It’s a new year, which means many people are making resolutions and goals in both their personal and professional lives. One thing that has been on my mind lately is taking the reins on my career. I’m fortunate to work for a company whose mission includes providing rewarding careers to team members. In the long run, though, my career growth is up to me. I think one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the companies they work for is that it’s the company’s responsibility to look after their career. But that’s just not true. Sure, a company can provide great growth opportunities, but ultimately it is the team member who has to work at their own career goals and steer their career toward those growth opportunities.
So, how do you take ownership of your career? Here are five ways to start.
#1: Step out of your comfort zone.
One of our CEO’s favorite sayings is “Get comfortable being uncomfortable,” and this is certainly applicable to your career goals. I would not be in my current role if I hadn’t been willing to take a few risks and explore the unfamiliar. My background is in teaching, training, and writing. Though I was able to carry all of this knowledge over into my role as Talent Marketing Manager, I didn’t come from a marketing background. In truth, I did feel a little uncomfortable during the first few months in this role. This discomfort only encouraged me to work harder and has truly benefited me in the long run, allowing me to develop skills and ideas I didn’t think were possible for me.
#2: Speak up.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, if something is bothering you, if you have a differing viewpoint or opinion… speak up. I’m going to be honest – this is something I am still working on. It’s probably something I will continue to work on throughout my career. My team lead often reminds me that she doesn’t know how I feel unless I tell her. Earlier in my career, at a different company, I never felt empowered to voice my opinion, and this has carried over into present day. Fortunately, Daxko is huge on transparency, and team members are encouraged to speak up. I have gained more confidence in expressing my thoughts and even saying “no”. If you’re uncomfortable speaking up in person, try writing it out first. It’s okay to practice what you’re going to say before you actually say it. Of course, sometimes “on the spot” can’t be helped; if you’re in a meeting and you want to express a differing opinion, do it thoughtfully, respectfully, and don’t let someone speak over you until you have finished your thought.
#3: Have a long-term goal, and learn skills to help you achieve it.
During my early years at Daxko, I quickly realized that although I enjoyed the training aspect of my job, my ultimate goal was to work on Daxko’s marketing team. When I was a trainer, I sat close to the marketing team and was privy to some of their brainstorms and discussions, and that’s when it clicked: that was the team I wanted to be on. In addition to an Education degree, I have an English degree with a concentration in rhetoric. I was putting my Education degree to use as a trainer, but I have always loved writing and creative processes more than teaching. I recognized that I would be able to put my expertise in persuasive writing to use as a part of the marketing team. Once I had this goal in mind, I began to get to know members of the marketing team and schedule meetings to learn skills from them, such as Pardot and WordPress. These tools helped me in my role as a trainer (I was in charge of the Services monthly newsletter), but the knowledge also gave me an edge when I was interviewing for my marketing role.
#4: Never stop learning.
At Daxko, all team members receive an annual professional development budget to use on courses, books, conferences, or activities that will help us get better at our jobs or learn new skills. In past roles and my current role, I have used part of my professional development money on certification courses to learn more about my field and develop my skillset. Learning shouldn’t stop when you graduate from college. On the contrary, most of the knowledge I have gained through professional development has been more valuable to my career than my college classes. If you work at a company that does not provide a professional development budget, you can still develop your skillset. There are plenty of free or affordable online courses through sites like ALISON, Lynda, and Coursera, just to name a few. Read blogs that pertain to your field. Find thought leaders to follow on Twitter. And ultimately, you won’t know what costs your company might be willing to help cover unless you ask, so keep #2 in mind, speak up, and discuss professional development with your manager.
#5: Find a mentor.
I didn’t have a career mentor until last year. Don’t get me wrong – I have had plenty of mentors in the past who have helped guide and shape me into the person I am today. Last year, though, I sought out a mentor in my field who I could trust not only for career advice, but for professional advice in general. Because I am still fairly young in my career, there have been many situations I have encountered in the workplace that are new to me. That’s why it’s great to have a mentor who is more experienced and who has faced these same situations in the past. When you’re seeking a mentor, I suggest someone in your field (or the field you want to move into) and someone easy to talk to. Many of the conversations I have with my mentor are about our personal lives, and I really value the fact that my mentor has gotten to know me and truly cares about me. I suggest meeting in person once every couple of months (or monthly, if you can swing it) to catch up, and of course, email, call, or text your mentor whenever you need advice.
Remember, your career and development are in your hands. As you think about how to grow in 2017, keep these tips in mind. Have a vision, and make this the year you take strides to achieve it!
Janna B. is Daxko’s Talent Marketing Manager who is slowly becoming a morning person and wishes she lived in the 1960s/70s.
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