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The “No Excuses” Guide to Growing My Career

Monday, January 27, 2020
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Count the number of times you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to be more intentional about working on your career. By the end of January, work and life have gotten so busy, you haven’t done anything. “My career” gets pushed farther down on your to-do list.

Contributing to the problem is that you don’t know what to do to manage your career, so you do nothing. How’s that working for you?

You make the biggest difference whether or not your career goes anywhere. If you’re not consistently, strategically, and diligently taking action to grow your career, you’ll be disappointed with where you end up.

My best advice: Don’t try to do everything at once. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Taking one step every month will compound your progress over time.

Here’s your no excuses guide for the next 12 months.

JANUARY

Own Your Performance Discussions: Take your performance review seriously. Take time to prepare well for your annual, mid-year, or quarterly reviews. Track and document your accomplishments throughout the year rather than waiting until the last minute. Writing your performance outcomes as they occur is much easier and can best capture the significance of your contributions. Thoughtfully reflect on areas of strength and development. Get objective feedback from colleagues you trust. You also need to have some ideas about your career interests.

FEBRUARY

Schedule Regular Updates With Your Boss: Keep the performance conversations going throughout the year. Your boss can be your biggest advocate or detractor based on knowledge of your impact and resulting perceptions of your value. Use the time to share what you’re working on and what you’ve accomplished. Regular updates are especially important if your company doesn’t have a formal performance review process.

MARCH

Showcase Your Work and Capabilities: In addition to sharing your accomplishments with your boss, other leaders and influencers need to be aware of your work and capabilities. Set up periodic update meetings with project sponsors and key stakeholders to keep them abreast of your progress and contributions. Create opportunities for them to see you in action. Raise your hand to lead an important business priority. Speak up in meetings to share your opinions and ideas.

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APRIL

Update and Share Your Career Goals: What kind of work interests you? What are you good at? What do you want to learn more about? What are your longer-term interests? Taking these reflections into consideration, explore potential roles where you can contribute, learn, and grow. Get advice about the progression of your career path, considering lateral moves for gaining the experience and skills necessary for long-term success. Share your career interests with your boss, a mentor, your HR business partner, and leaders in your areas of interest.

MAY

Assess Your Current Situation for Alignment and Potential. Get a 360-degree perspective on what is important in your life—family, faith, values, career, finances, social, giving back. Does your current role align with your priorities and goals? Are you learning and growing? Do you have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution? Are you living up to your potential? Do you look forward to coming to work every day? Might there be a path to achieving your personal and career goals? Answers to these questions can help you assess when it might be time to move on.

JUNE

Ensure You’re Taking Care of Business in Your Current Role: Make a difference! You won’t be considered for promotions if you’re not seen as a high performer. Connect your work to the company’s important priorities. Remember, it’s not just “what” you do, but equally, if not more important, is how you go about getting work done. Treat people respectfully and be a team player. Schedule time at the end of each quarter to review your progress.

JULY

Find Out How Career Progression Works in Your Organization: There are formal and informal practices around how companies manage talent and career progression. Gain insight on how the process works at different levels, when talent discussions occur, who are in those discussions, and what is discussed. Use that insight to inform your personal career management approach.

AUGUST

Get Even Better at What You’re Already Good at: Focus more on using the skills and expertise that are strengths so you can succeed at your work. This will help you build momentum for recognition as a high performer. Prioritize development of your strengths so that you have a solid foundation of skills to build on.

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SEPTEMBER

Build and Strengthen Relationships: If you’re the person who says, “I keep to myself at work because I don’t want other people to know my business,” you’re hindering yourself. To be successful in your career, you need various professional relationships—allies to help you get things done and advocates who are willing to speak up on your behalf. Be intentional about making connections with people internally. You don’t have to tell all your business, but you do have to be relatable. Join a professional association to meet people in your industry while expanding your knowledge. Volunteer for a non-profit to share your expertise and work with people outside your industry. Cultivate those relationships over time by staying in touch and doing a good deed.

OCTOBER

Engage a Mentor and Be a Mentor: Whether you’re navigating your career path, organizational politics, or working through a challenge, the right mentor for the situation can be an invaluable resource. Define your needs and reach out to a leader, peer, or subordinate who might be able to help. Make yourself available to serve as a mentor when someone could use your guidance.

NOVEMBER

Request Informational Interviews: As you consider your future career path, what type of work or specific roles interest you? What experience and skills does it take to land those roles and to be successful? What is the day-to-day really like? Informational interviews with people who are currently in or have been in those roles are a great way to gain first-hand insight. People are honored that you have an interest in hearing their story. This also provides an opportunity to expand your network and allows others to get to know you as well.

DECEMBER

Reflect and Refresh: As you close out another year, reflect on the progress you’ve made in your career. Take what you’ve learned over the past 11 months to prepare for the year ahead. Take some time to refresh mentally, spiritually, and relationally.

Print or download a copy of this guide for reference throughout the year. Adapt the timing based on the performance management cycle in your organization.

As you approach a new year, start this process again. Keep the progress going!

About the Author

Vivian Blade is a recognized talent management expert, guiding companies in designing a leadership talent management framework that builds solid and sustainable bench strength in their leadership pipeline. Additionally, as an author, keynote speaker, trainer, and executive coach, her passion in building leaders and developing excellence empowers organizations and individuals to reach their full potential. In 2009, Vivian founded Experts in Growth Leadership Consulting. She works with many global organizations, such as Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, and GE, as well as individual professionals. Vivian is the author of the book  FuelForward: Discover Proven Practices to Fuel Your Career Forward.

4 Comments
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I feel it is a nice guide when you are already in the right job position, and in the right company. In my case, I am trying to get there. You do offer a bit of insight I can apply in the November and December sections, though.
Thanks
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Great guideline Vivian! Thank you for sharing this information. It's also important to celebrate, refresh and reflect throughout the year:-)
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Thanks Vivian this is a great start -- I see how we can use some ideas to help employees start their career design and career growth paths too. :-)
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