Human Resources

Progressing Your Career –taking ownership


Careers rarely move forward by themselves. While your employer may take an active interest in developing your skills and knowledge, it’s ultimately your responsibility to achieve your long-term career goals.

Everyone has different career ambitions. However, whether you want to become the next chief executive or just fancy a change of scenery, the following tips should help you make progress.

1. Exploit opportunities.

If you feel that your talents are not being fully utilised or developed, look for opportunities where you can apply your skills or gain experience. For example, volunteer to organise an event or be part of a working party, join a project team, offer to help induct new team members or overhaul ineffective systems or processes.

Keep your eye on internal bulletins for vacancies or secondment opportunities. Ask colleagues in other departments about any future opportunities and ask them how best to make your interest known. Ask your manager about job rotation or shadowing programmes.

2. Increase your visibility.

Not all career development opportunities are easy to spot or create. So, in order to make sure you are considered for any that arise, you will need to increase your visibility within the organisation through self-promotion. Self-promotion is about making others aware of your abilities and ambitions.

In order to build this awareness, you will need to market yourself and demonstrate your talents wherever possible. Exploit the opportunities that come your way, as mentioned above, and try to create your own. Think especially about promoting your ambition and potential in order to find opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge, e.g. if you want to manage others, you’ll need to demonstrate that you are responsible and have good interpersonal skills. Some additional suggestions are:

  • participate actively and positively in meetings
  • get involved in events and team activities, e.g. exhibitions, social events, charity work, staff council meetings, etc
  • offer to buddy, coach or mentor other team members
  • get to know people at all levels in other departments
  • write articles for inhouse newsletters and magazines

3. Discuss your career …

… with your manager. A career discussion with your manager can help you work out the best ways of bringing the opportunities you are looking for into your current role. Be clear in your own mind what it is you want to achieve and present some suggestions or options. You should work in partnership with your manager to discover solutions that are mutually beneficial. Be realistic and open to feedback and advice. Remember your manager will have objectives to meet and boundaries to work within.

… with your colleagues/friends. If you’re struggling to find any direction or answers to your career questions, ask your friends. If you feel frustrated and not sure how to take the initiative, ask the people whose opinion you value what they think you are good at or should be pursuing.

… with your family/partner/etc. Your career will impact on the people in your life outside your job. Their opinions will be valid and they often have a very good insight into your true needs.

4. Network.

Networking is a method of self-promotion and can be done both internally within an organisation, and externally. It involves building a directory of contacts with whom you can build productive, long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Your contacts are people you can call upon for advice, information, help or support.

Active networking involves targeting certain individuals or environments to plug gaps. For example, if you want to know more about marketing, you’ll need to find people who work in that field by either asking your existing contacts or attending events where marketing people are likely to be.

Some networking top tips:

  • Make the most of any networking opportunities in order to find new contacts to add to your network. For example, join a professional association, keep in touch with former colleagues, participate in web forums or networking groups and attend events.
  • Talk to your contacts about yourself, your career and your skills in a way that is clear and memorable.
  • Find out as much as you can about your contacts so that you can do your best to help them in return.
  • Work at maintaining the relationship. Get to know your contacts on a personal basis and keep in touch regularly. Don’t just contact them when you need their help.

5. Develop your knowledge.

The more you know about yourself the easier it is to identify the right career opportunity. The more you know about what’s available the greater choice you’ll have. It’s important, therefore, to be knowledgeable about your field of interest and to research other areas to explore any potential opportunities.

When considering your career options and choices, do you know what skills and experience you need? Do you know enough about the industry or sector to gauge whether opportunities are easy to find and the operating environment will suit you? Do this by:

  • looking at the job market and noting the requirements for the type of job you would like to do
  • tapping into your network for contacts in your field of interest
  • attending events, meetings, exhibitions, etc.
  • reading relevant journals, magazines and publications

6. Create a toolkit.

Being able to seize an opportunity when it presents itself is crucial. Whether the opportunity is a job that’s been advertised or a chance meeting with someone who thinks they can help you, you must be ready to respond in the most impressive and professional way. Consider the following as essential career progression tools:

  • CV and covering letter. Keep your CV up to date. Submitting a CV is often the first step in the recruitment process and yours must stand out from the crowd. A good, well-presented CV is therefore key to getting an interview and is your first opportunity to make a good impression. Always tailor your CV to the role you’re applying for. Employers are looking for a match between your abilities and their requirements. Always send your CV with a covering letter in which you should introduce yourself, briefly explain why you’re interested in the role and why you think you are a strong candidate.
  • Interview technique. Interviews can be nerve-racking but are the most common way of assessing candidates. Remember, an interview is an exchange of information and is your opportunity to evaluate the role against your career criteria so ask questions when invited to do so. Ask a colleague to interview you so you can practise talking about yourself and articulating your talents.
  • Journaling. Maintain a record of the achievements, skills and other competencies you develop throughout your career. Note all relevant development activities and events, responsibilities and achievements so you can update your CV accordingly.