The key to professional success is an ongoing commitment to learning--to seeking out growth opportunities. When you step up your game and expand your knowledge and skills, you not only feel greater satisfaction in your role, but you also become more valuable to your manager, team, and company. You become primed to advance.
1. Get clear on your growth goals.
Many professionals fail to clearly articulate their goals, and, even worse, they fail to identify the path that will take them from here to there. When we think about career growth, we tend to think about a vertical progression of titles, but careers don’t necessarily work that way anymore. Many people make lateral moves or even go backward in order to try a new role. These horizontal career moves create value and expand expertise and knowledge. If you aren’t really sure what you want, try projecting yourself five years in the future; write the resume you would like to have. Where are you working and for whom? What are your title and role? What are your specific job responsibilities? Once you have that clearly in mind, fill in the five years between now and then.
2. Speak up for what you want.
You may have skills or interests that your manager isn’t aware of; you may be interested in a role that your manager hasn’t seen you in. Let your manager know what kinds of growth opportunities you are interested in; don’t expect her or him to read your mind. Likewise, when an opportunity comes up that you are interested in, say something to your manager and express your interest. You won’t be entitled to everything you ask for, but you are likely to get further when people are aware you are interested. They may begin to see you in a different light. But don’t just share your interests and goals, share your accomplishments. The more people know about your work and results, the better!
3. Determine what skills and knowledge you need – and get the training that’s necessary.
To move up, you can’t just be satisfied with what you know – you have to improve your skills. Look for opportunities for training. Read. Cross-train with a colleague. Look for opportunities to stay current in the field and your industry without relying on your company. Invest in yourself, whether it’s by attending a workshop, YouTube videos, and webinars like those offered by ASAP or podcasts you listen to while you commute. Investing in your career shows those around you that you take yourself seriously, and they should, too. It can demonstrate your value to new people or help break into a new role.
4. Push beyond boundaries.
Step outside your comfort zone to get experience in new areas—even if as a volunteer. Serve on special projects and cross-functional teams to open new possibilities. Seek out assignments that are just outside your realm of experience. Volunteer for a special project that raises your profile within the organization or in the community. Show that you’re willing to get uncomfortable.
5. Solidify your credentials.
Document your professional assets including an inventory of your skills, interests, achievements and competencies. Demonstrate to employers and colleagues that you have the essential knowledge, critical thinking abilities and a commitment to excellence in your field by obtaining a professional credential like ASAP’s PACE Certification. No need to stop at just one! Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certifications are valuable, as are certificates if they show the training you’ve completed.
6. Build relationships throughout your organization, in the field, in your professional association, and in the community. For example, if you have an interest in moving to a new department, work on developing a relationship with colleagues or managers in that department. Be known as someone who is trustworthy; trust is one of the foundations of relationships. People naturally want to surround themselves with people they trust. Another key to growth is helping others. When you make the effort to assist someone else to become better at what they do, you become better yourself. When you need your network, it’s too late to build it. Entrepreneurs know this, and they’re constantly seeking out advice, partners, mentors and people with different perspectives. Set a goal to meet with someone outside the company once a week — or even once a month — and change your perspective on your current role and your career options.
7. Shape your personal brand and leverage your strengths.
Investigate how you are being perceived in various places inside the organization; describe specifically which perceptions you want to reinforce and which you need to change. Identify the actions and behaviors that could make the changes you seek. Take stock of who you are and what you have to offer. Figure out how you can leverage your strengths to impact the organization; describe the image you want to project and what you need to do to get there. If you were a product, what differentiates you from your “competition”?” What does your “customer” e.g. the boss, the organization need?
8. Broaden your horizons.
The broader your horizons, the more you will be poised to grow. Most of the world’s most creative people, those who innovate, are known for the great range of diverse topics they are knowledgeable about, and the are known for being able to apply principles and best practices from other fields to their own work. Get out to meet peers and compare notes at local meetings and national events like the Administrative Professionals Conference that attract thousands of your peers. Read blogs and articles or listen to podcasts to learn more about your industry and competitors. Consider what is happening in the world that could impact your business or line of work. Keep current on the latest technologies that you might bring into skillset.
9. Take time to reflect on experiences.
At the end of the day: reflect. Take five minutes and ask yourself what was the most productive thing you did today? The least productive? Learn from your answers and adjust your actions accordingly. Tomorrow’s a new opportunity for personal growth.
10. Build your external reputation.
A study by Wharton professor Matthew Bidwell showed that external hires into a company get paid 18-20% more than internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. (Gratingly, they also perform worse for the first two years.) That’s patently unjust, but it points to an important truth: professionals are often taken for granted inside their own organizations. That doesn’t mean you should jump ship every few years. But it does point to the fact that, even if you’d like to stay at the same company, it’s important to cultivate a strong external reputation so that you have opportunities if you want them, and to remind your boss and colleagues that your abilities are sought after and appreciated by others. Blogging for industry journals, applying to speak at conferences, and taking on a leadership role in your professional association are all great ways to stay visible in your field — both to outsiders and those inside your company who need to be reminded of your talents.
Our careers will take us on a surprising and fascinating journey. If you don’t begin to manage your career now, it will be too late when it’s in jeopardy or crisis. Taking control of your career requires active life-long commitment. Get career resources as well as access to targeted training and development when you join thousands of admins who a part of ASAP's global community. Join ASAP for free