stretch assignments. These are projects or tasks that are just beyond your current skill level or experience. If this isn’t an option, you may be able to do so in a volunteer position you hold in a civic organization in your community, giving you an opportunity to gain or practice key skills and helping organizations fill vital roles. For more ideas around on-the-job skill development, check out this Upskilling video.


If you need more formal training, like a certification or degree, check with your department to see if they offer specific classes or programs to help you fulfill this requirement. Henrico County also offers tuition reimbursement and education leave, so check with your department on what’s available to you. 


  • Building and keeping your network strong: Maintaining good relationships and building new ones is critical to career success. Your network should include contacts internal to your organization as well as outside it. Attend work and organization functions, OLTD classes or join programs such as LH or ELCP to build your internal network. Externally, reach out to former colleagues, join professional associations, and get active on professional online networks like LinkedIn.


  • Updating your resume and/or your LinkedIn profile: Don’t wait until you apply for a job to create or update your resume or LinkedIn profile. Update them regularly so they reflect your current role and accomplishments. If you need resume assistance, our HR Career Coaches can review your resume and provide recommendations. You can also get tips from our resume videos in the Career Development section of our HR YouTube page as well as find helpful articles and videos on our Career Development Resources page.


  • Brushing up on your interviewing skills: Many of us would agree that interviewing is stressful. Make sure you’re prepared to make a great impression on your interviewer by preparing and practicing ahead of time. That might mean preparing behavioral examples for potential interview questions, or practicing answering your prepared responses to interview questions with a friend, mentor, or career coach. Our Career Resources Program offers individualized interview preparation assistance as well as videos in the Career Development section of our HR YouTube page to help you prepare. You can also find helpful resources on our Career Development Resources page.

Taking charge of your career development has many benefits, including boosting your confidence, increasing your satisfaction with your career, and enhancing your value to an organization. Take advantage of National Career Development Month and the many resources Henrico has to offer to take your career to the next level.