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News & Blogs: Rising Above the Middle

3 strategies to forge your own career path

Thursday, May 16, 2013  
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By Leanna Cruz

There’s an upside to the constant change and uncertainty in today’s workplace — opportunity. Your career path may be unclear, but that puts you in the driver’s seat.

If your company has programs to accelerate your career success, you’d be smart to include them in your career development plan. If not, that’s no reason to let success pass you by. In both situations, you drive your success.

Consider these three strategies when plotting out your career roadmap:

1. Commit to lifelong learning and proactive career development. To continuously advance your career, you must remain relevant. Keep your skills and knowledge current and learn new skills and knowledge before you need it. Read voraciously. Attend conferences and seminars to learn from speakers and about new trends, practices and successes from fellow attendees. Webinars and teleseminars are useful when time does not allow you to attend live events. Audios are convenient while commuting and an effective resource for repetition.

If your company offers leadership, management or professional development programs, arrange your schedule to take advantage of them. If your company does not offer these opportunities, be proactive and identify outside opportunities and resources that will help you advance.

Practice being a proactive leader and ask for what you need to enhance your value and effectiveness. Do not allow your career to stall by sitting back and doing nothing while waiting for instruction. Not making time for development indicates an inability to manage time, an apparent disinterest in career advancement and the potential to be overwhelmed if given the responsibility of a position at a higher level.

2. Show them what you’ve got. Women, especially, must demonstrate leadership skills before being promoted. While it’s not unheard of for organizations to advance individuals without already having the skills needed for a new job, the demotion rate of such promotions is high.

Leadership skills do not automatically come with promotion — and many companies fail to offer the support that managers need to transition to leadership. You need to develop you own plan to develop the skills you’ll need. You may not have a complete arsenal of skills when a leadership position is presented to you, but you can give yourself every advantage to succeed.

3. Take risks. Doing your current job well does not necessarily identify you as someone who expects career advancement — in fact, it may send a signal to leadership that you’re content where you’re at. To climb up you need to step up by seizing new responsibilities, even those stretch assignments outside your comfort zone.

You’ll develop new skills, demonstrate your unique abilities and forge new relationships. You’ll discover what you don’t know, what you need to learn and how to ask for information, help, support, feedback and clarification.

If you’re a manager whose primary responsibility is to ensure that projects are completed and quotas met, you’ll need to look at your career from a new perspective. Leaders do not always have detailed instructions and goals. Leaders must be comfortable taking action on their own.

Success requires risk-taking, and that can be scary. You can start out small. Be willing to confront the possibility of failure, while collaborating with others and maximizing your opportunities to succeed.

Career advancement requires developing new skills, assuming new responsibilities and taking risks. When you succeed on a bigger playing field, you’ll build a positive reputation and get noticed. You’ll even notice that you’ll be encouraged to take risks and forgiven for honest mistakes. In other words, you’ll be treated like a leader.

Career advancement specialist Leanna Cruz is president and CEO of Positively Successful Career and Positively Successful magazine, a resource dedicated to helping mid-career professionals get noticed, get promoted and get ahead.

Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and sponsors.

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