- Wise Words -
Move out to move up
by mark overmann
Every professional reaches that exciting, intimidating moment of wanting more. Of feeling ready to take on new and more diverse responsibility. Of wanting to develop new skills and advance their career in different directions. And, let’s be honest, of wanting a salary increase.
This moment is full of opportunity. It can also be anxiety inducing, since we’re forced to consider: How do I make all of that happen?? And more specifically: How do I make it happen if my organization or company doesn’t seem to have that next opportunity or position for me?
I’ve spoken with many early stage professionals who’ve struggled to find their path for advancement. Everyone struggles with this at some moment in their career. Those who are most frustrated, though, seem to be those who are expecting major advancement as a matter of course, as something they deserve simply because they are of a certain age, at a certain point in the career, or have been at their organization for a certain amount of time. And most times these young professionals are disappointed, as significant career advancement does not simply happen. It can’t be approached passively.
Stasis does not breed true advancement. We should never make the mistake that it will -- that a boss will simply come to us and hand over that 10-15% salary increase, that new title, and the upgrade from cube to cushy office. Rather, young professionals (any professionals for that matter) must be proactive about their careers. As I’ve told just about every young person I’ve spoken with on the matter: you have to advocate for yourself.
I see three ways you can be proactive in order to create that next major leap in your career:
1) Clearly understand your value.
You must reflect on what you want to gain by advancement and, very importantly, what value you can offer your organization through increased responsibility. It’s difficult to sell advancement for advancement’s sake (especially if it costs more). You must convey a strong understanding of how your advancement will serve the organization. How will an investment in you pay off? Why should they give you increased responsibility and pay? You must be able to answer these questions. Your boss isn’t going to do it for you.
Understand for yourself what your goals are and what value you bring, then communicate this very directly and clearly as it relates to your potential advancement.
2) Consider actively proposing an advancement strategy.
When you’re having trouble seeing the path forward at your organization, clear one yourself. Propose a new position. This possibility certainly requires a strong understanding of a specific need your organization has, and of how you can address that need and bring new and significant value. It also requires internal advocacy and political maneuvering, working to your boss and other senior leadership to buy in. It’s not an easy proposition. But it’s very possible and it’s been done.
If you find yourself thinking right now, “Well I can’t create a new position because [insert the myriad barriers]”, I challenge you to reframe. Instead consider the possibility that exists in this alternate formulation: “Well, I could create a new position if [insert the paths of possibility]...”
3) To move up, you have to move out.
In the end, the reality may be that there just isn’t the path for advancement within your current organization that you’re seeking. This is a common reality. In this case, you may need to move out to find your path up.
Not every organization or business can be everything to everyone. It is completely justifiable to seek an outside opportunity to advance your career (again, you must advocate for yourself, as no one else will). Such a move does not show disloyalty to your current organization. In fact, most good managers would encourage a professional to seek this kind of advancement if it can’t be provided in-house. Remaining in a job you’ve outgrown and are dissatisfied with doesn’t do either you or your boss any good. Even though I might risk losing good people, I’d much rather see an employee happy and meeting their career goals than staying in dissatisfaction.
Reaching that moment when you feel ready to take the next step and tackle the next challenge is exciting. When it happens to you, take the opportunity be proactive, to advocate for yourself. Understand your value. Seek opportunities within your organization that aren’t obvious and haven’t even been thought of. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to move out so you can continue your climb up.
For more on the topic on getting ahead see: "Promo FOMO" on the topic of missing out on a promotion as well how to use the annual review process to get a promotion.
For the related topic of Career Planning see: "Careers Happen", "Career Journey" as well as "Chutes and Ladders".
Mark Overmann is Vice President of External Affairs at InterExchange, an international cultural exchange nonprofit in New York City, and coauthor of Working World: Careers in International Education, Exchange, and Development. (Georgetown University Press).