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Get the Experience You Need to Move Up

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Fri Feb 10 2017

Get the Experience You Need to Move Up
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Get the Experience You Need to Move Up-6701df9145a0e0ce0cc2f4ba7bccb75366066be986843c28deaa16abad103865

This blog post is a response to a question submitted for my webcast: How do I gain skills and experiences that add value to my career?

One of the biggest challenges for professionals is gaining the experience they need to land their next job. Most of the questions I receive are about where to get experience when you have limited opportunities in your current job, and what experience would be worthwhile. Once you figure out what experience you need for your next move, the answers to these questions become easier.

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What Experience Do You Need? 

If you're going to be hired or promoted, hiring managers need to feel confident you can do the job and are a good long-term investment for the company. Your selection comes from having relevant experiences that can demonstrate your readiness for the position. To ensure you gain relevant experience along your career, identify the types of experience you’ll need to realize your career plan. You need experiences that help you develop fundamental professional skills, such as problem solving and getting the right things done, as well as specialized skills for your technical expertise.

Use a gap analysis to assess your qualifications for a desired position compared with the company’s requirements for the role. This will help you identify areas of focus, and allow you to seek opportunities that are relevant and substantive.

Gaining Experience in Your Professional Career 

How do you go about gaining that needed experience? Look for opportunities both within and outside your day-to-day role.

Within Your Current Role 

Professionals often don't take full advantage of opportunities to expand their skills within their current role. Instead, they get into the routine of their daily tasks, trying to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities. You have to be intentional about seeking opportunities to broaden your experiences. Be careful not to overextend yourself; focus on doing a great job in carrying out your core responsibilities. Try doing the following: 

  • Deepen skill development—Consider what skills you can develop within your current role. Are there areas you can stretch yourself a little more? What opportunities arise for things like making presentations or working on project teams that you can take advantage of? 

  • Add responsibility—Ask for additional or expanded responsibility to gain specific experience or skills you need.

Outside Your Current Role 

Other opportunities often are available to gain experience outside your current job responsibilities. To avoid adding more to your plate than you think you can handle, determine which opportunities provide the best experience while balancing your bandwidth. However, be willing to stretch. You can often find ways to work smarter so that you can fit in some of these opportunities. Check in with your mentor for advice on which opportunities may be of greatest value to you and the organization. 

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  • Special projects—These are created to help implement important company initiatives. Tell your manager you’re interested in being on the project team and why. These projects often are sponsored by senior business leaders. 

  • Company service projects—Many companies support their communities by sponsoring volunteer projects with local nonprofits. These are great opportunities to develop your skills by joining the planning committee or signing up to work at the event. 

  • Employee resource groups—Companies sponsor these as resources for personal career development and employee engagement. You can gain experience and develop your skills by serving as an officer, chair, or member of a standing committee or event committee. 

  • Nonprofit organizations and professional associations—Nonprofits and professional associations often need people with a variety of skills to serve on their boards or as volunteers. Seek to serve in areas that will help you gain the specific experience you need.  

  • Contract or part-time work—What do you have to offer that others may need? Research job postings to get an idea of where companies seem to have skills gaps. Where do you need to expand your experience? If you're trying to change fields, contract work or a part-time job can help build new experience. A part-time job also can help you get a feel for whether this new area fits well with your interests and career goals.

Consider Lateral Moves 

Another career misperception is that if you're not moving up to higher-level positions, you're not advancing. Moving up sometimes means taking a lateral position to get the experience you need. Think of it more as a corporate “lattice” or “climbing wall” than a ladder. Senior-level executives often held lateral roles along their career that gave them either a depth of experience in a functional area, or breadth of experience across the organization. See taking lateral roles as making a strategic move, like in a chess game. Identify and target roles that will help you add the skills and experiences you need to continue moving up.

There is a path to becoming more marketable. Being strategic about gaining the right experience can help you move up faster in your career. Be proactive about looking for these opportunities and selecting the ones that will best help you achieve your goals.

For more on gaining experience and moving up, check out chapter 13 of Find Your Fit.

To hear more on this topic, hear Vivian at ATD's International Conference and Exposition in this session Growing in Place: Maximizing Your Value at Work.

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