From the sudden changes to everyday life brought on by the pandemic to navigating the new world of hybrid or remote work, employees have endured a challenging few years. At the same time, this shock to the system has led many individuals to reflect on where they are in their careers today and where they want to go in the future. But thinking about career goals is not necessarily enough; instead, employees need to take ownership of their careers to achieve the career goals they seek.
In this guest post, Stacey McKinnon, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Morton Wealth, discusses her career path and the steps employees can take to build their own desired careers.
The first step to career advancement is to understand your current mindset. For instance, an individual with a sense of curiosity or open-mindedness will likely be better prepared to take ownership of their circumstances than one who is merely trying to protect their current position. In addition to understanding mindset, it is vital to understand your personal ‘why’ or purpose. Defining your personal ‘why’ helps give meaning to your work, serves as a North Star that offers direction when making big decisions, and provides motivation to keep pursuing your goals during tough times.
The next step is to discuss career intentions with personal stakeholders, including friends and family. For example, if your spouse knows your ‘why’ and understands what you are trying to achieve in your career – and how that will impact your family life – they are more likely to accept when you have to stay late at work or spend extra hours studying for a designation. But when personal stakeholders in your life do not understand what you are trying to achieve, it can become much harder to grow a career because of the increased likelihood of conflict and disagreements.
Building a professional community is another important step in advancing your desired career path. Such a community could include a sponsor (a leader who has direct influence over your career and will give you advice that leads to advancement), a mentor (a person who has been where you want to go and will be a safe space for you to seek guidance), and a confidant (someone unrelated to your company that will be there to help you work through issues and solve problems). These people will make up your team of coaches and provide you with specific advice that will lead to better decision-making around your career.
Also, because companies typically look for people who will go above and beyond to improve the company, seeking ways to add value can help you advance within the firm. This could include creating a proposal to enhance the firm’s growth, resiliency, profitability, or client experience and sharing ideas with your direct manager before moving it up the leadership chain to understand better how upper management might respond to the idea. You can also be proactive about gaining expertise by pursuing relevant designations or training in soft skills like leadership.
Ultimately, the key point is that successful careers rarely just ‘happen’ to individuals; instead, the most meaningful careers typically result when people take the initiative regarding their professional development. From finding ways to add value to your firm to building your expertise and network, there are many ways to claim ownership of your career and move toward your goals in the coming year!