It is an individual’s responsibility to take on their own professional development and mentoring. The BCSWomen Specialist Group seeks to support women returning to STEM careers as well as to inspire women to have the best possible career utilising their potential.
That doesn’t absolve any employer from their responsibility to support employee development, however, development needs to support an individual in ways that make sense to them; one which extends beyond their workplace or current role. Some women may not have resources from an employer or be on a career break or have other responsibilities holding back their ability to focus on their careers, for example, parental care, childcare responsibilities.
Women are encouraged to join BCS and BCSWomen to gain access to the Personal Development Plan tools, the Career Mentoring Network (currently in pilot phase) and the group’s initiatives, such as the events run this past summer on the 3 and 23 June 2014, to train mentors in some of the necessary skills. The materials are available, both a slideshow and exercise workbook; Scotland and Wales have run their own branch events using them.
Your goals, your outcomes
Any development activity is only valuable in its effect on the individual, which is why we focus on outcomes.
Reflection on what was gained from an activity is essential, as it can help focus on the valuable outcomes and aid future planning. Reflection on personal direction and development undertaken can then lead to goals and a clearer idea of what is actually helping.
A broad view of what works
What are relevant development activities? Basically, anything that helps you progress in a measurable way. If you are looking for activities with specific outcomes to meet development goals, then it is important to think broadly about sources of help and to recognise the triggers for changing behaviours.
BCSWomen hold events around the country and can make materials available wherever you are based. Anything from an eBook, seminar, discussion and online material, to a conversation can contribute to your development. Structured activities like BCS courses and certifications can be very useful and, in some careers, necessary.
A blended approach is a good idea focused on a goal to employment, role change or progression. Reports and articles, through to joining a group committee, working group or contributing to a policy statement can lead to relevant outcomes against goals.
Going for Chartered status can help to move your career forward. Simply meeting up with other professionals can expand your horizons, all the way through to more structured mentoring towards a particular purpose.
Guidance and resources
www.bcs.org/cpd contains a range of guidance notes that can help you set out on a development journey and has suggestions on resources and events that might be useful to you.
Setting goals and recording your activities provides a basic structure for your development. With this in mind BCS has the Personal Development Plan (PDP), an online tool to help you record and plan goals and activities and is highly customisable to your needs.
It’s available to all at www.pdp.bcs.org, but with some functions restricted to members. It embodies our philosophy of development, and it can be configured to suit your way of working. Members can also report against goals for sharing with others.
A mentor can, for example, help a mentee to acquire technical expertise, to gain knowledge and skills, understand appropriate behaviour in social situations and to understand the workings of an organisation and its expectations of their role.
No blueprint exists for the ideal mentoring relationship, but what is common to all cases of mentoring is that the mentee comes to view things in a different way with expanded horizons. The mentor engenders change in the mentee, helping that person towards a new vision of attainment.
Mentoring can be useful through any part of your development journey, helping you look at your career direction, planning goals, or as an activity against a goal. Mentoring others can, in turn, be very rewarding and a useful development activity in itself, as well as supporting the wider development of the profession.
This is a great way of getting support in your development and is a key element of BCS’s professional culture. Being a mentor is open to anyone who has something to offer and is not restricted solely to those with long experience.
The BCSWomen Specialist Group can provide the materials for interested members to run events to educate mentors and mentees. BCS plans to launch its Career Mentoring Network, which will enable members to make connections with mentors and mentees as well as through specific programmes (e.g. BCS Women, BCS Entrepreneurs).