No opportunities for advancement at work? Create them

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Photo credit: Mishchenko Mikhail, Shutterstock

Photo credit: Mishchenko Mikhail, Shutterstock

While some organizations might develop pipelines and formal programs to develop employees as leaders, others not only lack a formal development plan, but might also lack opportunities for growth entirely. Because of this, employees have to take their development into their own hands and get creative when it comes finding and taking advantage of opportunities to grow.

In an article on Harvard Business Review, professor and author Herminia Ibarra offers six strategies for growing your career at work when it seems that the opportunities to do so are slim. Here are a few of her tips that stood out to us.

Sign up for a project outside your main area. All companies have projects that cut across lines of business, hierarchical levels and functional specialties. Find out what they are, and maybe more importantly, who’s involved. Getting experience across business lines is a better choice than further deepening your skill base within a functional silo. The new skills, big-picture perspective, extra-group connections and ideas about future moves that projects can bring are well worth the investment.  One of my students signed up for a project to re-think best leadership practices at his company. For him, the project was a shift from executing a pre-defined series of tasks to influencing an organization and helping them to overcome barriers. It helped him both discover an interest in consulting and move into an advisory position two years later.

Make strategy your day job, no matter what your title is. Most people would like to take a more strategic approach to their work but don’t do so because they don’t know what doing strategy really means. Planning (and executing) is about “how” you do what has been mandated.  Strategy is about asking “what” we should be doing—figuring out what problems the company should be tackling, sensing what is happening in the world and learning how to apply it to your business. Find and follow the opinion leaders in your domain, read up on the classics, brush up on your Michael Porter. One of my students told me that she trains herself in strategic thinking by keeping up with business, economic or political events or trends and forcing herself to “think about what they mean to my business, company or industry, both now and in the future.” Spend less time solving problems and more time defining which problems the group should be solving.

Read the rest of her advice on Harvard Business Review.

Have you had to create your own plan for professional development? Share what you did in the comments.

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About Author

Former Editor and Creator of Idealist Careers, a publication of Idealist.org. Follow me on Twitter @ajlovesya.

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