Climbing the corporate ladder is a marathon, not a sprint – but that doesn’t mean you can't plan ahead.
Technology is changing the way we do business and as a result, it’s also changing the relationships between employees and employers. The days of sitting on your hands and waiting for your manager to promote your professional development are over. Employees finally have the tools to advance their career growth on their own terms.
How can I measure my career growth?
Career growth is personal, which can make it hard to universally measure success. The best way to measure your career growth is to set personal goals and give yourself time to achieve them. Your career growth trajectory will not look the same as your coworker’s and that’s okay.
Your ascent up the corporate ladder is going to look different depending on your industry, where you are in your career, and your life plans. It’s important to tailor these tips to your individual circumstances.
How to ensure career growth
There isn’t a single path that will lead you to success but there are a few things you can do to set yourself up for success.
1. Plan your career path out in advance, but be flexible
The first step to grow in your career is to know where you want to go. Remember that question you used to get as a kid, what do you want to be when you grow up? Too many people have stopped asking themselves that and they are finding themselves stuck in unfulfilling jobs as a result.
If you’ve never taken the time to create a career development plan for yourself, now is the time to give it a try. Sit down and figure out where you want to see yourself at the end of your career and then figure out where you need to go to get there. You might find you’re right where you need to be–or you may decide it’s time to move on.
And while planning is a vital role in your career growth, it’s important to remain flexible. Technology is creating jobs that have never existed before and there’s a good chance the role you end up doing in 20 years doesn’t even exist yet.
Avoid locking yourself into a dead-end career trajectory by keeping an open mind and how you get where you want to go. It’s okay to make a lateral career move if it promotes your professional growth in the long run.
2. When opportunities arise, be the first to put your hand up
Growth comes when you step outside of your comfort zone and try something new. It probably took falling off your bicycle a couple of times before you mastered riding without your training wheels, and your career is no different.
The next time your team begins work on a new project or account, raise your hand and ask to be involved. Talk to your manager about opportunities to work with new clients or ways to collaborate with new departments.
These growth opportunities are the perfect way to hone your leadership skills and fail upwards. You won’t be good at every new thing you try but you will undoubtedly learn valuable lessons along the way.
3. Create an opportunity where there isn’t one already
You don’t have to wait for your company to hand you an opportunity to advance your career. If there aren’t opportunities, you can, and should, create your own. Build your personal brand by networking on LinkedIn and other social media platforms, take a class online to develop your skills, or attend a new industry conference or seminar. Think about how you can fold these strategies into your overall career growth plan.
Career growth doesn’t necessarily need to translate to a promotion or a raise. It can be as simple as identifying what you’re good at and honing your skills. It can also mean identifying the areas you’d like to improve and finding a mentor to help you grow.
4. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself
There’s a chance you’re already killing it at work and simply aren’t being recognized for the things you’re contributing. If that’s the case, you cannot be afraid to advocate for yourself to advance your career.
Unfortunately, the fear of rejection is keeping a lot of people stuck where they are. 82 percent of employees report a desire to discuss their career prospects with their manager, but nearly half of them never follow through.
If you’ve put in the work and think you're ready to take the next step in your career, don't be afraid to take a proactive approach to getting what you want. Be your own advocate in the workplace and don’t let your fear prevent you from soaring to new heights.
Another mistake people make is letting themselves get stuck on the same career ladder. People feel stuck in the career they’ve chosen and let themselves be tricked by the sunk cost fallacy of their own career.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy: You make a decision based on the number of resources or the amount of time you’ve already invested in something, whether or not that decision continues to be your best option.
You don’t have to spend another day in finance if you hate doing it, even if you’ve already spent 20 years working your way up the ladder. If you’re feeling stuck in your career and you’re ready to make a change, you can stimulate your career growth by changing industries or professions entirely.
6. Use the systems already in place to your advantage
Many companies recognize that the workplace is evolving as more employees seek out career growth opportunities. HR professionals are prioritizing talent management as part of their strategy and creating new ways for employers to help their employees grow.
You can use built-in systems like one-on-one meetings, stay-interviews, or annual performance appraisals as your springboard for career growth. These systems are set up to provide you exclusive access to your manager and it’s your job to maximize that time to your benefit.
Create a plan for your career growth and come prepared to discuss it during your next meeting with your boss – you might be surprised by what they say!
Want to know a dirty little secret about career growth? It’s okay to leave a job you like.
Sometimes we find ourselves working with coworkers we enjoy, doing work we’re good at, and locking ourselves into a stagnant career path. You don’t have to wait until your job becomes miserable to look for greener pastures. It can be hard to know when to quit your job, but it may be a necessary step for your growth.
Don’t believe me? Update your Linkedin profile, your resume, and your cover letter send out a few applications to jobs that look interesting to you. Start talking to recruiters about the work you do and where you see yourself going.
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)