Ready to get to the next stage in your career? Whether you’re taking on responsibilities or stepping into a leadership position, the next step in a career is different for everyone and is largely dependent on your skills and goals. There is no one-size-fits-all path for career development, but actionable steps lead to reality. Here’s what you can be doing to make your dreams a reality with the advice from IAW member and Career Development Strategist, Latika Vines:
1. Decide What is the Next Step
You might be dissatisfied now, but you need to know where you want to go. Start by visualizing your ideal day at work. What are some things you enjoy about your job? Are you looking to switch careers? Are you in an office, at home, managing a team, running a business, etc.? What kind of work-life balance do you want? “I encourage you to take a moment to ask yourself if that career goal is real to you and what will motivate you to achieve it,” says Vines. Narrowing down what you like and doing a bit of research can aid you in finding that dream job.
To help you think through your goal, here are some questions Vines suggests asking:
- What will life be like when I have achieved my goal?
- What are the small objectives to achieve my career goal?
- What do I need to motivate me to start, continue, and complete my career goal?
- Who can I lean on for support to pursue my career goal?
- Who has achieved my career goal? and what did he/she do to achieve it? how can I do the same thing?
2. Create a Career Plan
Career development looks objectively at where you are right now and where you are headed. By creating an actionable step-by-step career plan, you identify gaps in your skills and knowledge. Also, consider adding projects that would be similar to the work required for your dream position. “Yes, this is additional work on top of your already busy workday, but the network and additional experience you will gain from those special projects and committees will make you more valuable in your organization and/or to the next organization,” says Vines. The more detailed a plan, then the better chance of achieving your goals.
“I believe that women are natural-born leaders; however, in male-dominated industries, we have to prove 10x more than our male counterparts that we are leaders,” says Vines. “To prove that we are/can be the perfect fit for an executive/managerial position.” Once you start acquiring new skills and completing projects, it becomes evidence of your growth to higher-ups. Vines suggests gaining the following skills to prove you have what it takes:
- Change management
- Emotional intelligence
- Decision making
- Strategic planning
Informational interviews or a career coach can add to your career planning if you are unsure how to take the next step. Ask people who have done it before, especially a mentor or coach, who can point you in the right direction. Remember that not everyone follows the same path, but getting advice and insider knowledge gives you an awareness of the road ahead. You are not alone in your career development, so lean on your IAW community!
3. Conduct a Needs Assessment
A mini needs assessment will identify the gaps in the working environment and potential solutions you can fulfill in a given time. You know better than anyone what problems you encounter at work. Root out why these issues happen and find solutions if possible. Here are some questions from Latika Vines to get you started:
- What do I want out of my career?
- Am I valued in my current organization?
- In 3-5 years from now, what position do I want?
- What is causing me to feel doubt and fear, preventing me from stepping out of my comfort zone?
4. Schedule Time
You might know what you want next, but do not assume others do. Schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your career advancement. The best time would be a lull in work as a looming deadline will stress both parties, and your request could get pushed to the side. Be sure to stick to the agreed time! No one wants their schedule pushed back on account of a too-long meeting. If you feel you will need an hour, then ask for an hour. It is better to end early than rush through and not get the time you deserve.
5. Request Your Specific Next Step
Since the pandemic, 58% of women are somewhat or fully comfortable asking for a pay raise, and the next year is predicted to see an increase in men’s comfortability to ask for benefits than women. While there are many factors that go into this, gaining the confidence in yourself to ask can become possible for more women.
From the previous steps, you will be going into the meeting with a detailed career plan, new skills, completed projects, and an assessment of the working environment as hard evidence. You can step into that meeting confident with a specific request and why you deserve it. If you took on extra work, ask for the raise you want. If you want a senior position, present your accomplishments. It will be difficult for any superior to turn you down. In case your boss needs additional time, schedule a follow-up meeting to ensure your request is acknowledged.
6. No Doesn’t Mean No Forever
No can mean several things. It can mean: it is not in the budget, requires a bidding process for promotions, or your boss thinks you are not ready. The response is disheartening, but it is an opportunity to find out what you may be missing. Ask follow-up questions like:
- What will improve my chances of receiving this promotion in the future?
- How do I apply for______ within the company’s policies and procedures?
- Who can I learn from to advance my knowledge and skills?
Your employer should be willing to help you in your advancement and, if they are not meeting your expectations, it might be time to move to the next opportunity in a new organization.
Career growth requires a little planning and taking action to step into the role of your dreams. It does not have to be something you work on alone. IAW is here to help you at any step of your career, whether networking, finding a mentor, or gaining new skills. Check out everything an IAW member has access to on our website!