By Laura Kitto,VP of Human Resources at Distributor Wire & Cable
It doesn’t matter if you are the VP of Operations, an Executive Assistant, or the Cook in the kitchen; the one person with the most control over where you are going and where you end up, is you. That is not to say others won’t have a hand in this journey of yours. In fact, I wouldn’t be where I am today without several key people surrounding me and I am super grateful to them. However, if you sit around and wait for your employer to put you on a career path, provide you training or give you opportunities, well…. you might be waiting a while. Yes, every good employer will have programs and people in place, dedicated to helping you grow, because they know that great companies are only as great as their people. However, it is ridiculous to think that an ecosystem such as a company, no matter the size and resources, can have it figured out for every single person with no one falling through the cracks.
This is why the responsibility lies with you.
Your relationship with your company is a partnership, and no one knows you better than, well, you. Here are some key actions to help take ownership of your professional growth and control your own destiny.
- Tell people what you want. Your manager, your manager’s manager, etc. don’t know what skills you have or where you want to go if you don’t tell them. Furthermore, ask for opportunities. Tell your supervisor you want to run a team meeting or you want to try writing a proposal. You have a better chance of your manager giving you opportunities if you provide suggestions.
- Don’t assume because there is no specific position available or even known today that it won’t be available in the future. Keep an open mind. Maybe you are an incredible problem-solver or excellent with deciphering data, but your company doesn’t have a position that requires those skills today. You never know what the future holds. Let people know what you are good at — and show them. When a position is newly created or a project needs additional stakeholders, you just may be called upon!
- Seek out people beyond your immediate circle and build connections. You never know the person who might speak on your behalf because you two shared stories about camping at Yellowstone as kids. Or better yet, they shared your great idea for making production more efficient. Build relationships both in your company and outside your company. Share who you are.
- Never stop learning about the company, the industry, and of course new things. Stay informed about what’s going on. Don’t wait to be told by your manager about the latest company initiatives, events, or opportunities. Talk to leaders in the company, ask questions, gather information on your company website or intranet. Don’t remain in the dark. It’s your job to stay informed. Learn new skills, try new things. There is a ton of information out there. Make time to learn it. If you think you really know something, wait 5 minutes, because there is a good chance it will change.
- Ask for feedback. Find a few trusted people in your life who will shoot it to you straight. You only become better with honesty. You want to know how you are perceived and what skills people think you do well. You want to know where you could be better. If people just tell you that you are amazing, that’s great, but we all have things to work on. Keep pushing by asking more questions. And, dare I say, ask for feedback from people who maybe you don’t get along with very well and no matter what they say, respond with “thank you” and then look to see how what they said might be true.
- Decide what you want others to say about you when you are not in the room. Who do you want to be known as? Are you a critical thinker or someone who waits to be told what to do, a person who lifts others up around them, or a person who creates issues and drama? You have to decide what words you want others to use to describe you and then determine ways to show people you are that way. If you want people to say you are a critical thinker, then use those words in your language. When working with your supervisor, say something like, “Let’s think critically about this,” and then give your thoughts.
Following these few suggestions will put you in the driver’s seat. Don’t let your career or opportunities be left to chance. State what you want and connect with those that can help make it happen. Controlling your own destiny is about crafting your own narrative, so give it the happy ending you deserve. Good luck!
As an HR professional for almost 20 years, Laura Kitto has a passion for creating strong work cultures that maximize the abilities of people and create healthy, happy work environments. Have an HR-related question for Laura? You can reach out to her HERE.