How do you grow a career?
Over time I've worked with many people on career growth and opportunity. One thing I've noticed is that it helps to take risk.
While its important to weigh career steps carefully, the world is a pretty dynamic place. Planning doesn't always work out. Ask anyone who did “all the right things” straight out of school and got caught up in a “right sizing” exercise a few years later.
Therein lies both the challenge and the opportunity
How do we accelerate career growth?
- The fastest way to learn anything is to work in a small business. Regardless of your discipline the small enterprise is going to teach you customer service, sales, operations and finance from the beginning. Its cliché to say that small businesses are not as advanced or cutting edge as some of their larger cousins – like say those paragons of virtue @Enron. Don't minimize the rate of learning and customer contact a small business offers you. Think small to learn big
- Enhance career breadth by taking a cross fuctional assignment early on. My years as a manufacturing line manager for P&G gave me insights I never would have gotten from HR alone. Whatever your background take at least one assignment in sales, finance or operations, the heart of the business. Engineers, HR, marketing et al have to understand these core disciplines to see how the firm runs. All organizations public and private utilize these functions so it behooves you to know how they operate
- Consider working for a business unit in trouble: its a great lab. When things are bad and the company needs results the best people rise to the top. As long as the cause isn't hopeless take the chance to work in a turn-around if you get it. You will work harder than you ever have before. You will have doubts. You will have your character tested. And yet, whether the unit survives or not the turn around will teach you things you can't learn otherwise as well as uncover strengths you didn't know you had. A great risk, and yes, a risk
- You may get a chance to help start a new business: ah the adrenaline! Consider these opportunities as you keep one thing in mind: the vast majority of leaders and managers who start a greenfield enterprise won't last two years there. Maybe that's okay for you: if so, enjoy it. Startups have that wonderful advantage called compressed time: they need solutions that work now. Its a great way to see what you're made of, but you're going to have to manage your personal life – startups will take all of your time if you let them
Few if any of us have a smooth continually ascending career ladder: there are bumps and bruises along the way. Yet the art of managing your career has a lot to do with seeing opportunity where others see tumult.
Thinking more broadly about the way you learn can stretch yourself, build your skills and enlarge your network. That's called a career.
Take some risk and enjoy the ride!