Here is an honest and harsh truth. No one cares about your career development. Your boss might be great, but your career is always going to be secondary to theirs. Your company doesn’t really care either. As long as you do your job well, that is good enough for them. You have to take care of your own career. Many people think career growth and development magically happens. But those who go far and advance up the corporate ladder, take account for their own career and learn how to manage it effectively.
Unfortunately, most employees don’t think about their long-term career. Its human nature to think short term. Most folks are thinking about their next pay rise or promotion. But as you move up the career ladder, there are fewer and fewer jobs and promotion opportunities available. There is only one head of a department, division or company. So, unless that person leaves, where are you going in your career? Do you wait for them to leave, or do you take ownership of your own destiny?
Set Goals and create a plan
You need to start with a simple task, decide what your long-term goals are. Maybe you want to be CEO someday or head of your department. Perhaps you want to change industry or career path completely and do something completely different. But it all starts with an honest self-assessment of what you want. If you don’t know what you want, you need to figure it out. That can take some time. Don’t just focus on a job title for the sake of it, think about what you actually enjoy doing, and how you can spend more time doing that. For example, if you don’t like managing people or being responsible, becoming head of your department probably isn’t the best idea.
Once you have worked out what you want, you need to research what that person does and be honest about which skills you need to develop to get there. This takes a lot of self-awareness and honesty with your self-assessment. Draw up a list of those gaps and create a plan to develop those skills. Everything you do moving forward, should be working towards those skills and your end goal. Your timelines need to be realistic, if you do want to be CEO, but you are 25 and never managed anyone before, you aren’t going to develop those skills in 18 months.
So, you have your goals and a clear idea of what you need to develop to get there, so go make it happen! Once you start to get proactive in your own career development, you will be amazed at how easy it is to gain the exposure you seek. Speak to your manager and HR department. Your firm will likely have a number of training courses and probably even a training expense allowance. Most employees never make use of this. Many multinational firms also have link ups with the likes of LinkedIn allowing employees to access 14,000+ training courses for free!
Beyond official training, there are a number of other ways to get the skills required. Everyone is focused on moving up the ladder, when in truth, one of the best ways to grow is to move sideways, or even sometimes a slightly backwards step. Imagine you want to be an entrepreneur, but you have only ever worked as an accountant. Its highly likely you have no idea how to sell or market a business. So, taking a sideways move internally, or an even slightly more junior role in the sales or marketing team for a year, would move you along significantly in your desire to start a successful business. There are also numerous external training courses and industry bodies that will be able to help get you to where you want to go.
Don’t let anyone hold you back
Finally, you have to be single minded in your pursuit of your goal. Its 99% certain that you are not going to be able to achieve your desired career aims in your current firm. At some point you will reach a point where you can only go to the next level if someone leaves. If that person has been in the company for 10+ years, which is often the case when you get towards the upper echelons, what is the likelihood they are going anywhere? You can stand around and wait, in the hope they leave, or you can go get the opportunity elsewhere.