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Three Keys to Early Career Growth and Success

Posted by Patra Frame

skills and knowledgeWhether you are in the first few years of your career or have changed fields into a new area, developing your long-term success starts now. In the early work years, many people are so involved in figuring out their job and the rest of their life issues that they do not think much about future career issues. Doing so now will help you be more successful faster.

The First Key: Build Your Skills and Knowledge

While building skills seems obvious, few of us take a specific approach to doing so. If you already have some written goals that include skills and knowledge, you are far ahead of most – and far more likely to achieve them! Your current job has specific demands and building the knowledge you need to succeed at it is your first priority. Learn to ask for feedback which helps you improve and develop in your current role first. Once you have a good record, start talking with your boss about what s/he will do to help you grow. Check out any options your company offers.

As you begin to succeed in your current role, your needs change. What do you need to learn to grow in your current role? What potential new roles interest you? What do you need to know or have done to get into each?

Learn what training and education your organization provides, if any, and include it in your planning. Join professional organizations in your field and attend their events to learn, and to meet others in your field. Some companies have book clubs which offer similar benefits. If yours does not, do still make the effort to regularly read professionally.

Be sure to keep learning. What new skills interest you which are relevant to your current work? What new skills and technologies are influencing the field, the industry, and the market? Which intrigue you?  How are you recording what you learn?

The Second Key: Build Your Network

Networks are simply human connections. Start by talking with people you work with regularly. Extend yourself to meet people in other parts of the company. Maybe you can be on a task force or volunteer for an employee event or join an employee team. But meet people and learn about their work and their career paths.

Trade information. Have coffee. Do what works for you but make those connections. Be sure you are meeting people at various levels. It may be most comfortable to meet others in your own area or level but you will learn more from a variety. This also gives you visibility within the company which can enhance your work options and promotion potential.

Expand your network by talking with people at professional organization meetings and online. If you are not naturally outgoing, you might volunteer to help at a meeting or event as a way to meet people. Every organization needs volunteers – and leaders. Online, join relevant groups on LinkedIn and other social media. This helps you learn. It also allows you to connect to people whose information and ideas you respect within such groups. Read an article, heard a speaker you found useful, or see a regular contributor to your group? Contact them, say so, and ask to connect.

In networking, the key is follow-up. Whether you use LinkedIn or another way to track your connections, the trick is to periodically touch base. Strong connections can be useful throughout your career. Research shows that ‘weak connections’ – those you do not actively work with and contact regularly – are often great resources in job search.

The Third Key: Planning

It’s your career. Your company may or may not support training and development. But you are investing in the biggest financial investment you will ever make – your career. Take some time each year to think about your career goals and what it will take to make them happen. If you do this right before your birthday, it is easy to remember to schedule the time.

You want 2-3 long term goals to start. Then you can add the steps needed in the short-term to support those goals. Keep this plan simple and specific. Then put the short-term steps onto your calendar and get active in making them happen. Review the plan and your progress periodically through the year and update as needed. Celebrate your success as you achieve each major step.

Do you want to specialize in one specific aspect of the field? Or will you rotate through several now and decide later?

Do you hope to become a subject matter expert? Or move into supervision and management?

What education, experiences, and knowledge will your choice require? How will you get those? What support will your company offer you? How supportive is your boss? Will you have to move within the company or externally to learn and develop your skills?

A good career plan has actions you will take – written in some detail. Yours should include the steps in keys one and two above that you have decided to take. It might also involve the research needed to assess future goals. Are you interested in a specific certification – and what steps are necessary to get it? Or a new degree? What about a different role? Or company? How will you proceed, what steps do you need to take, and what is the timing? All of these are a part of your possible career plan.

The challenge at the early stages of your career are to make the time and start developing your career goals and take the actions to succeed now. Building these activities in while you define your personal-life and work-life preferences is a critical step to long-term success.

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 26, 2016 10:09 am

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