The importance of not waiting for others.
January is almost over, and your 2020 goals should be set. Your end of year performance review went well, but it left you with a feeling of “well, when are they going to ask me?” Ask you for what? If you want to get ahead? If you want a promotion? Did you leave your review with marching orders to continue to do the same thing you did last year, but more of it, and better? Did the planning of your goals for this year not include any discussion of career path or personal development milestones?
Most of us are happy to get out of an annual performance review with an average to above-average rating. But you and me, we want to knock it out of the park and want to know what is “behind door number two.” We want a plan on how to get there and will do anything to achieve it. Well, here is the truth: Most managers do not have a specific plan for you to get anywhere. In fact, in my thirty years in the corporate world, I developed the path for my next step myself. If you wait for someone to tell you what your next step is, you may not get to where you want to go in the time frame you expect, if at all. Why? Because as long as you are doing a great job in your current position and you are making yourself, your manager, and your department look good, no one wants that to change.
Let me back up a little bit. Many corporations have career pathing tools, plans, and programs to help their employees thrive and succeed. The outstanding companies will have an annual or semi-annual career path and personal development training to help you prepare for the next opportunity. However, while many companies may have these tools, many times, there is more documentation than action. If you suspect you are in such a situation, my advice is this: Do not wait for someone else to tell you where you can go, you should be working on your own towards the place you want to go.
Great, you may be saying, so what do I do? How do I get to where I want to go? It would be best if you were ready for the opportunity you wish to have. In my experience, you blaze your trail, and no one will make a path for you. You prepare yourself and communicate your desire to advance to as many people as you can. I had employees working for me for years, and I never knew they wanted to be a manager or leader. Even when I asked them what their goals were. As far as they believed, there was no path to get to where they wanted from their perspective. They did not pursue it anymore because of that. I had no idea or planned to develop a path to a higher level for that employee because they had not informed me. They were happy, and I liked their work, so on to the next employee. It was neither good nor bad; it just kept things moving. In a busy growing organization, it is all about keeping everything moving and not disrupting the flow. I could have done a better job as a manager. I learned, and so I now pass on the information to you, so you are a better employee. Here are the things you need to do.
Tell your manager where you want to go and the things you want to achieve. Tell them where you believe you can make a difference and where you see yourself in two to three years. Be proactive and ask what they suggest you do to prepare for such an advancement. Talk with those who are in the position you want. Find out what it is all about. You never know, they may be looking to advance themselves and need to find a replacement. They may even be willing to train you.
Even if there is no direct, vertical path up the ladder, ask about a lateral move that would enable you to move up from there. If no way exists, plan, and prepare for an opportunity anyway. Continue to excel at your current position and train for where you want to go. A situation may materialize or may be created for you if you have demonstrated a need for it. If that does not happen, you will still have the training and preparedness to improve your position even if that means looking outside your current job.
When I voiced my desire to advance, I was given many opportunities that were not exactly “in the plan” but kept me moving forward and onto new things. Sometimes, nothing happened either because I was not prepared for what was available or an opportunity that suited me never materialized. When that happened, I moved on and searched out what I wanted to do somewhere else. What I do know for sure: Continuously improve, plan, and develop your goals and paths for yourself. Communicate and revise these with your manager. Be prepared to leave where you are if you do not find what you desire. Always be grateful and gracious. By will, preparedness, hard work, and sheer desire, you can achieve anything you want, but no one will design it all out for you. You need to do it yourself.