Stop Relying on Your Company for Career Development

Take control of your own advancement

As part of my job, I look at employee surveys, and one thing that habitually comes up is people wanting more career development and advancement opportunities. This fascinates me, because a lot of people aren’t doing very simple tasks—which can’t be replaced with organized committees or training programs provided by the company—to advance themselves. In fact, I make a point to have one-on-one conversations with people to better understand their point of view around this idea, and invariably it becomes obvious that they haven’t put the onus on themselves to go out and look for—or even create—opportunities to get noticed. To put it bluntly, that is backward, and it won’t get you where you want to go.

Taking control and creating opportunity does not have to be part of a grand scheme or something that will eat away at your productivity. In fact, it comes down to basics. Introduce yourself, shake people’s hands, and get comfortable with putting yourself out there. If you are interested in a particular area, even if it isn’t related to your education, background, or current job focus, find out who the manager is—and introduce yourself in person.

“Hi, my name is…” can go a very long way.

Learn the art of strategic exposure

If you really want to get noticed, you have to put yourself out there in strategic ways. Volunteer for work and new responsibilities—even if it means stretching outside your comfort zone or having to put in a few more hours of effort at night or on the weekends.

If you want to have your boss’s job or boss’s boss’s job, you need to show what you are made of to large groups of people. There are three ways to do this: Speak up in meetings; find opportunities to give presentations; and write emails that will be seen by either large audiences or key decision makers.

Here is the hard part: Make sure you are clear, concise, and emotive when presenting and corresponding. These types of interactions are how you build your personal brand and credibility within the organization.

Make sure to show up

It’s old news that many companies have embraced a heavy telecommuting culture. For example, here at Insight, about 80% of my team telecommutes. However, this means that showing up once in a while is that much more important to getting noticed. Even though it may not be mandatory, make the trip in once or twice a week. If that isn’t possible, find a schedule that works for you. Even great work can’t supplant a handshake or a face-to-face interaction with teammates and managers. Conversely, if you are in the office but work with teammates or managers who are remote, make sure to introduce yourself to them when they are in town or ask them to grab a coffee.

While there are easy things to do to get noticed, there are also a few easy mistakes that can be made along the way. In short order, don’t take too much of people’s time, don’t over-communicate—less is more when you are striking up that initial conversation—and do your homework so that you have the right information to be brief, but effective.

In the few times I’ve seen people put these best practices to work, I have not only been impressed by their behavior, but often have noticed their realization of career dividends as a result.

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