Whether it’s your first week on the job or you’ve been at your company for several years, if you want to maximize your career growth, start with these four steps:
- Clarify your goals
- Share your goals with your manager
- Ask your manager what their goals are
- Understand your sandbox
Clarify your goals
What does “maximize career growth” mean to you? Not only will the definition vary from person to person, but also you will change your own definition over time. In addition, you are likely to have a definition of career growth success that is multidimensional. You might aim to increase your salary, get a promotion, increase your responsibilities, decrease your responsibilities, get onto a favored project, learn a new skill, start doing new things, stop doing things you are no longer interested in, help your team achieve a goal, work with a specific group of people. If you add the realities of a remote or hybrid environment into the mix, success might also include dimensions of flexibility in working hours and location.
Whatever your definition of career growth success, take a few minutes to think about what it means for you. It’s OK if you don’t know it, or if it’s not crystal clear. For further clarity, think through and ideally write down what your career goals are, and why these goals are important to you. Remember, if everything’s important then nothing is important, so try to have one or two primary goals.
Share your goals with your manager
Nobody has a crystal ball, so start by sharing your goals with your manager or supervisor. If you feel comfortable, share with them your why.
Ask your manager what their goals are
This step is the secret sauce, here. In any relationship, business or personal, each person brings to the relationship their goals and desires. The more your goals can help you and your boss, the more you are rowing in the same direction, and the more likely you are to ensure that your boss is wind in your sails, advocating for you and helping you achieve your goals. Once you take the time to understand what your manager’s goals are, then you can start to have a conversation around how you can work as a team to achieve both of your goals.
It’s OK if your goals don’t align with your boss’s goals. If this is the case, it’s important to know whether working toward your goals will have a positive, neutral, or negative impact on your boss’s goals. If it will have a positive or neutral impact, that’s OK. If working toward your goals will have a negative impact on your boss’s goals, then the best thing you can do is have an honest conversation about this and see where that leads you.
Understand your sandbox
Your sandbox is exactly what you picture on the playground—it’s an area that has boundaries, that is yours to experiment inside of. Your sandbox is your constraint, what you have permission to do to achieve your goals. When you know what your constraints are, you also know what lies outside of them. Examples of constraints are,
- how much company money and other resources, such as other people’s time, can you spend to help you achieve your goals?
- how much of your time can you spend working toward your goals?
Once you take these four steps, start working toward your goals. Remember, as with most things: be iterative, and ask for feedback often.