The decisions you make today will impact what happens tomorrow.
Sometimes your career path will feel well-defined, and other times it’s hard to know whether the choices you’re making now are taking you where you want to go in the future. Career growth, at best, is tricky.
There’s not always a clear answer or sign telling you what to do, and by it's very nature, growth involves discomfort and work. Balancing more tasks and more responsibilities is at the center of career growing pains, because in order to grow, you have to expand yourself and your work - but of course, that increase in responsibility can leave you drained, tired, and unsure if you've made the right choice.
Managing your career growth can be as overwhelming at times, but there are strategies you can implement to feel stronger and more sure of yourself along the way.
Keeping your biggest goal in mind while tackling daily duties is really at the core of career growth. As our titles change and our roles become more critical to our company or industry, managing our growth becomes more complex, and because those waters are usually uncharted — at least for ourselves — it’s difficult to know the best way to keep going.
A little reflection is your best friend in these situations. Here are five ways you can contemplate, plan and act for the future.
1. Do a self-assessment
How are you feeling about your career growth at this exact moment? If you’re not really sure or if you haven’t taken some time to think about it, you’re not alone.
The daily grind of work culture doesn't often offer up space for quiet contemplation. You have to make that space for yourself. A self-assessment may be in order to help you better organize your daily responsibilities and figure out the next steps in your career.
However you decide to do process your self-reflection, make sure it’s in a way where you can be honest with yourself. A good place to start is in a journal. Whether it's structured or free-form, daily or weekly reflection gives you an opportunity to connect to the present moment and the big picture.
Regular journaling about your career can be as helpful as the practice is in your personal life, especially when our careers take up so much of our day. A blank page can be intimidating, but following consistent prompts can make that easier:
- What's going well?
- Where do I want to be in 5/10/20 years?
- What aspects of my current role do I dislike and what can I do to improve that?
- Where do I need guidance?
- What am I proud of?
Simple questions can lead to some pretty big revelations we didn’t even know were already living inside of us.
Managing career growth is not one-size-fits-all. What might work in marketing may not work in accounting, but thankfully we are never alone, and your peers may have some invaluable advice about taking big leaps or just managing the day-to-day.
Expanding your network can be a huge help to career management because it gives you a chance to see how others are carving their path. Maybe you want to emulate some of what others are doing, or maybe it’ll become clear you want to act an entire different way. Either way, having a pool of people to learn from can be a great springboard for yourself.
Having people who are on your level, as well as people further along in their careers that you admire, will help you connect to your present and your future.
It can be a little nerve-wracking to reach out and ask for advice, but it’s worth it. 9 times out of 10, our more experienced peers are willing and happy to share their knowledge, tips, and experiences of what worked for them and what didn’t.
3. Prioritize your work; you cannot do it all
As our careers grow, so do our responsibilities. And that is not always so easy to juggle. Good prioritization skills are a must for anybody looking to grow their career.
Think about prioritization as a kind of calculation for your success. It’s easy to idolize growth and reaching the next goal, but some of the tasks and responsibilities we face when we’ve reached that step are not always what we anticipated. There’s also the feeling that with every new job title, we have to take on more and figure out how to fit even more tasks in every single day.
A time management matrix may be a good place to start. Essentially, this simple chart helps put the day-to-day tasks you have in front of you in perspective. That’s important because managing career growth means managing what we do every day. If you're still spending time on things that are holding you back, you can't move forward.
When your priorities are on track, everything else will follow.
4. Celebrate and study milestones
Getting caught up in the work is easy to do. We all are growing and learning all the time, but often that growth goes unnoticed; it is so gradual that we fail to see how we can now do something that used to feel impossible.
But we can learn a lot from those milestone accomplishments, and they can help guide us into the future. The Ink+Volt Lessons Learned Pad is a good place to study your progress, what worked and what didn’t. Centered around “the 5 why’s”, the notepad helps to solve a problem, or in this case, analyze a milestone. Whether it was an easy accomplishment or something where you met a lot of challenges along the way, getting to the root of how you got there can hopefully help you take on the next milestone with confidence that you know, at least somewhat, what you are doing.
5. Stay open to opportunities
It’s possible to be too focused. When dedication becomes tunnel vision, career growth can suffer.
Remember that there is power in taking chances and entertaining new ideas, because there’s a lot to learn when we’re open to them.
Some of the most successful people in many different industries have cited being open to opportunity and new possibilities as a driver in their career growth. After all, Albert Einstein famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Shutting down opportunities that we don't think necessarily align with our plans could mean we’re saying no to something really great. Even if you still ultimately decide not to try something, going through the process of clearly defining why it's not a good fit will help you to understand future opportunities that are a good fit.
You don’t need to say yes to every opportunity that knocks, but being open to paths you didn't predict can often be the first step on your path to huge success. No one can tell the future; we can only be open to seeing where our hard work and willingness to take a chance will take us.