Photo courtesy of Freepik.
Imagine you’re going out for a beautiful hike, moderately challenging, some ups and downs, a joyful adventure on a great day. Maybe you’re like me, and you have the route completely planned out in your GPS so all things go smoothly. But, maybe you’re also like me, and recognize that scenery like this can’t go unappreciated, and you take little off-shoots from the trail you’re mainly traveling. Last time I did this, I found a rope swing hanging from a tall tree on the side of a mountain. I took five minutes to sit and swing, to kick my feet into the blue sky, and carry home a memory I never would’ve had if I hadn’t chosen that trail. That moment made the rest of the hike even more pleasant, and once I reached the end of the trail (after many other small adventures) I was thrilled to have explored more than expected.
Career paths are like mountain trails in that regard. There’s often a more clear, main path that we can definitely follow, but we might miss some great things. Things that would make the end goal much more joyful, more well-suited to us when we reach it. While it’s not too often you’ll happen upon a rope swing into a clear blue sky on your career path (never say never), there are many different opportunities that present themselves along this journey that can help further your career advancement, develop relevant skills, and make the journey more fruitful for you upon reaching your destination.
Talk to your Leaders
First things first; talk to the people who can open doors for you. Telling your leaders that you have intentions to develop further and increase your personal development is an important first step for many people along their career path! Leaders often have great connections they can connect you to, be aware of opportunities within your industry or organization which are relevant to you and your next steps, and provide support and advice along the way. They’ve watched you grow under their leadership, and often have a great handle on the things you need to build upon in order to achieve your goals.
Get Feedback and Ask Questions
Identifying the areas in your skill set that need work is crucial to becoming the person you need to be in order to achieve your career goals. People who have worked alongside you, led you through projects and your initial development, even friends and family are valuable resources when determining what skills need growth along this journey. Reach out for feedback from these people, ask them about your performance, where they believe you’re lacking, and accept that this is not criticism. This constructive feedback is just that, constructive! Use the information provided to build a plan and identify the next move to improve your skill set.
Step into your Discomfort Zone
Well, we’ve all heard how important it is to leave your comfort zone, and I’m here to say it again. Taking opportunities you wouldn’t typically take, like going to a networking event and meeting new people, or enrolling in optional skills training, these are all steps into the discomfort zone that have huge benefits on your development. These steps look different for each person as well, but the benefits remain; moments of bravery within discomfort can lead to some amazing places!
Work Some Connections
Connections can be found in so many different places, but a great place to start is by discussing your advancement with your current leader. They likely have ties to many different people that can help you, by providing information, answering your questions, or linking you to someone who has traveled a similar path and can tell you all about their experiences. Developing these connections can have great benefits once you reach the position you’re aiming for as well; knowing people within your industry is never a bad idea, and can earn you valuable advice, support, maybe even camaraderie further down the path!
Opportunities for Development
Opportunities for development are often far more available to us than we expect, and come in many different varieties! Whether this opportunity looks like a networking event for people in your industry, a regatta for advancements in the industry that interests you, a public panel meeting on safety within your field, training events made available to your staff, the list goes on. These opportunities are perfect for expanding your lens focusing on the world, opening your eyes to so many new ways of thinking, new technology being developed for your field of work, people to learn from, this list goes on too! Opportunities to learn and grow professionally are varied, and stepping outside your comfort zone to seize these moments for development could be a fantastic additional adventure along your career pathway.
This is also a great time to stay up to date on the newest industry knowledge, technology, even trends being followed in your line of work. Being current with what matters right now will not only help your understanding of the position you’re aiming for, but solidify your grasp on the industry further, and give you confidence when you’re asking questions or advising others.
Knowledge and Skill Development
Remember the constructive feedback we asked about earlier? Time to put that to good use. Identifying the areas within yourself that need a boost, then properly boosting them, is a powerful progression in your personal development. Working on technical skills is always an asset, but don’t forget the importance of soft skills, especially when making moves to advance your career. Interpersonal skills, building relationships, customer interactions, all these are crucial to proving you’re the one for the job. Trying to get a position in leadership? Best brush up on your leadership skills, and make sure you’re confident in what you’re doing. Develop your confidence in communication, and watch your interpersonal skills develop right alongside.
Often we see the opportunities for development we discussed before provide the perfect venue for learning these skills, be them technical or soft. By branching into new opportunities, you can cover ground in networking, as well as learn new skills or improve your understanding and use of existing ones!
With a career path ahead, a destination in mind, and all systems go, it looks like the path is clear. While you’re blazing this career trail for yourself, remember; take the offshoots from your main trail. Take the opportunities to learn, grow, diversify yourself along the way. You’ll be thankful you did.