Get Crafty with Career Progression

A recent discussion with a friend inspired this post.

Whether you are a workaholic, forced to work overtime each week, or never take work home, when is the last time you stopped to reflect on career?  It seems to be something many of us consistently overlook.  Working on career progression through an iterative, routine process is key for self-development.  But when is the last time you thought about it?

Regardless of job or employer, you are capable of greater things.  I’m not saying you should be job hunting.  I’m saying you should be constantly seeking to improve.  How do you get started?  Here are some suggestions to get the juices flowing:

  • Set aside some time to think in a distraction free environment.  No matter how busy you think you are, just do it.  Start with 15 minutes per day.  Continue daily until a full evaluation of your current career state has been captured.
  • Though it is not required, put your thoughts in writing (stored electronically, backed up in 3 places, not on your work computer, etc.).  It will help you remember and will direct your next steps on the career progression journey.
  • Get over the fear of cheating on your employer.  This process is about you, where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to go.
    • Think outside the employer box.  Your career does not belong to any company.
    • The company benefits from you growing your career.
    • You own it.
  • Start with your current job.  There were reasons for taking this job in the first place.  Do you remember what they were?  Do you remember what made you excited to work for this company, or have you lost that loving feeling?  Some examples could be:
    • Opportunity for promotion
    • Compensation increase
    • Role change / new challenge
    • Company culture and benefits
    • Ongoing education / access to a mentor
  • How has your role changed since starting with your employer?
    • Were the changes mandated or self-initiated?
    • Have the changes (if any) made a typical day better or worse?
    • Consider changes to types of tasks, politics, volume of work, and personnel interaction.
  • Have you ever had a career conversation with your manager?  If not, why not?
    • Proceed with caution before initiating a career conversation.  This will depend heavily on the relationship between you and your manager and how career-minded he or she is.
    • Is your manager like the transformational CIO or someone who would immediately think you’re searching for a new gig?
  • Do you currently feel valuable and relevant to the organization and its goals?
    • If you don’t, try to determine the root cause of misalignment.  If you have a good relationship with your manager, consider expressing your feelings in a constructive way.  Be prepared to accept the feedback.
    • Are there things you could do differently to bring more value to the organization, and are you willing to make those changes?
  • What do you like / not like about the work you do?  Is there something you would rather be doing?
    • What are your personal and professional interests, and how do they align with what you do now / want to be doing?
    • Ask trusted peers for feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.  What do they see you doing?
    • Lack of job satisfaction can and will affect the quality of your work, hurting both you and your employer.
  • Talk to people in a similar role at other companies.  Online communities and networking events are great for this.
    • What are they doing to provide value to the employer?
    • Where are your industry peers looking to go next?
    • What are their personal and professional interests?
  • Find people who do what you would like to be doing.
    • Where did they start, how did they get there, and why did they want to make it to where they are now?
    • What is a typical day on the job like for them?
    • What do they want to be doing next?
    • Most people are open to a discussion.  Just ask.
  • Assuming you have a clear picture of your target role, can this be achieved at your current company?
    • This may depend on company size and need for the role.
    • Are you willing to wait around if there is a chance this role may be available in the future?  Products don’t get sold based on speculation of future capabilities.
  • Is there a skills gap to close to make your next move?
    • Identify knowledge gaps, and develop a training plan with prioritized topics after talking with industry peers / mentors.
    • Hold yourself accountable to work the plan consistently.  Make others hold you accountable to it as well.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things to consider when thinking about career progression.  I hope by reading this, if nothing else, you made the decision to value yourself and your career enough to start the process.  Am I encouraging you to start looking for a new job?  Working on your career creates awareness of new possibilities, and because of this awareness, you should subconsciously always be looking for ways to better yourself.  And when the right opportunity knocks, however it finds  you, be ready and be brave enough to go for it.

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