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If only I had a whole day to spend on my career development …

When it comes to career development, working in a large, complex organisation like ours can be a real blessing. The breadth and variety means the chance to learn something new or even go in another direction entirely is never far away. There’s always change happening around you, new skills to learn, and new people to learn from.

On the other hand, the problem with so much diversity is that it can be hard to decide where you want to go and work out how to get there. Especially when you’re concentrating on delivering in the role you already have.

That’s the problem our HR Resourcing team set out to address when they introduced Career Development Days in 2015. Not only do the days encourage people to use the time to think about their career, they connect them to the tools and information they need to take the next steps. As Resourcing Manager Naomi Puri – who’s led the project team behind Career Development Days since 2017 – tells me, “It helps to raise awareness of tools that people might not realise are already there, or that don’t cut through all the other communications they get.”

More than that, they exist to help change the way people think about career development, and as Naomi puts it “Get people to think about their skills, not just their experience.”

Getting connected

“Because the business areas want to be involved at our events, we can say to people ‘here are the business areas, here are some questions you can ask. Have a think about your skills and talk to them about transferable skills that might be suitable for their area, and think about whether that might be suitable for you.’”

Career Development Days are run across two main channels, with regional days where colleagues attend live events in our main hub offices, and virtual days which let large numbers in different locations join phone based sessions. Typical events and sessions include one-on-one CV reviews, presentations with leaders, and the chance to talk to representatives from a wide range of business areas.

“The days are about getting people interview ready, but also job ready, Naomi explains. “We offer sessions on CV and interview skills, as well as more advanced topics like personal branding and career journeys, which include really useful hints and tips about how to approach your job search and get ready to apply. We also work with the Entrepreneurial Development Academy on things like pitching and growth mindset. Those can be useful not only in finding a new role, but also making an impact quickly, and opening your mind up to new opportunities.”

Practice makes perfect

In the time Naomi has been overseeing the events – with huge support from a dedicated project team –the number of attendees and the number sessions the average visitor registers for have both increased, with almost 16,000 pre event registrations across the 11 live and virtual events in 2017. Advocacy ratings also went up from 92% to 97%, with 2018 off to a great start at 99%.

As the events have developed the team have become increasingly innovative. A third channel based around Workplace – a business application of Facebook which we began using in 2016 – will be an important part of giving users flexibility in how they attend sessions in the future. And the sessions themselves are also subject to rethinking. “We’ve started using the regional events to trial longer, more interactive sessions. At the end of last year we launched 90 minute interview skills workshop, which gives a really practical way to work on your interview skills in a safe environment with a small group of people. I love that we can trial new things and new ideas; we can be agile in testing something out, and if it doesn’t work we move on to the next thing.”

Skills for the future

This focus on innovation shouldn’t be a surprise. Business is going through a period of rapid, technology led change, and Ulster Bank’s strategy is to lead rather than follow. The world of work will feel quite different in the future, and Career Development Days have an important role in helping our people get ready. “We’re definitely seeing a demand from people to future proof themselves”, Naomi tells me. “People want to be ready for change and to take control of their careers in a changing environment, especially if that means a new role in the bank or even moving on elsewhere. As people see new ways of working like Agile start to affect their business areas, they want to know what else they can learn and how can they do it without taking their eye off their day job.”

So what’s the future for Career Development Days themselves? “I want them to be naturally built into the tools people have when they think about career development, and for them to be able to pick and choose what they want from the events. Now we’re expanding to Workplace Live people will be able to choose what they want at a time that suits them. We’ll keep developing content and streamlining it so it’s easy for them to access in among their day job, and we’ll keep encouraging everyone to think differently about future skills. We have a really big part to play.”

Want to work somewhere committed to your development? Find the right role today.


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