Throughout my career, I have encountered many employees, peers, and superiors who were disappointed, even frustrated, because they were not selected for a promotion or new position they felt was theirs. They believed they were top performers delivering results. In some cases, they were. They believed their managers should have done more for them. In some cases, those managers should have. While growing your career is not an exact science, and a one size fits all approach is not possible, there are certain actions one should take, and others to avoid, to increase the chances of landing that next role.

Take ownership of your career

“We need people to take responsibility for their career,” says Dr. Tracey Wilen, a prominent career expert. This is THE starting point. Unless you are still living in the 80’s, you better take ownership quickly, or you will be waiting for a “tap on the shoulder” that will not come.

The company is not your family

I know many companies describe themselves as a “family.” They are not. Stop looking at the organization as your family; they are not your mom and dad. Dr. Wilen suggests you look at your organization as your team; a team you need to help and one that can help you. You should stop thinking the company will stand by you no matter what, or that somehow they owe you something. They do not. For that, you have your real family.

Yes, you have more seniority. So what?

Unless you work in a union environment, your length of service or rank means nothing. Just because you have been there the longest, it does not mean you will be promoted or offered the role you want. You must demonstrate the necessary skills, deliver value, and poses the right image.

Image = culture fit. If you do not project the right image, you will not get picked

Most of us prefer to socialize with people we get along. Same applies in the workplace. If you do not fit in with the team around you, it means you do not align with the culture. Moreover, if you do not fit, you will not grow, at least not with that organization. Identify the characteristics and values that are important to the organization. If you do not like the culture, try to change it. If you can not change it, move on. Do not waste time and energy complaining about it. No one likes a complainer; instead, bring solutions to the challenges. If you decide to leave the company, try to leave on good terms.

Creating value vs. completing tasks

Many employees expect to receive a promotion by delivering on tasks that just meet the expectations. Completing tasks may get you inside the arena, but will not get you on the court to play. If playing is what you want, then focus on creating value. Look for ways to improve systems, processes, and the people around you. Find blind spots the company has and help to fix them.

Increase your knowledge about other departments

We know that continually developing yourself is essential, especially with changes taking place so rapidly. If you are not already, I suggest you urgently look at increasing your knowledge and skill set beyond what you already know. However, one area many fail to invest time and effort is in learning what others department do, why, and how. There is nothing more disappointing than hearing a person not wanting to learn about the functions around them. I frequently hear statements like: “I am not good with numbers,” or “don’t ask me about people stuff, I am not in HR.” The worst part is when these are said with pride as if it was a virtue. Really? You think that is acceptable? No one expects you to become an expert, but at least understand some of the basic concepts and the needs of other departments so you can be a better contributor. Dedicate time to talk to other areas of the business and learn from them.

Most companies advertise. So should you

Coca-Cola has been around for over 100 years, yet they still advertise. Why? Because they need to remind you that they exist. Consider letting others know you exist too. Marketing yourself is about taking on activities that let others see what you have to offer, the results you have achieved (or can achieve), your ideas (and solutions), and your interest in growing. It also involves knowing who are the decision makers and those who can help you. I am not suggesting you become an egomaniac or so self-centered that no one wants you around. Be strategic, be a collaborator, develop trust and credibility, and pick the right moments to share your interests and thoughts.

While there are other variables and intricacies to consider, the above are some of the essential ones I have learned and seen over the years. If you want your employer to grow your career, you will miss many opportunities. The company and your manager do play a vital role, but it is not the “come get me, come invite me, come tell me” responsibility you believe they have. You are in charge. Take ownership and develop a plan of action. You will get much closer to your goals if you do.

Your journey, your career. Own it.

“The most important instrument to career development, growth, and success is you. Therefore, you must work to stretch beyond your comfort zone, fine tune what you have to offer, and must do so continuously.”  – Gustavo Serbia

Author: Gustavo Serbia

I work in human resources at Crescent Hotels & Resorts. I also started Stretch the String, dedicated to career development, human resources, management, and leadership. For more on my content follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or at stretchthestring.com. I will respond to your comments and feedback.

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