By Liz Reyer Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Q: I've been in my first job since college for a few years now, and don't really see myself advancing. There aren't a lot of opportunities within this company (it's pretty small) and my boss doesn't mentor me. In particular, I'd like to manage people, but she hasn't helped make that happen. What should I do to keep growing professionally?
A: Take your career into your own hands, including a broader look for opportunities.
THE INNER GAME
Settle in, get grounded and do some reflection on your career. Consider what's most important to you and where you'd like to be in the future. When you entered the job market, what were your hopes and objectives? Where are you now in relation to them?
Also recognize that your ideas will evolve based on your experiences; do yours still take you in a direction that serves you?
Getting more concrete, think through the experiences you need to move forward. For example, you have a goal of managing people.
In your view, what makes a great leader? Be specific in terms of the qualities that are needed, the inner characteristics and external alike. Then map out your strengths and development areas.
Look closely at your current organization. In particular, notice if there are opportunities for growth that you may have overlooked such as a leader in a different part of the company who may be an excellent mentor. Also determine whether there are next-step jobs that you'd be interested in.
Now, think about what you'd do if you moved on. Knowing what you now know, what type of organization would you like to work for? Size, mission, even location, let the sky be the limit. Know what you'd like and why it would be appealing.
THE OUTER GAME
Regardless of your circumstances, you're responsible for your own growth. Take steps to learn as much as you can from the people around you and the role you're in.
Be reflective, thinking of ways to improve current processes or to get better outcomes. Seek out people you can learn from and ask them to help you. Most will say yes, people love to help, and it's flattering to be asked. And don't forget to talk to your boss. Go to her with specific development requests rather than hoping that she'll see your need and know how to address it on her own.
Also focus on self-development outside of your current role. Seek ways to use your strengths in new settings; if work doesn't provide the chance, consider volunteer leadership roles. Also focus on development areas that may be holding you back.
Recognize that some workplaces are less conducive to learning; if that's the case, start pursuing other options. Based on your vision, identify some organizations you'd like to work for.
If you're still not sure, request informational interviews to learn more. Talk to people about the values, skills and backgrounds that are valued. Because growth is important to you, figure out which companies really follow through on staff development.
THE LAST WORD
There are lots of opportunities out there, take charge of your future to find your next fit. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Liz Reyer is a credentialed coach with more than 20 years of business experience. Her company, Reyer Coaching & Consulting, offers services for organizations of all sizes.