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I recently read an article, by Carter Cast in the Harvard Business Review, that I would like to share with you. Depressingly titled, but that aside, his article 6 Ways to Take Control of Your Career Development If Your Company Doesn’t Care About It, offers salient and timeless advice to us all in whatever field in which we may be making our way.

Anecdotal evidence of speaking to many candidates as an Executive Recruiter over the last 17 years, has taught me that in all stages in our careers, we do like to feel that we are on the right path to success and that we are, indeed, at the helm of this ship (though some days we may feel less in control than others!)

These days, the job market is evolving so rapidly, it does make staying on the forefront an uphill battle. Cast’s message should resonate both with those of us in organizations with established career development programs and those of us who aren’t. Take the helm yourself and clear the path to greater success.

Know What You Are Evaluated On

It seems so obvious, yet, it is surprising how many people are operating with their own set of goals and their managers have another. This disconnect is poor management, but the person who ultimately suffers is the one not meeting their management’s goal. Articulate your goals with your manager’s agreement and set them down in writing. How can you steer your ship if you don’t know where you are going?

Solve Your Own Blindspots

This second point of Cast’s is so true – if you aren’t getting feedback, seek it out! Top performers are constantly honing their craft.

Codify Your Learnings

I’m avidly watching the Olympics right now and while every day in the office is decidedly less exciting than an Olympic final, recognizing the time and effort each athlete puts into their daily work out through the identification of the skills they need to develop and then rating those skills is an exercise towards success. Focus on areas where improvement is needed.

Increase Your Visibility With The C-suite

This is one of Carter Cast’s best points. He is right that this effort is often overlooked and yet, can make a world of difference. He writes, “It’s not always possible to get noticed by senior leaders through your direct work, so you might try volunteering for initiatives, such as charity work, company events, or on-campus recruiting.” I agree with him wholeheartedly. A few years ago, I had a candidate, Jennifer L., who was doing solid work and had high performance ratings but wasn’t on as fast a trajectory as she anticipated. She decided to start volunteering for initiatives that would bring her in view of senior leadership. One such initiative, spearheading the company’s donation of a playground in a lower income neighborhood, highlighted her expert project management skills. Not only was it a project that gave her great personal satisfaction, it also got her noticed!

Become an Expert in an Area of Increasing Importance to Your Company

Cast writes, “Developing expertise in a nascent area of growing importance can lead to promotions and other career opportunities.” So true. Being on the forefront opens doors.

Seek Good Counsel and Mentoring

This final point of Cast’s can be a challenge to set in motion. Some organizations actively encourage mentorship programs and sometimes you have to create that mentor relationship for yourself. Just remember, as you set upon steering your ship to success, you may be called upon one day to return the favor!

Interested in starting a job search?  Contact Smith Hanley Associates‘ Digital and Direct Marketing Executive Recruiter, Rachel Pereira, at rpereira@smithhanley.com or 203.319-4307.


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