As a volunteer manager, should your professional development be focused on competencies, or strengths?

Competencies are the things that you DO in your job, observable descriptions of behaviour.  There is a national competency framework for the management of volunteers, the National Occupational Standards(1), and you may well work in an organisation with its own competencies.

Vocational training is often based around competencies, with training designed to help you perform more effectively, in other words, to get better at your job!  Learning Needs Analysis based on competencies will tend to look at where the gaps are in your underpinning knowledge and skills, and plan ways to address them.

But there is another way of looking at professional development, which is to focus primarily on your strengths – the areas of work that you are really good at and which  you enjoy the most.

Are these approaches relevant to managers of volunteers?   The nature of most volunteer management and co-ordination roles is that they require a broad range of competencies, to name just  a few: the ability to recruit and place volunteers, to support and motivate volunteers, to deal with problems affecting volunteers, to plan and organise efficiently, and to develop your own capacity for managing volunteers.

But these are perhaps just a starting point when you look at your broader career development.  If you can identify your real strengths and interests, this can help you in setting a direction for your career.  If your passion is for working directly with people and you want to move up within an organisation, then you might look for career direction in a role where you continue to work with people, perhaps managing staff who manage volunteers.

If you enjoy ideas and strategic thinking, then a role where you can set overall policy and direction and set a vision for an organisation might appeal.  When you are thinking about your career development, don’t just take your strengths for granted – can you develop them further so that you are outstanding in certain areas, and therefore well prepared for more senior roles that call on those strengths.

So a couple of questions for you:

What one thing could I learn to DO better that would help me in my job?

What do I enjoy most in my current job… and how could I develop this strength further?

(1) National Occupational Standards for the Management of Volunteers are published by Skills Third Sector and may be downloaded here

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