If you’re ambitious but your job offers you limited opportunities for exploration and growth, what can you do to develop new skills? Mind well, plugging along in our current roles is more dangerous than it might seem. The business environment changes quickly and sometimes unpredictably and, if we don’t shift along with it, we risk becoming irrelevant.
1. Stay alert and attuned to your environment. Those who want to develop themselves must create opportunities.That means coming to understand how your organization works, how it makes money, and who its key people are.This is an obvious prerequisite to figuring out how you might shift your own work in the direction of what really matters.
2.Create slack in your schedule. New ways of working require a precious and scarce resource—time.Ask yourself “Am I focusing on the right things?”. Identify better working possibilities for today.Prepare “What’s Working Today List” to get your mind focused on the right types of thoughts.Once you realize that your mind plays games and is always ready and willing to focus on “what’s not working” you will be less apt to fall into the trap. Catch yourself every time your “negative committee” starts acting up and reel it in.Live Today Better than Yesterday.
3. Sign up for a project outside your main area. All companies have projects that cut across lines of business, hierarchical levels and functional specialties. Find out what they are, and maybe more importantly, who’s involved. Getting experience across business lines is a better choice than further deepening your skill base within a functional silo. The new skills, big-picture perspective, extra-group connections and ideas about future moves that projects can bring are well worth the investment.
4. Make strategy your day job, no matter what your title is. Most people would like to take a more strategic approach to their work but don’t do so because they don’t know what doing strategy really means. Planning (and executing) is about “how” you do what has been mandated. Strategy is about asking “what” we should be doing—figuring out what problems the company should be tackling, sensing what is happening in the world and learning how to apply it to your business.Train yourself in strategic thinking by keeping up with business, economic or political events or trends and forcing yourself to “think about what they mean to my business, company or industry, both now and in the future.” Spend less time solving problems and more time defining which problems the group should be solving.
5. Expand your contribution from the outside in. When a new project is simply not available, look for roles outside your group or organization that allow you to learn and practice new skills and raise your profile.I found that building one’s personal brand increases chances to get proposals to join strategic initiatives and step out of your day-to-day job for a while.Go to professional gatherings, meet and network with people from different companies. And, if there isn’t something out there that meets your needs, create your own.
6. Learn to delegate once and for all. Managers who advance in their careers primarily by excelling at operational work go on doing operational work long after they could delegate those duties to other people.
Many of us try to position ourselves for the next assignment asking ourselves, “How can I do what I do better?” that we leave little time to ask, “What else might I do?” Only when we grow our jobs, do we stand a good chance to get the next one. I’d really like to hear from you about the ways that you have found to grow your job.