Do you find yourself in a new full-time role, brimming with ambition, ready to take on the world but desperately in need of a plan for your career path ahead? The steps below can be a good starting point for those who want to map out their career path or those who would like to proactively find ways to stimulate growth and retention of great employees.
Recognize that everyone has their own list of duties and responsibilities. So even the best supervisors can’t commit as much time as they would like to your development. You have to take ownership of your career path discussions – based on your own interests and planning – and not rely on someone else to start the conversation.
Reflect and Prepare
Before you have any discussions with your supervisor, reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Assess which career paths within the organization interest you. Compare your perceived weaknesses with skills needed in the positions you aspire to. Identify those top skills you believe you may need to work on in order to even be considered. Make an outline of this assessment – maybe a clean one after your messy brainstorm – to prepare you to have a clear and succinct conversation.
Have the Conversation
Schedule a meeting with your supervisor and communicate in advance what you wish to discuss. Allow enough time and do your best to arrange meeting when your supervisor will be the least distracted. (Avoid busy times of year, important deadlines or major events). When preparing for the conversations, considering the following in addition to your skill assessment:
– Express intent – you really wish to stay with the organization but would like to grow.
– Location – are you willing to move or do you need to settle in one location?
– Personal interests – are there things you wish to do personally that will impact what you’re willing to commit to professionally? If so, you need to communicate those.
When having the conversation, make sure you share your personal vision – based on the assessment you did in preparation and how you see your plan playing out in the years ahead.
Make the Ask
You will likely be able to tell right away from your supervisor’s reaction how invested they are in the conversation. We can hope this is positive. Ultimately you could be faced with a couple of decisions:
1) If you believe your supervisor to be less engaged in helping you, the request may be for their assistance and support of steps you may take to embark on this career journey; or,
2) If they appear extremely interested in supporting you, your request may be for something very specific – some new responsibilities; a short sabbatical to shadow another position; a promotion; etc.
Write down what you agree upon. Adjust your plan as necessary and document it. Share your updated plan with your supervisor. There’s no better way to ensure long-term success than to document and communicate your goals.
Get to Work
Not only do you need to take action on what you and your supervisor decided, but you need to do amazing work in the meantime. Promotions in your career are rarely a product of poor work. You also need to develop additional support to assist in your journey. Think of who you might ask to serve on your personal Board of Directors. This group should include a variety of individuals who you know well, will help you assess your plans and strengths, and provide you critical feedback to help you grow. This will be a great third-party sounding board for you.
Along this journey, there are a few things you need to consider. I’d call these non-negotiables.
– You cannot neglect your current work. You MUST bust your tail and do great work in your current role.
– Be patient. It’s great to have ambition but you need to be realistic – this cannot happen overnight.
– Don’t neglect self. If your path includes steps that you believe will make you unhealthy or unhappy, think again.
– Be aware of politics. They’re everywhere and some people love playing politics more than others. Just be aware of people’s motives and how they help or hinder your plans.
If you do a great job of taking ownership of your journey, assess and plan, speak candidly and often about your interests to those who can support you, and do amazing work – you will be hard pressed to fail. Know that this is not a straight-line career path. It will have many curves, round-a-bouts, peaks and valleys. Keep putting in the work and you will be fine. You will end up somewhere slightly different than you originally envisioned and the path will take you to places you didn’t expect, but if you stay true to yourself and your interests, it will work out in your favor.
This blog post was written by guest writer Mark Stewart, Ed.D. President & CEO of Agriculture Future of America
View another great blog by AFA regarding creating a 5-Year Plan