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Let Your Career Work For You, Not the Other Way Around

Posted by Donna Recchione on Oct 5, 2018 9:00:00 AM

In Candidate, Job Trends, ICS insights

When you start a position in today's job market, your employer typically expects you to begin with the necessary skills already in place.  Fewer and fewer companies are providing formal training for new hires.  Part of the reason for this is that employees can switch jobs as often as they want and bring that training elsewhere.  Why should a company invest in an employee that is likely to leave after just a few years? 

It wasn't always this way, however. In the past, companies would spend considerable time on personal and professional development for their employees.  So what's changed?

Companies are making the mistake of leaving employees with major gaps in their skill set.  According to Korn Ferry, managers are simply not interested in the development of employees as they are too concerned with their own performance.  In fact, developing an employee's skill set seems to come in last on their list of priorities.  The reality, then, is that this is left up to the employees. Rather than developing clear performance expectations and offering encouragement, employees are expected to recognize and improve upon their weaknesses.  Within this context, however, there are some measures you can take to control your career path.  

Know How and What You're Evaluated on

How do you measure success in your chosen field? Furthermore, what are your career goals?  Answering these questions with the help of your manager will result in improved performance and the ability to reach your job goals and career planning expectations.  

Solve Your Skill Gaps

If you want to be a top performer in your company, it is necessary to always be learning and seeking feedback from managers.  If your employer simply doesn't freely give feedback, you may need to start the conversation yourself.  For example, after you have given a presentation, go to your manager and let them know what you think went well. Also, ask for advice on how you can improve your performance in the future.  Tip:  Keep it simple. Don't overload your manager with too much information.  Instead, start the conversation, listen to the feedback, and then move on.  

Summarize What You've Learned

One way to take advantage of feedback and improving your skill set is by keeping a journal.  Start by listing out all the skill areas where you feel you need to improve and then give yourself a rating or ask a trusted colleague to do the rating for you.  For example, if you're a communications expert, you can probably give yourself an A in writing but a B or less in data analysis.  

Increase Your Visibility

If you feel you've gone unnoticed by upper management, consider taking on volunteer opportunities, such as charity work, going to company events, and recruiting on college campuses.  This way, you will find yourself in the presence of upper management where your contributions will be more easily noticed.  

Become an Expert

Is there an area within your company that requires increasing expertise?  If so, find out what these areas are and then become the "go-to" person in your department. For example, data security is more important these days than ever before.  Is your company considering artificial intelligence to combat a potential data breach?  If so, educate yourself in this area by doing research, attending conferences, and writing about the topic.  By gaining expertise in important areas of your company, you can expect a better shot at getting promoted.  

Find a Mentor

Is there a senior employee in your company that could be invaluable to your career path?  If so, consider asking this person to mentor you.  Try to pose the question at an informal gathering, like a company picnic or when traveling for a conference.  This approach is more likely to get a relaxed "yes" from the person you ask to be your mentor.  However, before you do this, be sure to know all about the person and their contributions to the company.  Ask leading questions that relate to their expertise and then gently ask if they could give you a helping hand.  Don't force the mentor to rush into anything, but give them time to think about it before approaching them again in the near future.  

When career planning, it's important to be patient.  Developing expert skills takes time no matter what field you are in, from brand marketing to corporate finance and more.  The key is to have expertise in four or five crucial areas along with a good working knowledge of a few more.  Also, always be willing to take on multiple assignments and be open to a strategic lateral move.  Your skill set is what sells you in your career path as you move upward so take the time to develop skill sets with patience and hard work.  

What Do You Do After You've Leveled Up?

If you feel you've outgrown your current company and feel like there is more out there still to learn, contact ICS. We understand the need to expand your horizons and want to help you further your career ambitions. Click below to see our open jobs and start applying today! We'd love to take your next step with you.

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