For some professionals, career growth is centered around climbing the corporate ladder, and while this may be partly true, it’s far more complex than just achieving that next promotion or pay raise. Career growth breaks down your professional intentions, pushes you to grow skills and connections, and leads you to work that is worthwhile. It ultimately puts you on the path towards reaching your overarching career goals. But, what should that path look like and what are some of the steps to make it a smoother journey versus a strenuous one? We have the tips to get you driving your career growth forward and create the professional path that’s right for you.
Map Out Your Skills
Knowing your current skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses will allow you to create a strategic road map to work towards both short and long-term career growth. Start by listing out your strengths and weaknesses, being sure to remain objective. Once you have a comprehensive list that you feel best describes you, consult with others in your network. Getting outside input from individuals you trust will validate items on your list and also provide unbiased feedback. This list will be the basis for deciding on your next steps and act as a guide for seeking learning opportunities. It also gives you insight into career paths that align best with your skills, interests, and personality. Be sure to update your list as you grow your experiences and refer back to it when making career-altering decisions.
Set Intentions Versus Goals
Setting intentions versus goals, especially in the early stages of your career, allows you to remain focused on the present moment instead of hyper-focused on the future. There is a lot to gain from where you are in your current role or business venture, so make a list of intentions that keep you grounded. As American Physician Patch Adams states, “You’ve got to know what you want. This is central to acting on your intentions. When you know what you want, you realize that all there is left then is time management. You’ll manage your time to achieve your goals because you clearly know what you’re trying to achieve in your life.” Consider tackling soft skills like leadership, communication, or time management in your day-to-day routine. Or, tackle hard skills such as learning a new software system or modern business strategy. By remaining intentional, you create actionable steps that take you that much closer to long-term goals and sustainable career growth.
Build a Network of Mentors
Building a supportive network of mentors is one of the most valuable steps you can take towards career growth. It opens the door to a wider range of perspectives and gives you an opportunity to explore various ideas, strategies, and even professions you might not have considered before. Analyze your short and long-term intentions for your career and determine who you know and who you need to know to propel yourself forward. Attend networking events, being sure to come prepared with questions that break the ice and lead to an engaging conversation. Or, use online social media platforms to make virtual connections and expand the scope of your network even further. Whichever route you choose, push past comfort zones to make intentional and strategic connections that will act as a resource and safety net as you continue to grow in your given field.
Advocate for Yourself
Advocating for yourself can be challenging, but with some practice, it aligns you with the right career path in the long-term and boosts your confidence as a professional in the process. Advocating for yourself starts with knowing your strengths, utilizing them to the best of your ability in the workplace, a nd letting others know the overall value you provide. When meeting with your team or manager, speak up about your recent accomplishments whether big or small. It can be something as small as refining your time management skills to as big as hitting your monthly productivity goals. Share your process with your team and don’t hesitate to admit where you might have fallen short as well. This allows you to learn from your shortcomings and workshop with your team to grow and refine your processes and carry these teachings through to your career journey.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Back to Square One
Career growth comes with a lot of twists and turns, so don’t be afraid if you end up back at square one. Making a career change can be intimidating, especially if it’s a mid-life career shift. But, don’t let this stop you from taking the leap into something new! Start by reflecting on your current situation. Are you unhappy with the work you are doing or the work environment? If it’s the latter, you might just need a change in employer. But, if it’s the work itself that you find unfulfilling, it may be time to seek career growth in a new field. Take a self-assessment to help determine what you would like to pursue, being sure to take your interests into account. Or, if you have been mulling over becoming an entrepreneur, dive in head first! As entrepreneurial leader Robert F. Smith states, “At some point in time in your life, you gotta look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘you have to take a little risk and go see.’” Whatever you decide, use your previous experiences to support your decision-making process, and remember it’s never too late to start your career growth back at square one.
Take Your Time
Being patient is a virtue, especially when it comes to driving your career growth. It’s easy to feel stuck in place or not actively moving forward, especially if you have been in the same role for a long period of time. If this resonates with you, consider looking at your job with a fresh perspective. Are there courses you can take to better understand a new strategy? Are there knowledge-sharing opportunities to learn something new about your current role or a prospective role? Who can you add to your network that you have yet to strike up a conversation with? All of these options allow you to seek career growth in your present circumstances and could ultimately open the door to new job experiences. Be patient with yourself as well. It can be easy to feel unmotivated when career growth isn’t happening at the pace you had hoped it would. Take your time and design a plan that not only outlines your goals, but the actionable steps to reach them so you can start working towards them sooner rather than later.