Take your career to the next level - Look beyond promotions for true growth

The topic of career growth is very close to my heart. You naturally think about where your career stands at certain times: such as at the start of a new year, during appraisal periods, or when you see role changes in the organisation. In times like these, there is the tendency to reflect more about our future and careers. When it comes to careers, most of us have our own expectations, unique to our journey and aspirations.

What is career growth?

My definition of growth has changed a lot over the last few years. In the first ten to twelve years of my professional career, it was all about promotions coupled with a salary increase. It was a moment of pride for me and my family whenever I got a promotion or salary increase. So, career growth and success were all about promotions and salaries.

However, as I moved into senior managerial roles, I realised that "up the ladder" was not the only way. Those frequent promotions were not coming easily. It took longer. That is when I realised that career growth does not come just by being a functional expert or completing a project on time. Slowly, the focus shifted to having a positive influence on others, developing the ability to challenge the status quo and building my professional network. It was no more only about what I knew, but more about who knew me. I realised that I must shift my focus from outcomes to the actual process and my behaviour. Career growth and success to me is now about "competence + branding + network." Career growth is continuous development and advancement of an individual's professional journey. It involves acquiring new skills, taking on increased responsibilities, and expanding the scope of influence within an organisation. Career growth is continuous development and advancement of an individual's professional journey. It involves acquiring new skills, taking on increased responsibilities, and expanding the scope of influence within an organisation.

Different perspectives

If you are still in the early years of your career, it can be challenging to think that your career and growth could be related to anything other than a promotion or higher compensation. However, I would recommend that you make some changes in the way you think, act, and speak. It is time to ask questions like:

Am I contributing or asking something insightful in meetings?

Do I take responsibility for things beyond my goals?

Do I take time to network and collaborate when needed?

Do I speak when it matters?

Increase your visibility with leadership, by becoming an expert in an area that is important for your organisation, solving your blind spots, and understanding what you are evaluated on. All these can help employees position themselves as valued contributors. Rethinking your career growth could also influence your skill development and personal fulfilment. It can improve resilience and adaptability as well.

Avenues for career growth

Here are a few avenues that you can actively use to shape your career path, adapt to changing circumstances, and explore new opportunities for growth and advancement. 

1. Bridge programs: Bridge programs can be valuable tools for transitioning from one career stream to another. For example, if you're transitioning from operations to a digital or tech career stream, these programs can provide the necessary training and support to bridge the knowledge gap and make a successful transition.

i) Upskilling/cross-skilling programs: Upskilling and cross-skilling programs across domains and industries are designed to help you acquire additional skills that are relevant and complementary to your existing expertise.

ii) Skill tags: Skill tags provide you with a unique identity and allow for deep specialisation in specific domains. Skill tags can enhance visibility, attract relevant opportunities, and differentiate you in a competitive job market.

iii) Leadership development: While technical skills are crucial, it's essential not to overlook the importance of leadership skills. Online and offline classes focused on communication, executive presence, conflict management, customer centricity, strategy, and other areas can greatly enhance your professional effectiveness and make you a well-rounded candidate for career growth.

The influence you wield as a manager

Professional growth is considered a top employee need with many employees ranking it as their primary aspiration. Career growth works best when you can align an employee’s professional goals with the company's current and future needs. Managers should be encouraged to hold regular career conversations with teams and talk about their goals and development opportunities. Team members should be given the chance to pick up new domains and new skills and explore opportunities. That will enable talent mobility and retention.

Shifting from the conventional climb "up the ladder," true professional advancement encompasses competence, personal branding, and a robust network. We must redefine our perspectives, focusing not just on outcomes but on the process, behaviour, and our influence on others. In the ever-evolving journey of a career, it's not just about climbing higher but about navigating wisely and embracing the multifaceted dimensions of true professional growth.

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