Three Phases of Career Progression

A common mistake I have observed clients make is waiting until the last minute to focus on a job change. I am not pointing fingers, I’ve done it, and probably so have you.  Can you relate to any of the following scenarios?

  • Opportunity Knocks – you just had a great end-of-year review; the boss loves your work, and she asks, “What do you want to do?” Unfortunately, you do not have a well-thought-out response.
  • Bad Boss – you suffer under a micro-managing, bad boss that sucks the joy out of work. They just assigned you another project with insufficient resources and put daily meetings on your calendar to monitor your progress.  You tell yourself, “I’m going to find a new job!”
  • Education to Nowhere – you have invested in yourself. While working full-time you enrolled at the local university, giving up your social life to work nights and weekends to earn your degree.  Colleagues congratulate you, but the degree does not translate into a promotion or pay raise.
  • Writing on the Wall – rumors are flying. The department is going to be shut down.  The company is up for sale.  Profit and revenue are down.  Or layoffs are just around the corner.  You decide to wait and see what happens.  Rumors are often just that…right?

In all these scenarios, we would benefit from consistently and systematically using a strategy to identify and pursue career opportunities.  Waiting to the last minute is like calling a friend you have not spoken with in years and asking them for money.  It will be an awkward conversation, and the answer is NO.

Be ready for new opportunities, navigate bad bosses, capitalize on acquiring new skills and education and prepare for the unexpected by mastering the three phases of career progression.

Explore Phase

Good career management always starts with discovering your interests.  The best opportunities are at the intersection of your purpose, values, and skills. We benefit from taking the time to explore new opportunities.  How? I recommend setting aside time once a month to have one of four types of networking meetings:

  1. Industry Networking – met people within your industry. The goal is to increase your business acumen, which will help you perform better in your job.  It will also help you identify trends in your industry.  Is your industry growing, consolidating, or evolving?
  2. Company Networking – met people both inside and outside your current department. This helps you expand your internal contacts. Getting diverse perspectives helps you determine which “rumors” are true, and what is just idol gossip.  As you apply for higher-level positions it is important for colleagues around the company to know who you are.
  3. Social Networking – met people in your social circle. This expands your external contacts and broadens your lens of opportunity.  Your friends know great individuals that can help accelerate your career.  The problem is you don’t know them because you never asked.
  4. Role Networking – met people that have the same role you currently have, but they work outside your company or outside your industry. This grows your functional knowledge, allows you to perform better in your role, and alerts you to new opportunities outside your company.

Use networking to explore and identify what roles you would like in the future.  If you invest the time, you will not be caught off guard, and you’ll have a great answer to the question, “So what do you want to do next?”

Communication Phase

In the explore phase we identified opportunities based on our interests and skills.  Now we need to communicate our accomplishments and share how we add value to the role, so we get the job.  My first piece of advice is to develop the habit of reviewing your accomplishments three times a year (April, July, and October).  When you do follow these simple steps:

  1. Reflect on your work and select your top two accomplishments over the past few months.
  2. Use the “STAR” model to capture the accomplishment – describe the situation, task you were given, major actions you took, and the end results.
  3. Categorize the accomplishment in one of three buckets: a) increased revenue, market share and/or profit; b) reduced costs and/or risk to the company; or c) improved customer retention or service.

Not consistently reviewing accomplishments is a major regret of job seekers.  It makes it difficult to update your resume, you forget accomplishments, or your accomplishments do not seem as impressive because you cannot remember the details or cannot denominate the results.  Just do it!

Deliver Phase

Effectively communicating your value puts the odds in your favor for interviewing well and landing your desired job.  But after you start that new job, there is one more phase.  The deliver phase validates the hiring manager’s decision to select you and prevents buyer’s remorse.  To do that we must deliver now and in the future.

We deliver now by focusing on results.  What can we accomplish in the first 90 days, 6-months, and 12-months?  Work with your manager to identify these milestones.  We deliver in the future by acquiring the new skills and connections to prepare us for added responsibilities and the next level job.

Bottom Line

Career progression is a continuous cycle of exploring, communicating, and delivering.  Developing good habits makes the journey enjoyable and manageable.

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