When I joined Woolworths straight from University in the late 70’s, they were like most large organisations – you were basically employed for life. They had wonderful development opportunities and invariably promoted from within; and so you were provided with a well-defined career path, particularly if you kept performing.
Those days have long since disappeared, especially in the commercial sector. With flattening of organisation structures it is now widely accepted that for career progression (esp. in commerce) you need to change organisations. Likewise, when the organisation is seeking a new senior executive, they’re now more likely to look to an external appointment – to find a person with experience in the role rather than look to an internal who will need to grow into it.
But what if you don’t want to change organisations? What if you want to progress your career and stay? Despite much expert advice that recommends people periodically shift employers, there are many many reasons for a person wanting to stay with their current employer. Consider people who live in regional and rural areas where alternatives are so limited. Or employees who simply love the camaraderie of their setting and could never imagine they’d find better elsewhere.
So how do you stay and grow? How can you develop a career while staying where you are? Do you really need to move to take another career step?
Look at a lateral shift
Once upon a time a lateral career move was viewed poorly – but no longer. For example, if you are Deputy Principal Teaching and Learning, a move to a Deputy role for Student Welfare could provide significant growth. It’s usually easier to make a lateral move where you are known rather than a lateral move to a different organisation. The new experiences and skills you’ll develop will also position you well for a step up if you choose to do so.
Look for delegations from your manager
Yes, I know we’re all busy, but there’ll be times when you can find time to volunteer to help your manager with aspects of her job. Cannot we all find time for our priorities? Make it a priority, for example, to take a role in the interviewing or induction of new staff. What can you volunteer to do, for your manager, that helps him and provides growth for you?
I heard a great story not too long ago about a person in a global IT company who injected himself into meetings by saying he was there to take the minutes. He volunteered to do this across the organisation, including for the executive team. The learning he gained and the value he provided to others meant he soon became invaluable.
Projects, projects, projects
Two pieces of groundwork are essential first:
- Get an understanding of your organisation’s strategic plan.
- Read the literature to develop a sense of the future in your sector.
Where does this future focus intersect with your organisation’s strategic plan? Be that person who puts forward suggestions and initiatives. Look to lead a project that will benefit the customers/students/clients/staff by marrying this future-focused mindset with the already agreed strategic intent of the organisation.
The benefits and value to the organisation, and you, will likely far exceed those which accrue to a more senior person who rolls out the same old practices they did 5 years ago.
Establish your learning program
You can develop yourself and your career by continuing to learn. There’s that old saying ‘When you’re green you’re growing; when you’re ripe you rot’. The experts tell us that learning can happen in everything we do – if we’re open to it and develop a habit of personal reflection.
There are too many avenues for formal and informal learning; and timeframes, whether annual events or daily rituals; to cover in this article. So, I’ll just mention one: Twitter.
One of the most effective, regular ways to learn and stay current is via Twitter. You don’t even need to contribute. I know of many, many leaders who’d be classified as ‘lurkers’. There’ll be a range of people they’ll follow and have a regular habit of scanning the Twitter feeds before choosing which, if any, they want to delve into further.
The opportunities for personal growth and career development are, literally, all around you. To take advantage of them you need to (a) have your antenna up and tuned for such opportunities; and (b) realise that you are in charge of your own career.