It is critical for people to advocate for themselves. As the old saying goes, you may not own your job but you certainly own your career. So, here are five tips for being your own best advocate and developing your career that hold water no matter what level you are at.
Have a Plan
Know where you want to be five years from now. It is okay if it changes along the way, but you can find opportunities to get there when you know what your end goal is. For example, you might want to shift from a general brand role to focus on sports marketing. When the opportunity comes up to develop a proposal for a new sports sponsorship, raise your hand to take part in the project. Or, if you want to move from internal communications to content strategy, take the time to complete a content strategy course so that when the relevant role opens up, you’ll have already built your skills up in that area.
Know your blind spots and work on them every day. Everyone else can most likely see them and to get better; you need to tackle them head-on. At the same time, be aware of what you are good at and where you can stretch. It is great to raise your hand for new opportunities (and you should) but be aware of what it will take and what you will need to work on to be successful in the role. It can be challenging to be self-aware because when you think about your blind spot, your initial reaction might be, “what blind spots?” But that is the point and you should push yourself harder, ask for feedback, accept and address it.
Embrace the Lateral Move
Well-rounded workers are the best kind of workers, in my opinion. If you are a marketing operations expert, take a turn in a brand role for a year. The more well-rounded you are with experiences across the spectrum, the more likely you are to reach leadership roles where you are managing multiple functions.
Raise Your Hand
When lateral moves are not available, raising your hand to take on a special project is an excellent opportunity to flex your muscles in other areas and work with people who you typically would not. The reality is that people who are willing to go the extra mile and put in more work to contribute are more likely to be recognized and recognition, for better or worse, matters in career development. What will happen over time is that you will prove yourself as someone who can be counted on and when more prominent roles open up, you will be given the opportunity to apply for them because you have proven yourself.
Career development is often a function of finding the right opportunity and building a network of people. Those willing to invest in your development and advocate for you are critical. Whether it is an internal network in your current role or an external network curated over time, it is well worth the time investment. One more piece of advice on networking: before you ask anything of someone else, make sure you have stayed in touch, cultivated that relationship and offered to help them too.
Career development is rarely a straight line. There are many zigs and zags but if you embrace the opportunities at every corner to develop new skills and meet new people and stay focused on working hard, you can stay one step ahead.
Let us know in the comment section how you take charge of your career development.