How to Grow Within Your Role (Part 2)

by sysop in Career Pathways, On the Job 101

by Liz Hine

Last time, I gave my personal story about how I’ve learned to grow in each role. Here are some specific lessons I learned that you can use to grow in your position:

Long Term Career Path1. Open and honest communication with your supervisor is absolutely critical for professional development. Your supervisor can’t read your mind. It can often be scary or intimidating to approach your boss about taking things off of your plate; however, if you don’t tell them you’re dissatisfied with aspects of your current role – the number of different priorities, kinds of tasks you’re working on, or skills you need before you can be successful, how can they help you? Keep the lines of communication about your long-term goals open, and be open to any experiments that might be available to help you get there. It’s also wise to think about this in terms of comparative advantage – your time may be better spent in areas in which you are passionate about and skilled. Seek honest feedback about your performance and your goals, and learn from what you hear.

2. Be patient. Growing within an organization doesn’t happen overnight. Be willing to put in the time to really add value in your current role before asking for changes. But don’t sit back and expect growth to just happen.

3. Be proactive about learning and seeking mentorship. You may have a great supervisor like I did, or you might have a supervisor who struggles to see your potential and think in terms of development. Don’t let that stop you from finding people who can help you talk through your career trajectory. Wise counsel is worth more than you can imagine. Find friends, mentors, or industry leaders from whom you can learn. You may need to find multiple people to mentor you. Take classes in the evenings; get certified for a new computer program; do whatever it takes to build the skills you need to get to where you want to be. Also, actively look for needs within the company and fill them. Show interest, help coworkers who are doing what you want to do – you never know which “extra” things you are doing might become your next full-time role.

If you do these three things, you’ll find that even during times when your role is frustrating, it is easier to keep the end goal in mind: a long-term career path where you will be fulfilled and make a difference.

These remarks were originally delivered at an AFF Roundtable on October 18, 2012 and posted on Free The Future on October 31, 2012.