This personal development report reflects upon my learning experiences and outcomes during my first year at Nottingham Trent University. It aims to document the ways in which I have developed and areas for further consideration as part of a continual learning process. The report will be structured around 5 main areas as shown below 1. Placing learning on BABM within the wider context of lifelong learning 2. Taking personal responsibility for career planning 3. Taking personal responsibility for the learning process 4. Valuing the importance of developing personal effectiveness 5. Demonstrating an enquiring mind I have also looked at how all this learning at university relates and fits within a wider context of lifelong learning.
Conclusions and recommendations for what I am going to do to improve in the months from May 2001 to 2002 are based on the areas I have mentioned in the above. I will do this in the form of a Personal Development Plan using the smart objectives as follows: (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Related to overall life-long goals and set over a Time period). I have made conclusions of the development plans, which have concentrated both on Core Transferable skills and also some softer skills.
Introduction 1.My Learning At University Within A Wider Context Of Lifelong Learning 1.1 The concept of lifelong learning The concept of lifelong learning is as relevant now as it has ever been, with the traditional job for life being replaced by shorter periods of work for different firms requiring essentially the same skills and qualities in employees. Therefore the ability for these skills to be transferable is very important. To develop these skills therefore is extremely important with many employers putting greater emphasis upon these core skills and less emphasis upon specific skills. These skills can be used in many different situations and circumstances to allow the employee to perform to the best of their ability. “The concept of work is continuously changing. An individual not only has several jobs in a lifetime but may also have several careers.
Therefore everybody needs continuous updating of skills and competence throughout their working life” ERT report, 1989 The following skills are widely considered to be Core Transferable Skills Â· Organisational Skills Â· Interpersonal/ Social Skills Â· Analytic and Problem Solving Skills Â· Teamwork Â· Creativity Â· Self Motivation Â· Initiative and Leadership 1.2The learning curve It is these skills that have been particularly important to develop whilst at university and it is the experience of university both academically and socially that has provided the ideal environment for these skills to be developed.
The combination of leaving home and adapting to a completely different environment both educationally and socially has meant that the learning curve especially in the first semester was very steep. To live away from home for the first time without any contacts in an unknown city is a life changing experience and forces oneself to adapt and mature quickly after leaving the security of the family home. Being entirely responsible for yourself is also a new experience requiring maturity and forward thinking as well as planning to enable yourself to function.
The way in which these skills have been developed forms the backbone for lifelong learning, one which employers recognize and actively seek in graduates.
1.3Lifelong learning defined The concept of lifelong learning is complex and is not easily defined resulting in no unilateral definition, however its importance is widely agreed.
“The Development of human potential through a continuously supportive process which stimulates and empowers individuals to acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will require throughout their lifetime and to apply them with confidence, creativity and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environment” Longworth, 1996 p22 “The need for a learning society to convert and compete is not just urgent, it is a matter of economic life and death. It is a matter of social success or disaster. It is a matter of survival” Cann in Bradshaw, 1995 The development of these skills both as part of the BA Business Management Degree and the wider University experience is key to becoming an attractive employee This is particularly so as years two and three of the Degree are “in company” so the development of these skills and the pace at which these must be developed is crucial. This report will aim to reflect upon my first year experience and where appropriate utilize activities, questionnaires and assignments in an attempt to build a personal development review and action plan for the proceeding 12 months in the form of a personal development plan.
2.Taking Personal Responsibility For The Learning Process The biggest contribution to taking responsibility for the learning process was the decision to further my learning at university. This decision has allowed myself the opportunity to further my learning both academically and socially in ways that I would be unable to had I not made the decision to attend university. Also the decision to accept my place on the BABM course was another way in which I have demonstrated my personal responsibility for learning.
The course is intense for each of the three years, more so than most undergraduate courses and the decision to accept a place on this course rather than other courses where workload and intensity were less was important. The course aims to enrich individuals with far greater experience both academically and in terms of transferable skills therefore by choosing BABM I feel I have made the best possible choice to continue my learning in the most relevant way providing me with higher levels of transferable skills than other graduates may have.
2.1 Taking responsibility for myself To be able to take responsibility for the learning process I have had to take responsibility for myself and become more accountable to myself in terms of making myself work harder and setting aside time in which to work. .University work is very different to that I have encountered before in terms of deadlines are much longer, scope for research is much larger, less specific titles to assignments etc etc so being accountable for myself is very important.
2.2 Time management Because the work is very different to that experienced before I have had to manage my time in a much more responsible manner to enable me to fulfill my potential, progress, and attain the best possible marks for myself. Examples of where I have managed my time effectively are physically difficult to produce as the BABM timetable is extremely varied from week to week so to produce a timetable where work and free time could be planned in advance was very difficult to do. Undoubtedly time management and grades are very much linked and my grades for semester 1 and those received thus far for semester 2 have been good and I feel this has been partly due to my good time management skills. My peer assessment feedback included 5 of 6 people stating that I was well organized and three out of 6 stating that I was disciplined. This is included in appendix 1.
2.3Taking responsibility for learning The DLBM debate where our topic was “interviews are the most unreliable method of selection” required ourselves to complete a large amount of research. Our group split into two and four with the latter researching that I was a part of. The grade we received for this was high 70% and showed the level of research the group had done and is typical of myself being keen to take responsibility for learning.
Development of interpersonal skills I am a member of The Herefordshire Golf Club where in 2000 I was captain. In this role I was required to talk to people of different ages and backgrounds and I feel this role has allowed my interpersonal skills to develop and I have learned a lot from this position as it provides a different scenario from academic studies. This role also developed my leadership skills as well as my organizational skills.
3.Value The Importance Of Developing Personal Effectiveness As part of the Developing Learning for Business and Management module the group completed two sessions on personal effectiveness including “˜assertiveness’ and “˜effective communication/ active listening’ These sessions have allowed my awareness to the importance of assertiveness and communication skills to be greatly improved and have highlighted ways in which I can improve on these skills. My level of skills prior to the sessions was of a good level and I believe I have the basic fundamentals to allow myself to develop communication and assertiveness naturally. However my increased awareness brought about by the sessions has allowed myself to take a more proactive approach to developing personal effectiveness.
3.1Demonstrated active listening/ effective communication An example of where I have demonstrated both active listening/effective communication whilst being assertive was in a role-play with Vanessa Knowles DLBM lecturer as part of a tutorial session. Vanessa played the part of the under performing employee and I played the part of the employer. Vanessa used several different behaviour characteristics in attempt to alter my opinions and decisions. I feel that I learnt a lot by this, the importance of clear communication and active listening whilst not letting some-ones behaviour alter my decisions.
3.2Development of self confidence The session also increased my confidence especially as the role-play was conducted in front of an audience and made me more willing to be assertive rather than passive which is a tendency I will sometimes withdraw to. In the peer assessment feedback session this was something people felt was maybe a weakness of myself. Ben Gasson for example said “You should be more confident and forceful, often what you have to say is just as valid if not more so than other people, just say what you think sometimes” This analysis is very true of myself and to be more assertive I must first become more confident within myself.
3.3Development of leadership skills In the Belbin peer assessment it was also said that I was sometimes fearful of conflict. This I agree is true sometimes when maybe I am unsure of all the facts or am not in a position to speak confidently, I sometimes let others dominate me when really their ideas are no better than my own. However I feel that the example as mentioned above (role-play) demonstrated my ability not to be fearful of conflict. I am not a person to cause conflict within a group but at the same time I would not say i am fearful of conflict and can be assertive when necessary.
One area for development are my leadership skills. Although I feel that I have become much more confident this year and this has enabled me to take a more active or leadership role in certain situations. However I feel that I still have a long way to go to enable myself to be a natural leader and to do so would be a great achievement. To improve this area of personal effectiveness is a definite priority for the next 12 months.
My job at Marks & Spencer’s requires me to work on the customer service desk listening to customer’s complaints and dealing with their problems. This role requires me to have good active listening skills and not be fearful of conflict whilst maintaining good customer service. This shows that my personal effectiveness and assertiveness can when necessary be very prominent.
3.4Ability to effectively communicate My ability to effectively communicate has been demonstrated in many ways this year, presentations, debates, meetings, interviews etc. My peer assessment said that my presentation skills are good and I can speak in confidently at a good pace. This was highlighted in the DLBM debate where it was mentioned in the group mark sheet as well as the business simulation feedback sheets.
4.Work With Others To Achieve Goals The ability to work with others to achieve goals is another very important transferable skill that employers seek. The Belbin team role questionnaire included in appendix __ and states that predominantly I am a team worker co-coordinator. This opinion is held by both myself and my peer group showing that I view myself and my group views me as a team worker.
4.1Working with others in practice My ability to work with others to achieve goals, I believe is one of my biggest strengths. Much of the work on BABM is team orientated as this will be the case when in the workplace in years 2 and 3. Examples of this have included the business simulation module where I feel I made a good contribution to the team. Other examples have included the DLBM debate, the organizational behaviour presentation as well as the smaller group assignments we have be set.
4.2My role within groups The experience I have gained working in groups this year has developed many of my skills far more than a normal undergraduate course may have done. My skill within groups is one of analysis and reflection of what others have said and making rational and coherent arguments from debate. This ability has proved to be very useful this year however I feel than within group work I need to take a more pro active role stimulating debate and discussion. As was stated in my peer assessment feedback I sometimes need to “relax, say what I think, and be more confident” and this is an area I need to work on in the next 12 months
4.3Teamwork outside the classroom During 2000 I have played golf for The Herefordshire Golf Club where much of the competition is in team format. Very different to university teamwork where communication is key, playing golf requires analysis of the situation and choosing the best course of action in a short time consulting your partner to achieve the best possible result. Again I feel I have learnt a lot from this sporting experience as often I am under pressure to make team decisions quickly at university and although in an entirely different situation the process is the same.
5.Demonstrate An Enquiring Mind An enquiring mind and to be interested in your work is essential to being successful, without this I feel would result in lack of motivation and a significant reduction in output. My educational background shows how my enquiring mind is diverse and heavily influenced the “˜A’ level subjects I chose. I tried to choose subjects I was genuinely interested in and felt that I would be most motivated to work hard on. This at the time didn’t include business studies but my work experience at Marks & Spencer’s has led me to become interested in business. I wanted to know why decisions were taken at head office, what influenced them and how they took those decisions. My father works in business and as I have always been interested in his work and find it interesting.
5.1Examples of enquiring mind At university it is particularly important to have an enquiring mind as many of the subjects are only covered very briefly in the actual lectures therefore requiring me to be interested in them and to have an enquiring mind to allow myself to get a good knowledge of each subject. This is very different to “˜A’ levels and I feel that I have improved greatly in this area since attending University. However I also feel that I still have a lot of room for improvement particularly in subjects that I find difficult and those that are maybe less interesting to myself. I should try to complete all the recommended reading rather than completing only that which I find interesting.
I found the organizational behaviour module to be particularly interesting and read a lot of the textbook despite the fact that the essay I had to write was only a small proportion of the book. For the DLBM debate I was part of the “research team” as I enjoy finding information that can be used to form an argument.
I enjoy reading national papers and try to do so as often as I can as I am interested in the wider scope of global business. My enquiring mind sometimes get the better of me and I find myself reading about completely irrelevant topics to that I am meant to be studying for and wasting time but I believe this reflects my enquiring mind For the information systems/ information technology module we could either build a website of produce a leaflet. Despite the fact I had never produced a website before I chose to do this as I enjoy using computers and felt that although this would be more difficult it would be more beneficial to myself in the long run.
6.Take a Personal Responsibility For Career Planning Taking responsibility for career planning is very important, and the BABM course demands that students do this much earlier than other students on other undergraduate schemes. Because of this career planning is very important specifically with regards to years two and three of the course to enable me to make the maximum of my interview and company opportunities. The first step in career planning for myself was my work experience at Marks & Spencer’s that motivated me to choose the BABM course. Choosing to be on the BABM course itself also was of great importance to my future career with the uniqueness of the course enabling me to gain more experience earlier.
6.1Interview skills development Whilst on the BABM course I have had to take responsibility for my future career and have demonstrated this in a number of ways. Firstly interview technique was important to develop and the practice interview as part of the DLBM module gave good feedback as to my style and competencies. The feedback I got (see appendix 3) was generally good with areas to improve on including becoming more focused upon the process I went through when giving examples rather than the example itself. Also I tended to undersell myself when given the chance to impress but apart from this the feedback was generally good 6.2C.V and application form enhancement My C.V and application form was also another area that required me to take personal responsibility.
I read articles on the Internet and books from the library on how to write a C.V as well as attending lectures on C.V’s. I got feedback from my dad who takes part in selection processes as part of his job as well as Vanessa Knowles the DLBM lecturer. The feedback I got was very good highlighting areas that needed to be improved 6.3Increasing personal awareness of placements For the pre selection week I researched each company individually, sent off for their annual reports, looked at their web sites and read the national press to gain any knowledge I could before I attended the sessions. This gave me an insight not only into the companies that I was researching but also the industries they operated in. It also allowed me to view the types of placements offered to students such as myself and has increased my knowledge of the type of placement I am looking to secure.
7.Conclusions I feel that in the last 12 months I had developed tremendously as a person and feel that I have become much more confident, outgoing and assertive. My transferable skill base has improved greatly due to my experience on BABM and at university generally. I feel that my value as a person to an organization has increased greatly and I feel confident that the skills I have learnt this year will continue to be used long into the future not only just during the period “in company”. However I realize that my skills can and will be improved enormously by the experience I will gain whilst in company and that lifelong learning is a valid and very important concept.
My personal development plan outlines areas I intend to improve over the next two years and contains ways in which I intend to monitor evaluate and measure myself and my development. I have tried as far as possible to make my targets Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant and Timescaleable to enable myself to develop myself in the most effective manner. The personal development plan will allow myself to continually review my progress and will hopefully prove a useful tool in the next two years whilst on the BABM course
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