By Kathleen E. Murphy
Most people at some point in their career have thought about what it will take to move up to the next level. For those people who work at companies with over 100 people, the company generally has developed a career path for you. However, if the company is a start-up company and grown rapidly, then this may not be the case. The reality for most people is they are working at a small to mid-size company which has not put thought into developing a career path for all of its employees. So, without a defined career path, how does a person navigate to the next level in their career?
Let’s make the assumption most people are interested in what would be involved with moving up to the next level in their career, and they believe they are ready to do so within the next 3-6 months. Some companies may have a policy in place defining how long a person needs to remain in their role before they can be considered for a promotion. So, it would be helpful to know this before you start down the path of inquiring about your next role and be disappointed to find out you will not be able to move into a new role for a period of time which may not suit you. However, knowing the “rules of engagement” when it comes to moving and navigating to the next level in your career will serve you well. Generally, you can find out if a company has a policy by asking your HR department if they have defined a policy on career advancement. As I noted earlier, most companies will not have this, so here is my advice on how to develop your own career path to the next level.
This may seem counterintuitive, but you need to first think about why you want to move to the next level. Is it because you have been in the role for more than 12-18 months and have plateaued in terms of your learning curve? Are you interested in moving to the next level to gain more responsibility or a pay raise? Or, are you thinking it is time to move to the next level simply because you see your peers in the company or at other companies making upward careers moves?
Most companies will offer an annual performance review, and this is the perfect time to talk to your boss about what your career path options within the company would be. If your company does not offer an annual review, you can ask your boss to provide you with one, or ask your HR department if they could assist you in this process. Prior to going through your performance review, think about and chronicle all of the things you have accomplished in your role in the past year, and be able to provide examples of how these accomplishments have contributed to helping the company. Next think about how you would be able to take on more responsibility in your role or explore opportunities to take either on-line classes or attend industry related events or go to networking sessions to learn more about how to become better and advance in your current role. Networking opportunities will provide you with a chance to talk to others who are in roles above you, and to learn what they did to move up to the next level. The majority of people you talk to will be very happy with sharing how they navigated their career advancements, and what you will quickly find is that there are multiple ways to do so.
As I have talked about in one of my articles about the importance of having a “mentor” make sure before you begin your journey of seeking out your career path advancement, that you have a mentor who can also guide you through the process. Your mentor can either be someone within the company at a senior level, or someone outside of the company. Your mentor will be able to help you to think through and plot out a strategy for your career advancement discussion to have with your boss. They can also candidly let you know whether they think you are ready to navigate to the next career level, as you may not have the insight and experience required to know whether you are truly ready to navigate upwards.
Navigating to the next career level can be both exciting and nerve wracking simultaneously. Using the energy from being excited to explore moving up to the next level in your career takes practice, so keep this in mind as you are going through the process. Be sure to also leverage others advice as you are plotting your upward mobility strategy, as this is really a “team sport” exercise even though it may not appear to be one.
Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me Too. Market Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at firstname.lastname@example.org.