Career development is something I haven’t taken too seriously in the past. I have heard about these ideas in the past but I chose to follow the advice as I thought it was unnecessary. Up until recently I was under the impression that if you have a good work ethic and constantly deliver, opportunity would come knocking on your door. I am going to share a little bit about why I no longer feel that as well as put in some key takeaways as it might help others reach their potential.
We would all like to imagine the world as a fair and perfect system, the reality, unfortunately, is far from it. I think a lot of people can relate to watching one of their co-workers land a job or promotion and thinking something along the lines of “I do n times more work than them/my quality of work is so much better, why did they get promoted?”. I used to always shrug things like this off as I had a deep sense of loyalty to my team and I well, I liked my job. I’ve had clients telling me that I did the job of someone at a higher level, at one point I even had senior management acknowledge that publicly. This led me to wait for an opportunity at a higher level in my team.
These opportunities came, and then they went. At first, it was other high performers getting promoted over me, this was fair enough. Then it was people whose skills even I would question. By this point, I was disillusioned enough to leave the team and find opportunities elsewhere, and I did. Before I left, one of the senior managers gave me a bit of advice that went something like this: ‘loyalty will get you nowhere, the kind of loyalty you showed toward our area is something you do when you are ready to settle’.
#1: Recognise your value. It is as much the responsibility of the organisation, as it is yours, to find opportunities to grow. If the organisation does not provide you with such opportunities then leave it. Know what you can offer, and what areas you need to improve on. You should constantly be on the search for new opportunities to meet your goals. Your current organisation should have to fight to keep you not the other way around.
When I first entered the workforce, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t necessarily have any career goals. I had a personal goal of owning some kind of property and doing the things I could never do due to a lack of financial freedom. My job made me financially stable enough to do what I wanted as well as save enough to get an apartment — I achieved both of those goals. After that I didn’t know what I wanted to achieve, perhaps that is why I feel into the trap of getting too comfortable.
#2: Always have a goal. It could be personal or professional, you could have one or many. Once you achieve it, set yourself another. Without a goal you will become stagnant and lose direction.
As made popular by The Greatest Showman, “Ah comfort — the enemy of progress”, this quote is very relevant for professional development. Think about the last time you had a test, an interview, performed in front of others — did you feel a 100% comfortable doing those things? But I bet your skill in that area had improved!
#3: Seek opportunities to be uncomfortable. Growth only happens when you are not comfortable. Take the opportunity to present in-front of a crowd/executive, go on that interview, teach others, voice your opinions, champion your ideas.
One of the huge mistakes I made throughout my career, and while I was at university, was that I was uncomfortable letting other people know what I am capable of. As an introvert I always used to like the saying “let your work speak for itself”. I have seen amazing work from many people, but I don’t remember most of the people that did it. I only realised this recently when I was going through some documents form a old project, only when I came across a name I remembered what a great a analyst he was. But if you were to ask me for the names of good analysts, I wouldn’t have mentioned him, I would have told you the names of the people that got to know me and made an impact on me.
#4: Network and make an impression. If other people don’t know you, and you don’t stand out, you are going to be overlooked. You never know when someone you work with ends up in a position to help you achieve your career goals; if you never got to know them or told them what you are about, they wont even think of you even if your skills are prefect for the job.
My final takeaway is going to being the above ideas together. Think about how others perceive you, not just the people in the immediate area, but in general. Your team might know you are great at doing something, but does the people in the next team/company? The thing is everyone perceives you differently, you might not have control over it yet. Controlling how others perceive you will help you achieve your career goals and go where you want to. Make sure you are honest with yourself to ensure it doesn’t bite you in the back.
#5: Build a personal brand. You already have a personal brand — its how others perceive you, but you wont have any control over it unless you take action. Grow your network and sphere of influence to make sure you are not left behind. People don’t hire you, they hire your brand.
Personally, I am going to use this year start building my personal brand and take control over the direction of my career. The unfortunate thing, I did start building a personal brand (not that I knew what it was back then) before I started my full-time job, but then I got comfortable and I let it go. Looking at some stats from my old ‘personal brand’ social media sites below, I think you can guess when I got my first full time job:
Some further reading: