5 Ways To Create Opportunities For Yourself At Work
The 9 to 5 often stretches from 9 to 8. Monday to Friday often becomes Monday to Saturday, with some work on Sunday too. You think that changing your job is the answer. And you do. Yet, nothing changes, except the job itself. Corporate life can sometimes be taxing and involving, and day-to-day stresses can often make you think that you have been reduced to a corporate drone. Fast career growth? Forget it!
While carrying out daily tasks diligently and being seen as a high potential employee are important, sometimes it can be difficult to find the time, energy, and motivation to drive your corporate career in the direction that you want to.
When this happens, it is time to start working in a new way. This might not necessarily reduce the 9 to 8 or the 7-day workweek by much, but it could make the efforts put in worth a lot more to you, personally and professionally.
Create a fast career growth strategy, and a long-term career vision
Career paths within organisations may not always reflect the realities of the marketplace. This is why you must be aware of how your career path should be, irrespective of the organization you work for.
If programmers grow to project managers in an average of 5 years in the industry, you should be getting there too, even if your organization insists that it follows a ‘different career trajectory for such roles’. This is where your personal growth strategy comes in.
Ask yourself – what do I want to achieve professionally in the next 3/5/10 years? If you are not sure of external benchmarks, research your industry, either on your own, or through taking the help of a professional career advisor. However, be clear that the recipe for fast career growth is to have a clear goalpost. Hoping for ‘some growth’ without defining it well will not lead to long-term results.
If you are not able to achieve this growth despite your best efforts in your current organization, think of moving elsewhere, or gaining further education if needed. This vision will ensure that you achieve your own goals, and know when you are slipping behind.
It will also avoid scenarios wherein professionals realise very late in their career that they need more education (say, an MBA) or experience across roles they have never held, in order to grow to their ultimate career destination.
Seek feedback, but in the right way, and then act on it in the right way too
Most organisations have career matrices and detailed promotion parameters, and your annual/semi-annual appraisal is usually only an incomplete picture of how you have really performed.
Sometimes, bosses and HR managers will not even put on paper some of the things that may be playing a big role in preventing you from growing faster. This is where informal feedback can really help.
Try to regularly gauge your boss’s opinion on things you do well, and things you could do better – not always in formal meetings, but also often through informal queries. Further, don’t act on every piece of feedback you get, but on the parts you feel have higher frequency.
This will ensure you are not just acting on a stray opinion of a colleague who responded without insight. Then, when you begin to address the feedback, act on the highest impact, highest frequency items first. This will ensure that you are making the most of the feedback you get.
Create and deliver value in adjacent areas
Often, the role that you have been assigned is the organisation’s expectation of you, and not necessarily a perfect, calibrated fit for your potential or your skills.
For example, perhaps you feel that your analytical strengths are not being utilised to the full in a sales role. Or you find that your leadership skills are stagnating in a number-crunching job. These may appear as hindrances to fast career growth, and sometimes even create frustration, but remember, you role is to solve the problem, not simply worry about it.
You could try and move to a different role, but remember – companies place you in particular roles for their convenience, not yours. Your best bet is to utilise your skills in adjacent areas beyond the specific job description you have.
For example, perhaps you could analyse sales patterns in a sales role, and then suggest new ways to target existing customers based on your analysis. Doing this will not only highlight your skills beyond your current role, but will also help you move into other areas with a stronger basis. A quick caveat however – while trying to add value in adjacent areas, ensure that your core area of work is not neglected.
Make sure that you are part of the right networks
Not everything in the corporate world follows a rule-bound, logical approach. Companies are after all a congregation of individuals. Even if you have the right skills for a role, or deserve a promotion, you may find yourself getting passed on in case you are not a great social fit for the role.
The days of slogging away in your cubicle are past. While effectiveness in functional skills matters, the ability to be seen as being the right fit for a role, for the team, and for your boss is important. Do not discount the value of being seen as not just a great functional fit for a role, but also the person other people would like to work with in that role.
Visibility is critical for fast career growth – make sure you have it
If you are waiting for your work to speak for itself, you may as well wait for a long time. The people who progress the fastest in corporate organisations are often those who are perceived to be performing better than others.
However, visibility should never take the form of bragging or appear insincere, else it will erode your credibility. So how can you build visibility for yourself in a credible way? The first is by scheduling regular (say, monthly) meetings with your boss to ensure that he/she is aware of the steps you took to deliver results.
Another could be ensuring that you are presenting a summary of the work of your team in town halls and office meetings. While this may not be possible each time, if you are persistent, you will find yourself being given the chance more than others. A third method is to volunteer for organizing firm-wide events (CSR events, or employee engagement events).
Competition for this is surprisingly low, as most people feel that these activities will not contribute to their growth or their promotion. However, there is another side too – contributing to these activities not only shows your enlightened membership of your firm, but gets you some PR too, as many of these activities are reported at a firm-wide level by HR (to show its contribution in enabling them in turn).