This post is an excerpt from a Career Growth talk I delivered to a community of working mothers in Nigeria.
Our work is very central to our lives, and it’s one of the major ways we offer our gifts and skills to the world. So when something affects our work, positively or negatively, the effects are very deep and far-reaching.
When we experience growth in our career, we can be sure that we’re growing in several other ways at the same time. Needless to say, our career growth increases our influence, our capacity, our income, our contribution to the world and our self-esteem.
Types of Career Growth
The term ‘career growth’ is very broad. It’s a general term that describes identifiable and desirable upward and forward movement in a person’s career.
However, it is best understood if we look at the different types of career growth, all of which influence one another. Growth in an area will have a positive reaction in another area.
Here they are:
1. Growth in your Competencies. This could be in your technical skills (hard skills) or your people skills (soft skills). For example, if as a Lawyer, you grow in your functional ability to draft a Project Financing Agreement or negotiate better deals. Or if as a professional, you grow in your communication or emotional intelligence skills.
2. Growth in your Character. This is when you improve in your moral values and ethics, especially as it affects your work. For example, if you develop integrity or you become more diligent in using work resources.
3. Growth in your Assignments. This refers to an increase in the level or impact of your assignments at work. The higher you go, the bigger/far-reaching your assignments.
4. Growth in your Capacity. This refers to your ability to stretch and handle multiple demands, projects and people effectively and efficiently.
5. Growth in Your Official Position/Title. This is when you’re officially promoted at work. Typically, this is where a lot of people start when it comes to career growth. But it is a function of several things, especially the types of growth in 1 – 4 above.
6. Growth in your Remuneration. Whether it’s by way of salary increase or an increase in business sales. This is another way of measuring career growth. And an important one at that. Because it typically describes the amount of value people perceive you’re bringing on board.
7. Growth in your Network/Influence. This refers to the quality associations and influence you have in your immediate work environment, in your industry or in the world of work, generally.
Like I mentioned earlier, all these areas of growth are connected to each other. Even so, we have different levels of control over different types of growth.
So, I’ll pause here to ask you a question: In view of all these areas of growth, do you think you’re growing?
This can be good news for some of us that have only defined career growth by position and remuneration only. We have possibly been growing and we just didn’t realise it. Perhaps, you are not as stuck or stagnant as you think.
Also, by this we can see that there is no one in the world, no matter their position that doesn’t have any room left for growth.
Steps to Take Charge of Your Career Growth
Sometimes growth happens because external circumstances force us to grow. But we can’t afford to wait till that happens.
We can receive help from other people and from our organisation, but we can’t leave our growth in their hands.
We need to be proactive and intentional about our growth. This way, we can turn our growth efforts on the specific areas that need them. It’s important to ensure that most of our efforts are targeted towards what we can control and influence.
1. Determine where you need to grow.
You know where you want to go in your career in the long run. And you also know what you want your next step to be, in view of your long-term plans. This could inform the specific area you want to grow in.
Or it could be that you have observed a particular challenge with a skill or it keeps coming up in your appraisal. Perhaps, it’s the most common complaint that you have as a business person.
Based on the types of growth we discussed above, make a list of the different needs of growth you have. Keep that list.
2. Pick one area. This should be an area that has the capacity to affect several things. Or the most urgent one.
I advocate for one learning or change focus per time, because that way we can hone in on it and truly tackle it. And this can motivate us to do more.
Besides, life will not be on hold while we are working on growth. Our work assignments and family obligations will continue. And we don’t want to be spread too thin or become overwhelmed.
3. Determine the medium of growth.
The most effective medium of growth depends on the specific area you want to tackle, how best you learn and how much commitment you can give to it in terms of time, money, effort and other resources.
These are examples of different mediums:
a. Certifications and Degrees
b. Learning Materials: books, blogs and newsletters, podcasts, audiobooks, online courses, etc.
c. Professional Assistance/Interventions: Coaching, Training, etc.
d. Peer Mentorship: Masterminds and groups with the same focus.
e. Sponsorship/Mentorship: building and cultivating a honest and mutually beneficial relationship with superiors in your organisation or industry.
f. Professional Associations (in your industry and also the ones created for professional women like WIMBIZ, WISCAR).
g. Volunteering. Showing up and volunteering for important assignments in your organisation will stretch your skills and your capacity. And will make you more visible and in line for better roles and promotion.
h. Discussions with your line manager or HR Rep. If you work in an organisation where you will not be victimized for requesting a discussion concerning your promotion or raise, you can consider this. But be sure you have earned it.
4. Evaluate for progress. You can do this by seeking opportunities in that area to evaluate your progress. You can also ask for feedback from your line manager or those around you.
5. Celebrate, breathe and move to the next one (it never ends…)
Finally, please don’t feel bad if you have not been intentional about your growth in the past. You can start being proactive now. Just prepare yourself to be stretched in different ways. And with God’s help you will gain ground, if you’re focused and consistent.