Five Strategies for Advancing Your Career

Some of my most rewarding days at work are when I am able to promote an employee, give a bonus or raise for a job well done, or play a role in an individual learning a new skill. These special milestones are a result of many months, quarters, and years of hard work and employee dedication. However, it is more than just busyness and checking things off your to-do list that helps put you in a good position to advance your career. What I’ve observed in my two-plus decades in technology is employees who are the most successful are – curious, have grit, know their purpose, and are very intentional about seeking out new experiences.  

Many employees are driven, have big aspirations, and work tirelessly to achieve their dreams, but there is a rare group of employees who are looking for more. This “more” can take the share of a job rotation, work assignment abroad, further education, or learning new skills to become a manager. As a leader, you want to help your people grow and advance. It is critical that you and your organization have the right programs in place to grow top talent, which helps them as individuals, you as a manager, and of course, contributes to the overall success of the company. Here are five ideas on how to support employees’ career aspirations.

Job Rotations

One of the best ways to get to know an organization is by experiencing different roles in the company. Whether you are early on in your career or at the later stages, having a growth mindset and a willingness to learn new skills is critical. You might be unsure if sales or marketing or human resources is ideal for you, but you won’t know until you try it out. One of the larger tech companies I worked for had a great rotational program. The Marketing team offered a two-year rotation in four areas within Marketing. This provided a six-month opportunity to dig into product marketing, PR, competitive intelligence, events, or beyond to see how you liked it. Individuals who went through this job rotation came out after two years feeling like they advanced their skills by five or 10 years since they have had exposure to much of the business. The company benefited from well-rounded employees who have skills they could apply to virtually any role and the employee was able to explore many roles to find which suited them best. 

A Career Coach

I’ve written about the importance of coaches previously and I’m a big believer for many reasons. Coaches crystalize your thinking, challenge preconceived notions, help reveal blindspots, and open you up to broader possibilities, personally and professionally. While I believe your manager is a great source of guidance and support, a coach brings a different perspective. They are typically outside your organization and can offer more objective input. Providing an unbiased view of situations and asking the right questions at just the right time, helps you arrive at conclusions for yourself. Having a boss be supportive of your desire to seek help from a coach is critical. This is an investment in terms of time and money, but I have found when you find a coach match the results have positive career and life implications that you never dreamed of. 

International Assignments

Providing an expanded view of the world is one of the best opportunities to help an employee grow. When you help them open their own aperture around how the world works it gives them a more reliable picture of themselves, including their strengths and weaknesses. Many organizations’ talent development departments will help create a unique learning experience for high-potential employees and move them for a certain period of time to a location outside of their home country. When employees move abroad they gain new skills, develop a deep appreciation for different business norms, have a more globally inclusive view, and learn how to navigate in a foreign country. Experiences like this help with collaboration and build comradery. When done well, organizations can be known as a company that champions international assignments and builds a well-rounded workforce. 

Getting an MBA

Supporting an employee seeking an advanced degree is one of the biggest ways to help them with their career. Increasingly, advanced degrees are critical if you want to gain the 

business leadership skills to help become a senior leader, an entrepreneur, or just advance to the top of your field. If an employee is ready to explore an MBA, be there for them. It will be an incredible amount of work to juggle working and going to school, but the benefits are immense. I’ve seen colleagues achieve advanced degrees and come back with greater business acumen, a new perspective on global markets, and better communications skills. When one person on your team raises their skills, I’ve seen the entire team benefit and up their game. 

Succession Planning

Working with your leaders to collaboratively create succession plans sends a powerful message that you are invested in their professional development, you believe in them, and that you are actively helping them plan for their future. I’ve seen succession planning be one of the key motivators for employees to challenge themselves, learn new skills, and recognize blind spots. Working together on future planning demonstrates you are vested in their future and that in turn will likely motivate them even more. Positioning your employees for future success has benefits all around – they feel recognized, you have an opportunity to have the right leader fill your shoes when you are ready for your next step, and the company retains top talent instead of having them look elsewhere. 

Employee advancement is a two-way street. The employee needs to have a plan and actively work toward growing each day. Then the manager needs to know the plan, care about their employee, and be interested in helping them get to the next level. Employees who are motivated and driven to be the best versions of themselves are going to impact your organization and possibly the world. 

While individuals are the best judges of what feels right for their future, managers play a key role in guiding and supporting them. Once employees have a sense of purpose and are committed to achieving their career goals, you can make a meaningful difference in their lives playing a supportive role to help them excel at work and in life. For me, there is nothing like supporting high-potential employees through their careers in terms of the rewards you get to feel once they have achieved their goals.  

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