As an employee: developing competence and building a career path

You do not need to know everything beforehand – your competence will be strengthened as you work. While working, people often gain an understanding of the many aspects that the work entails and the related processes: the make up of the work, the goals of the work and the workplace roles, methods of participation and division of labour.
Table of contents

When I was applying for a job, I put a lot of thought into what kind of organization I would like to work in. It was important to me, and I was able to find a workplace whose values reflected my own.

Competence development and a meaningful career path

Considering your own short- and long-term goals and interests is an important part of competence development, also when you already have a job.

Time horizons help us to view our own competence and the goals for its development.

-

You should keep in mind that competencies often develop and gradually accumulate in interaction with other people. Becoming a competent professional is a process that requires us to consciously develop our own competence but also gradually takes place as we work, encounter new situations and learn from our colleagues.

  • Discuss your goals with your supervisor and actively highlight your own competence and interests.
  • Be active towards your colleagues, bring your own ideas and competence to the fore and seek to co-operate with your more experienced colleagues. When you clearly show your own competence, it will help your colleagues and employer to recognize your ability and to offer you new opportunities.
  • Map out the opportunities that your organization can offer for developing yourself in the direction you want to go. Seek solutions where your personal needs and the needs of your organization meet.
  • Career advancement is not the only way to deepen your expertise.  You can deepen and expand your areas of expertise also through changing your work tasks, for example. Consider and map out opportunities for this. 
  • Some workplaces organize mentorship programmes aimed at supporting the employees’ career development and professional development. In these programmes, the employee most often gets to network with a person who is further along in their career that they might not have otherwise got to know. The mentor can give good tips for networking in your own job and professional field. Therefore, you should find out what kinds of opportunities there are for mentoring in your organization. You could also look for a mentor on your own. 
  • Keep an eye out for opportunities outside your organization

Document your goals and measures

By documenting your goals and the measures needed to achieve them, you can make your goals more tangible. Once you have documented your goals, you can better assess how to achieve them. Documented goals also serve as a reminder of the path you have taken, which you can always change if necessary!

I have a colleague who’s been my mentor from the start. I can ask them anything and discuss things if I ever feel I’m not sure about something.

People learn when they interact with each other. By networking professionally and at your workplace, you can deepen your expertise. It can also open up new opportunities within your organization as well as outside of it. Take part in all sorts of conversations, attend your workplace events and get to know your colleagues. Work is a big part of life – apart from just the professional benefit, work-related social bonds can bring other meaning to your life.

Thus, you should consider developing your own expertise as a long-term project. Competence develops over time, and there is no need to try to be perfect at any point. You shouldn’t compromise your rest, recovery and life outside work. Learning to relax and look after yourself will help you to make it through to the next day and ensure that work doesn’t take too big of a role in your life.

Starting to work in another country was definitely a learning experience for me. Adopting a professional role is also a thing you must learn. Right from the get-go, I decided that I would showcase my competence and not hide things I find challenging. I’ve gained so much from sparring with my supervisor and colleagues.

Help when your career development is stuck

At work, it may sometimes feel like you are unable to advance or deepen your expertise, as if you were stuck in place. If that is the case, you could be dealing with a career block. A so-called career block is a situation where a person has not been satisfied with their job or career for a long time but feels that they cannot get away from the situation.

If you feel that your career is stuck, you could try the following things:

  • Discuss your work-related wishes with your supervisor (e.g. during a development or goal discussion) or colleagues (you can get support and information on things such as career or study opportunities from people in different career stages). Clearly explain that you are motivated to expand, deepen or change your job description.
  • Openly consider opportunities within your organization based on which direction you want to develop in. Which tasks interest you, what motivates you? For some, career advancement adds meaningfulness to the work, but switching over to different tasks may also bring new meaningful content to the work.
  • Job rotation within the organization or between organizations (especially in the public sector) is a way to gain experience on new tasks. Try to find out if job rotation is possible within your organization.
  • Different types of career coaching may also help with a career block. Explore the opportunities for career coaching within your organization. If you belong to a trade union, find out if it provides career counselling. The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Towards Successful Seniority™ coaching provides support in situations such as a career block.
  • If your workplace’s occupational health care agreement includes an occupational psychologist’s services, you can go over things related to the meaningfulness of the work and your interests and career wishes as well as ascertain to what extent things related to coping or exhaustion are causing your dissatisfaction.
  • Sometimes, studying outside of work can bring a needed sense of direction in your life. Try to find out what opportunities you have for flexible working time or other arrangements (e.g. study leave for training or studying or unpaid leave). Your organization’s HR experts will be able to give you information about flexible arrangements at your workplace.
  • If you end up considering changing your career, you can ask for help from the Employment and Economic Development Office’s career counselling, for example.

Do you feel that you have been discriminated?

From recruitment to the termination of employment, discrimination at work is prohibited. The employer is also obligated to provide equal opportunities for competence development to all employees. If you feel that you have been discriminated at work, see the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s instructions on what to do in that situation.