How to Grow Within Your Role (Part 1)

by sysop in Career Pathways, On the Job 101

Growing seedling

by Liz Hine

Before you write off your current organization and run out the door, I’d encourage you to think about ways to advance your career by growing within your current role. After all, if you are fulfilled in your role, you’ll also add more value to your organization and be a better team member.

I don’t know how many of you are like me, but when I finished my Bachelors, I wasn’t any closer to knowing what I wanted to do with my life than when I started. I had been through a number of majors, and finally landed on Healthcare Management because a professor convinced me that I could make a big impact in that field.

I chose my first few jobs with that idea in mind, and you know what? It was hard. A 21 year old Healthcare Management major without connections in the healthcare field is pretty limited on options. I started my career by welcoming patients to doctor’s offices and processing billing and insurance claims. No matter how hard I tried to be fulfilled by my roles, I felt frustrated and woefully out of place. Once I finished my MBA, I decided it was time for a change.

What could be a better place to start fresh and figure out the next steps, than working at my local Starbucks? I know what you’re thinking… “You just got your MBA and went to work for Starbucks?”

I had the great pleasure of being a part of a brand-new store that was filled with aspiring people who were determined to make their difference in the world. The culture of the organization was inspiring and equipped our team to do more than provide legendary coffee service – I learned to be a trainer and a coach, to identify ways to create a great customer experience, and to motivate a team of diverse personalities and passions to work together. My year at Starbucks also helped me understand that one of my driving passions was to help others succeed.

An opportunity opened up in April 2008 for me to put those passions into practice for liberty, working as Executive Assistant to the President and COO of the Institute for Humane Studies. In my nearly four years at IHS, I held many titles – Executive Assistant, Office Manager, Operations Manager, and Hiring Manager. My responsibilities and roles changed based on the needs of the organization and as a result of my attempts to define my career path. I’m incredibly thankful to have had supervisors who cared about finding the best long-term fit for me. Through an ongoing process of experimentation and feedback, I had the opportunity to test out interests in hiring, operations, and coordinating training opportunities. As I expressed interests in growing in specific directions, I was given projects that allowed me to build skills that I would need in those areas and continue to narrow my focus towards a clear career path.

As my hiring-related responsibilities grew, so did my passion for doing it full-time. I worked with my supervisor to redefine my role and begin delegating the less relevant parts of my role to other people in order to allow me to specialize and build a greater capability. I sought counsel from my supervisor about areas for improvement or challenges that I’d need to overcome to continue growing in managing hiring for the organization.

I also joined a professional society, the Society for Human Resource Management, in order to begin networking with other professionals and learn from best practices in the field. I reached out to friends in other allied organizations and in the for-profit world to get an understanding of how they developed their own career, as well as advice on what I would need to take the next step in my career. Ultimately, that next step meant leaving IHS to join the Center for Shared Services, where I got an opportunity to help connect talented individuals to roles at not one, but many, liberty-friendly non-profit organizations.

In part two, we’ll go over specific lessons for growing in your current role.

These remarks were originally delivered at an AFF Roundtable on October 18, 2012 and posted on Free The Future on October 30, 2012.