If you want to become a better employee (or better anything for that matter), you must challenge yourself. It’s easy to get into a comfortable spot and not want to try something new, but that will keep you from growing. So if the opportunity arises, take on a new challenge, a new task, or a new project all together.
There is no other person or entity that has as much stake in your career as you. Creating the career path that you want is up to you. That doesn’t mean that you have to figure it all out yourself, however. Part of carving that path is identifying those resources that will assist you in moving forward. Here are a few tips to help you to have the career that you want.
- Seek out mentors – Just as you would want to have an experienced guide lead your climb up Mt. Everest, you should seek out a mentor who can help guide your career. A mentor is someone who can help you identify and achieve the steps on your career path. Mentors may last for a few months or for the rest of your career, depending on what you hope to achieve from the relationship. It is important to point out here, that you are the one shaping the relationship with your mentor. You are the one responsible for its success; and ultimately what you put in is directly related to what you get out. You don’t always have to find a mentor who has personally taken the same career path you hope to take. There are many lessons to learn about careers and achieving personal goals that are not job role specific. So look into your network and find a person who you admire professionally and ask if he or she has the capacity to take you on as a mentee.
- Know your plan and communicate it – This step may require some brainstorming. Ask yourself, what you hope to be doing in the next year, two years, five years and so on. Write down these goals and the steps needed to achieve them. If you aren’t sure what those steps should be, this is a perfect time to engage your mentor. Once you’ve developed the plan, share it with your manager and get your manager’s feedback as well.
- Don’t stop at your boss – But don’t limit yourself by sharing this plan with only your manager. Tell your boss’s boss (skip level) and other stakeholders as well. This way as opportunities arise, more people are aware of your interests and goals and may tap you to get involved. For example, let’s say you are interested in developing your writing skills. You’ve identified one way to do this could be to join the communications team. If the team is aware of your interest, the next time they have an opening, they may reach out to you. You will find there are many more opportunities out there for the people who actively pursue them.
- Ask to help – Opportunities may also arise in unexpected ways. You could join a tiger team and meet someone who is working on a project you are interested in, so ask your manager how you can get involved with activities beyond your day-to-day job. This is beneficial in several ways: 1) It shows your manager you are willing to take on additional responsibility. 2) It provides the organization with needed help. 3) It expands your personal network thus opening you to more opportunities. 4) And ultimately, you may discover a new area of interest that you were unaware of before.
It is possible to leave your career to chance, to let others guide it (and they will) and see where it takes you. But that path will be to the benefit of those choosing it and not necessarily to you. If you want a career that is personally fulfilling, then you must take responsibility for developing it. Your network will play an integral role in achieving your goals – so find a mentor, determine your plan, communicate it widely and start getting involved. And while your career path will still lead you to unexpected places, it’s much more likely that these will be the places that make your career even more rewarding.