I’m at a point in my career where I have managed to progress and grow in my position quite nicely; however, I am always looking at what the next steps are and how I can continue to progress and grow.
From the start of my career, the best advice that I was given to getting ahead was to set expectations and work to over-deliver on those expectations. This advice has served me well, but it is getting to the point where I’m more in a management position and not doing a lot of the work AND the skills and expertise required from me are slightly different in management than when I was doing the delivery and execution of the work.
If you are at this point in your career (entry to mid-management), I think this article would be helpful for you as I reflect on what I have done and what I will do to continue to grow and improve.
Discuss with your boss
At our company, we all have counsellors who help guide us in our careers within the company. They are always more senior than those they are counselling and therefore, can provide some of their experience in walking that same path towards upper and senior management.
Depending on where you work, you may have annual reviews or some other form of reviewing the work that you’ve done. Given that your boss or counsellor is the one who has a view of the work that you have done, they may be able to provide you with some suggestion on how to continue to grow and improve, whether it’s a more senior position or another position within the company but in a different department or team.
Certifications and online courses
While not applicable to all disciplines, there are many disciplines that have recognized certifications that help give you some more credibility. For example, with project management, there is the PMP (Project Management Professional). With management consulting, there is a CMC (Certified Management Consultant). A good way to see if there are certifications is to see if there are others in your field with certifications (you can often look them up on Linkedin or sometimes there e-mail has a long trail of acronyms after their name) or by searching for your discipline and then certification to see what comes up in the search engine.
And just because there are not any certifications for your discipline, does not mean you cannot learn something new. As an example, I wanted to learn more about agile methodologies so I looked up agile courses and found dozens, if not more courses, that are available, free or at a low-cost, and can help you get up to speed in agile (and I’m willing to bet there are lots for whatever disciplines you may be interested in).
Sometimes, the people that you need to speak to work at different companies or may not even be in your line of work at all. Seek them out. Find a way to connect with them. Linkedin is a great way of finding mutual friends or contacts. Most people are a lot nicer than you might take them for as long as you are respectful of their time and are not verging on stalking them.
Some advice when speaking with mentors – do your research. Find out how you might be able to help them out, if at all. If they have a blog or a podcast, make sure that you are reading through this so that you’re not repeating questions that have already been answered.
Look at what the market wants
I remember at one company I worked at, a partner told the team that the path to success is in finding something that you are good in and that intersects with what the market wants. So you may be the very best chef cooking street food, but if no customer is interested in eating street food, you will not be very successful.
How do you know what the market wants? Look at job openings to see what is available and in what discipline. Look at RFPs and see if there are specific roles, skills or positions that the government may be looking for. If you can get into contact with a recruiter, you may be able to tap into their knowledge to see what is ‘hot’.
Find people you admire and understand their path
This is different from finding a mentor. Finding and maintaining a relationship with a mentor will take time. Finding people that you admire means that you can find anyone, anywhere in the world. It could be from magazines, podcasts, books and again, I think you would be surprised how often people may respond.
When I and my friend Shawn launched our podcast, we contacted Seth Godin to make sure that the podcast wasn’t infringing on his book (our podcast The Dip was the same name as his book). He responded almost right away (within a day) to say that as long as we weren’t covering the same topic, he was completely fine with the podcast name. Seth probably receives millions of e-mails a day so both Shawn and I were surprised that he had responded.
Join Toastmasters or other clubs
Let’s say that you have nobody in your network on Linkedin that you want to learn from. Or possibly that you are too timid to contact a best selling author or entrepreneur that you admire. You can also join a local association, say Toastmasters or a Rotary Club and see if there are people there that you respect and admire. Going even a few sessions can help you to understand who you may want to emulate or if people have interests or passions where they may be able to provide some advice to help guide the way.
Sometimes joining local clubs can help expose you to different people outside of your network, similar to how dating apps help get you outside of your social circles and expose you to different people.
Package and publish content
Hey, maybe you are at a point where you feel like you have a lot of expertise and your career is where you want to be. Great! One thing that I’ve seen others do in similar positions is to package and publish content in some form. Maybe it’s writing a book. Maybe it’s launching videos on Youtube or other platforms talking about your line of work. It could be creating online courses where entrepreneurs show how they have started online businesses.
Give free speeches
As you package and publish your expertise, offer to do free speeches to different organizations or clubs. Why free? The point here is to get your name out there and to help people become exposed to your work and your voice. If you do enough free speeches, and your content is good, you will start to get opportunities to be paid for your work. Sorry, it doesn’t work the other way (getting paid while nobody recognizes you).
What are you going to do to grow and advance your career? Or if you’re already amazing, what have you done?