In today’s competitive working environment, it’s easy for professionals to feel overwhelmed. Young professionals in particular face an onslaught of choices, challenges, and opportunities as they embark on their career, and it’s difficult to know the best path forward. Whether we work in industry, academia, or government, the times when employees moved up the career ladder based on experience and seniority no longer exist. Today, professionals must look to themselves to grow. Others may help along the way, but we must actively engage these resources and take control of our development.  A critical tool for every professional (not just early-career professionals) is a formal development plan—a roadmap that helps ensure you meet your personal and professional goals. This article will help professionals at all levels develop, implement, and secure support for their development plan. Even seasoned professionals need to review their development plans and their career progression.  CONDUCT A SELF-ASSESSMENT If you’re a young professional entering the work force, it is critical for you to have a direction. Where do you want to go, and what do you want to do? Without a plan, the years can easily slip away before you realize that you aren’t where you thought you would be.  A plan is also critical when talking with your supervisor, mentors, coaches, and others. If you don’t know where you would like to go, how can you expect others to help you along that journey?  As you attempt to define a successful career, consider the following questions:
  • What do you enjoy doing?
  • Do you like to work by yourself, or with other people?
  • Do you like to do the same thing every day, or do you like variety?
  • Do you like to work in one place, or do you prefer to travel?
  • Is what you do more important than how much money you make?
  • Do you like to solve problems or implement other people’s ideas?
These are just examples of the questions you should ponder as you think about your career and your development. Be honest with yourself about your expectations and what truly matters to you. If money is important, are you willing to live in an undesirable location to attain the highest salary? Weighting each preference will help you achieve fulfillment. If you value living in the mountains or being near family, then chasing a higher salary that takes you away from these things may not make you happy. Honesty about what drives you will lead to more career satisfaction and probably to greater opportunities.
DEVELOP THE PLAN Now that you have decided the where, why, and when, the next step is the how. Your development plan should lay out the steps you need to take to develop to the next level. Don’t make your plan too lofty; focus instead on incremental steps such as tasks you can complete over a year or two. Remember that a development plan can be changed as necessary.  Your plan should encompass three important areas: technical skills, leadership skills, and management skills. Where you are in your career will affect how much weight you give to each of these categories. Many people are so focused on developing technical competencies that they fail to add soft skills to their development plan. Soft skills are essential; people who are highly competent in many technical areas under the umbrella of environmental health and safety may struggle to be effective IHs if they have poor communication skills or lack the ability to sell their ideas. 
In addition to the three types of skills, you should also consider the three types of action steps: work experience, mentorship experience, and training. A well-rounded development plan has balance; for example, you don’t want to spend one hundred percent of your time training. Similarly, spending all your time on work experience can lead to slower development, because all professionals need continuous learning for career growth.  Lastly, you must decide how to measure success for each of the items in your development plan. Defining success will help you get support for your plan. Think about what success will look like once you have completed a project or training program. Keep the end goal in mind as you’re putting together your plan. If you’d like to take a training course, think about the additional work you can take on or the opportunities that will be open to you once the course is complete. Be sure to include a target completion date; this will ensure that you’re always moving forward.  GET SUPPORT Once you’ve completed your development plan, work with your supervisors, mentors, and coaches to ensure their support. In most cases your supervisor will have a great deal of influence on your plan, but stay committed to what you want to achieve and not what a supervisor thinks you need to become. We each have our own career path, and the best policy is to be open in your discussions. A strong leader will support and guide you on your journey.  If you meet resistance to your plan, take time to understand your supervisor’s point of view. For example, there may be budget restrictions for outside travel or even a travel freeze. Always have alternatives in mind for each aspect of your plan, and don’t let short-term setbacks prevent you from working toward your long-term goals.  In my experience, it’s easiest to obtain support for skills related to work. Young professionals may underestimate the amount of development they gain from their involvement in day-to-day activities at work. Treat each opportunity as a learning event rather than just a to-do list. Taking time to review what you’re doing can open a multitude of development opportunities; for example, you might identify an improved method for completing a task or a more efficient way to finish a project. These kinds of discoveries are great development opportunities, and they show your organization that you have the leadership skills needed to advance your career. Your supervisor should give you opportunities to experience new projects and seek new experiences. Be open to volunteering for new teams and groups at work: many times, these types of projects open doors to new experiences and new interactions that help drive your career development.  For training and development opportunities that have a cost associated with them, it is critical to have a business case to support your request. Asking a supervisor for money can be a challenging proposition in today’s economy. You can demonstrate a business need by identifying an area that is under-supported or doesn’t have a subject matter expert. If you show that there is a gap in technical expertise or a risk that needs mitigation, your manager is more likely to be receptive to your request for training. When I was a young professional, I identified an opportunity to save my employer a great deal of money by bringing technical expertise in house rather than paying contractors. As a result, I secured money for training and travel, which ultimately led to a move up the career ladder within my organization. Look for opportunities that benefit both you and your organization, and have alternatives available so that you aren’t derailed when the business environment isn’t ideal. There are also many volunteer opportunities within the industrial hygiene community that can supplement development when you run into headwinds within your organization. Volunteer groups are a great way to develop leadership skills and work with colleagues from varying fields and businesses. For young professionals, volunteering also gives you a chance to interact with more senior professionals who can help you with your career and your development plan.  REVISIT THE PLAN Your development plan shouldn’t sit in a folder collecting dust. It is a living, breathing document, and as your career progresses, so should your development plan.  Revisit your plan often. Ask yourself if it is still valid and useful. Have new opportunities changed the direction of your development plan? Make sure you’re hitting your targeted timelines, but remember to be flexible: as with all things career related, sometimes the path is not what we expect. OWN YOUR PLAN Your career development is something you must own yourself. Don’t wait for others to direct your career; you may end up missing out while waiting for opportunities. But you should recognize that many people are available to help you along your path. I encourage you to reach out to the AIHA volunteers’ community, specifically the Mentoring and Professional Development and Student and Early Career Professionals Committees. These groups are focused on helping IH professionals achieve their career aspirations.   MICHAEL A. FINNAMORE, MSPH, CIH, CSP, CHMM, is the global director of Environmental, Health and Safety at Hillrom Corporation in Chicago. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and a Master of Science degree in public health with emphasis in industrial hygiene from the University of Utah. He has been an active member of AIHA for over twenty years and is a past chair of AIHA’s Mentoring and Professional Development Committee.  Send feedback to The Synergist.
Pathways to Career Success
AIHA provides a number of essential resources for early-career professionals: 
IH Professional Pathway. The IH Professional Pathway will help you set goals, develop a plan, and identify sources of support from the association and colleagues, mentors, and coaches. The IH Professional Pathway aligns resources available from AIHA with career tracks, knowledge areas, and career stages. An illustrated career roadmap (PDF) specifies the typical skills in management, technical areas, and leadership that you will need at each stage of your career. Core Competencies for the Practice of Industrial/Occupational Hygiene. Originally published in 2012 and updated in 2018, the Core Competencies is a digital book that provides guidance for those working as IH technicians, practitioners, and professionals, and outlines the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities that an IH should possess. The 2018 edition includes additional technical competencies such as fatigue management and indoor air quality as well as many of the soft skills that are invaluable to professional industrial hygienists throughout their career. To download the Core Competencies, visit the AIHA website. Mentoring Program. Early in our careers, a good mentor is crucial. AIHA’s Mentoring Program matches senior professionals with IHs who are just starting their professional journeys. Visit the Mentoring Program page for more information about the program or to participate as a mentor or a mentee. 
A Guide to Planning Your Career
Take Control of Your Development
Although the print version of The Synergist indicated The IAQ Investigator's Guide, 3rd edition, was already published, it isn't quite ready yet. We will be sure to let readers know when the Guide is available for purchase in the AIHA Marketplace.
My apologies for the error.
- Ed Rutkowski, Synergist editor
Disadvantages of being unacclimatized:
  • Readily show signs of heat stress when exposed to hot environments.
  • Difficulty replacing all of the water lost in sweat.
  • Failure to replace the water lost will slow or prevent acclimatization.
Benefits of acclimatization:
  • Increased sweating efficiency (earlier onset of sweating, greater sweat production, and reduced electrolyte loss in sweat).
  • Stabilization of the circulation.
  • Work is performed with lower core temperature and heart rate.
  • Increased skin blood flow at a given core temperature.
Acclimatization plan:
  • Gradually increase exposure time in hot environmental conditions over a period of 7 to 14 days.
  • For new workers, the schedule should be no more than 20% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1 and a no more than 20% increase on each additional day.
  • For workers who have had previous experience with the job, the acclimatization regimen should be no more than 50% of the usual duration of work in the hot environment on day 1, 60% on day 2, 80% on day 3, and 100% on day 4.
  • The time required for non–physically fit individuals to develop acclimatization is about 50% greater than for the physically fit.
Level of acclimatization:
  • Relative to the initial level of physical fitness and the total heat stress experienced by the individual.
Maintaining acclimatization:
  • Can be maintained for a few days of non-heat exposure.
  • Absence from work in the heat for a week or more results in a significant loss in the beneficial adaptations leading to an increase likelihood of acute dehydration, illness, or fatigue.
  • Can be regained in 2 to 3 days upon return to a hot job.
  • Appears to be better maintained by those who are physically fit.
  • Seasonal shifts in temperatures may result in difficulties.
  • Working in hot, humid environments provides adaptive benefits that also apply in hot, desert environments, and vice versa.
  • Air conditioning will not affect acclimatization.
Acclimatization in Workers