Wouldn’t it be easy to say the responsibility for developing your career rests solely in the hands of your employer and supervisor? After all, you’re giving your time and effort to them, so shouldn’t it be their responsibility to ensure you develop into the superstar you’re meant to be? Aren’t they supposed to give feedback on what you’re doing well and how you can improve?
These expectations create a constant struggle for both employers and employees. This newsletter focuses on the importance of taking control of your career development – and provides strategies to help you do so. After all, you’re not responsible for your boss’s leadership skills. But you alone are responsible for the goals and strategies you put in place to succeed. (My next newsletter will focus on providing support for employers.)
Consider this example as a lesson: Almost two years ago Renee resolved to develop her leadership capabilities and begin increasing her responsibilities at work. Fortunately, the CEO of her company, Ted, saw Renee as capable, moved her into the office next to his and promised to provide guidance. While he has been more than willing to give ideas and provide support when she approaches him, he has yet to reach out on his own with feedback.
Just a couple of days ago, Renee came to me frustrated – with lots of questions and concerns:
• “Why do I keep doing the same things and expecting different results?”
• “Clearly I am not the type of person who does well under Ted’s leadership. Why isn’t he providing the guidance he promised?”
• “How am I to know what I’m doing well if he never provides feedback?”
• “How am I going to get promoted if I can’t capture his attention?”
• “What are my markers for success?”
Renee was stuck. She wanted to grow and develop, to dive into the leadership position she so desired. But she had no idea how. Fortunately, she realized there’s no point in playing the blame game. This new-found understanding (what I’m doing isn’t working, so I need to try something different) was the perfect starting point.
Below are some tips I gave Renee:
-> Take full responsibility for your own professional development. If you blame your lack of guidance on someone else, only you lose.
-> Create a plan for your development – with specific goals.
-> Share your plan with your supervisor or a trusted mentor. Let them know what areas you would like to improve on and request their support. Be specific about what this means – the time commitment you’re asking for and the frequency with which you’d like feedback.
-> Be ready to grow. Feedback is a way of letting you know you are or are not on track. And if your mentors are truthful (and therefore effective leaders), it’s very likely you will hear some things you don’t want to hear. Remember: It is simply feedback. It’s not good or bad; it just is. Understanding and becoming aware is awesome for your growth.
The vast majority of professionals choose not to take responsibility for their development. They go through the motions, hoping they will be noticed, admired, promoted and given projects that excite them. Do you want to leave your career to chance? I don’t.