Steps towards building your career
Russell Borland and Thomas Russell of coaching consultancy Leading Figures outline the attributes and actions that will help you make that next leap forward
We have worked with hundreds of aspiring and accomplished leaders, providing one-to-one coaching both for ICAS members and the wider business community. Here we identify some crucial steps to take in building your career.
1. Take personal responsibility for your career
Don’t wait to be asked to stretch yourself by taking on a higher level of responsibility or attending a development course – be proactive and seek them out. You are best placed to drive your career, so don’t be afraid to ask your manager for what you want. At worst, you will be told no, but at least then you will know where you stand – and you may be able to negotiate some sort of compromise. If you encounter impenetrable roadblocks in progressing in your current role, seek another position in the same organisation. Failing that, consider moving to another employer where the road forward is more open.
2. What is your ideal role – and how do you find it?
Think about what you want from your career. Maybe it is to progress by taking on more responsibility or broaden the opportunity set of fulfilling challenges. Or perhaps you wish to enjoy your current role while improving your work-life balance. Whatever your goal, think about it holistically, with due consideration for anything else important to you in life. For instance, you may be keen to bolster your technical skills – but to move into senior roles it can be helpful to develop leadership, client management and new business skills.
3. Draw up a personal growth plan
Don’t waste time and energy in comparing your success, or lack of it, with others – you are not comparing like for like. Someone else may seem to have it all, but you don’t know what sacrifices they have made or what help they have had. And how do we define success? We are all unique, so the only true comparison we can make is with ourselves.
It is more meaningful to improve the competencies that meet your career objectives. If you want to enhance your leadership skills, for example, feedback from people who see you in action is invaluable. Ask what you need to do to raise your performance – not just “how have I done?”, which is too backward-looking. In 12 months’ time, ask them again. You are looking for an upward trend. Condense the feedback into a personal development plan where you set yourself stretching but realistic goals for self-improvement. And keep going.
4. Develop your network
Networking is about forging long-term relationships and a long-term reputation. It involves getting to know people who you may be able to assist, and who can potentially help you in return. It takes time and effort, but it will be a worthwhile investment throughout your career. Your network includes your work colleagues, business connections, your social network, and friends and family.
Fostering relationships with your contacts is mutually beneficial. You can raise your professional reputation and broaden your access to opportunities, work through challenges and gain satisfaction from assisting and connecting others within your network.
5. Be collaborative and positive
Seek to develop collaborative relationships where you get known as someone who wants to help the team achieve its objectives, not just your own. To do so effectively, you will need to lean on your insights about your own strengths and weaknesses and how you are perceived by others. Ideally, you want people both to value your contribution to the team and enjoy working with you.
It’s easy to find fault in others or the organisation we work for – try to bring positive energy to your work and your relationships instead. This does not mean ignoring or glossing over challenges, but offering a practical step forward instead. Expressing a positive vision of the future, and how others might get there, is a powerful motivator and will elevate you as an effective leader in the minds of others.
Now, which of these areas might you focus on this year to supercharge your career?
Leading Figures are running two free taster coaching sessions in May to help you to develop your mindset and to take practical actions in supercharging your career.
Find out more about the coaching services available.