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How to Fast-Track Your Slowing Career Growth

How to Fast-Track Your Slowing Career Growth

Sometimes, even dozens of pats on the back from your boss won't do. Appreciation emails from clients and co-workers alike won't help either. Multiple platitudes from HR or an awesome appraisal don't seem enough too. That is because there truly is no substitute for growth. No matter what accolades you garner, achievements you have, and appreciation you gather at work, if it all doesn't ultimately translate to growth, you will be left miserable.

Career growth in today's world is critical. Job cycles today are shorter than ever, and talent is discoverable at the click of a mouse. If you don't plan to grow your own career, not only will you professionally stagnate, but you will soon find yourself missing emerging opportunities at work. Further, professionals who keep waiting for the 'right' opportunity or project often find that not only their company, but even their industry has passed them by in favor of more dynamic people. Good enough is just not good enough in today's professional environment. Managing one's career , and not just one's current role or job, is therefore essential.

Thankfully, today's professional environment provides plenty of opportunities to grow your skills, career, and network. We discuss here a few smart tips and tricks to get on the fast-track to career growth. Not all of these will be easy to do, but each one will give your career a definite nudge forward if practised.

Don't hope for progress; ASK for it: Far too many professionals never achieve the career progress they want because they just wait patiently for the organization (or their boss) to recognise them. That may be fine if you are very new in a role or a company, but if you feel that you are already stagnating in your current role, it's time to make the first move. Don't just discuss appraisals and projects with your boss or manager. State the position you want to be at, and discuss the characteristics you would need to demonstrate to get there. Don't let your appraisals be only about discussing the past - let it also discuss the future, and how you can get there . If that is not possible, observe other people at these positions - what do they do differently? Try to demonstrate those characteristics before you gun for that promotion.

Get a pulse of where your industry is going, and go there: What keeps executives up at night? The fear of being obsolete! At least that is what a recently conducted survey of 5,000 HR executives across 27 countries says . There is a plethora of skill courses out there today. From short-term, 1-day workshops to entire courses at platforms like Coursera, the options are plentiful. However, simply taking up a course and hoping that it will contribute to career progress will not work. Understand first the direction that your industry is taking, and the skills that are increasingly becoming relevant. For example, if you are a programmer, there is little utility you will get from taking yet another coding course. On the other hand, if you acquire skills in data analysis and Big Data management, they could pay off much more in the future. Similarly, if you are a marketer, taking courses on understanding new markets is useful, but taking one on targeting customers in the digital world is much more likely to add relevant skills that will be appreciated.

Be seen as possessing AND contributing expertise: Imagine the World Wide Web as it existed just a decade back, and compare it to what it is today. What has contributed to this explosive growth in internet usage and utility? Sharing! The Web 2.0 concept was based on user interaction, and it led people to discover more through sharing. If you have expertise, show people that you do. Write articles for LinkedIn Pulse, share your perspectives on key industry issues in your company blog, and network with other people from your industry who are interested in similar issues. At the very least, you will build a stronger network that you can leverage to move to better roles in the industry.

Look at office politics as - gasp! - an asset: This can easily be misunderstood, so let us elaborate. Back-stabbing, unfair criticism, and professional jealousies aren't desirable, but they are real. No matter how much we wish that they weren't real, they still will be. The truth simply is - you can be as good a contributor as anyone, but if you are seen as a loner, an uninterested social entity, and a self-absorbed employee, chances are low that you will get that promotion even if you deserve it. This is ever more true of appraisal systems today, which seek not just the opinion of one's immediate manager, but also of several colleagues (confidentially). Learning to deal with office politics and to manoeuvre around not just the professional but also the social systems in an office setting can therefore often be the difference between fast and slow growth. Rather than be a victim or someone who always complains about the situation, learn to manage it to your advantage . Understand how power equations within your office work, and avoid stepping on the toes of the sensitive and the mighty. Don't be seen as a loner - understand firm initiatives, and contribute to the progress of others as well. Be the go-to-guy (or girl) for at least a few critical areas. Be the life of the office party, not the retreating back-of-the-room nerd with a drink in hand. Yes, none of this is going to be easy, but think of it as investing in your workplace, just like you invest in your growth through managing your daily responsibilities well.

Get more education or help from an expert: Sometimes, a lack of growth can stem not from a lack of skills or recognition, but simply from a lack of interest. Perhaps your current role is something you just don't enjoy any longer. Maybe you took up this job just as a stop-gap and then stayed on longer than you should have. In these cases, expert career assessment and planning can help. Through it, you can evaluate the various other options you have, how you can seek them, and how you can achieve them. The answer may lie in more education ( getting an MBA or an advanced Master's ), in short-term skill development courses, a lateral move, or simply a change to a different function within your own organization.

(Image Credits: Pinterest)

( About the author: Rishabh Gupta is a Partner and a Consultant at GyanOne Universal , a premium career advisory, admissions consulting, and test preparation firm that works with high-potential clients in helping them achieve career outcomes.)

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