How can I create my own career path within my company?

Monday, July 28th, 2008 - Blog

Corporate Career Planning

Creative Commons License photo credit: CoincidenceUNO

Curtis asks: My entire career so far has been in the same industry. I chose a particular discipline to focus on, but I am discovering that my company has a limited career path for me to follow. My skills go beyond my focus discipline, but even those areas limited. I really enjoy what I do but would like to know what my future could be and to know I have options. Any suggestions on how to create my own path would be greatly appreciated!

In answer:
Everyone – particularly those in corporate employment – need a career plan: so well done for spotting the need Curtis.

I don’t think the “inside one corporate” career path is that different to the self-managed career path, and it offers more opportunities. Your soft side skills enable you to be liked and offered opportunity in wider markets that a self-managed career path would not. However, the downside is is that if you don’t get on with someone, or the markets change and they sell/close your division, then your career path opportunities become narrow.

As with all career path management, I suggest you set a goal. That is easily and best achieved in corporates by saying “I want so and so’s job:” yes, pick an individual. Then, read about them – how did they get where they got to, and why: training, experience, focus. Once you know that, approach them (Mega Corp via your boss or HR department; smaller size by approaching their assistant), and asking for a 30min meeting to discuss them and career opportunities within the organisation. Most good corporates will do that easily, its just having the courage to ask. From that you may well get yourself a mentor, which is what you are really looking for.

After that, network, communicate and volunteer – you still get paid, so what’s the problem; and the more you do, the more you will be asked to do and trusted.

  1. Network yourself and raise your visibility: target specific people in the company who would be great to interact with and who can help you learn about the options that are there.
  2. Communicate your intentions to people who can assist in your goals: I’d enlist my HR business partner (if they have them) and let them know that you are committed to the company but want to expand your knowledge beyond what you are doing now. Also -feel out your manager to see how open s/he would be in assisting you development -but keep in mind that you hold the sole responsibility for that. If you find that there are no resources in your company – perhaps you should start looking.
  3. Volunteer to assist on projects outside your immediate responsibility: in today’s world, all departments are short handed – so people are open for an extra set of hand. Don’t let it interfere with your primary job but be flexible.

From a combination of mentor and approach, you should find a path which suits you – from that draw up an initial plan. In review of your second or third draft (with your mentor, with your HR partner), add in a few “transportable skills” should the division in which you work be sold or you meet with that career blocker – at least then your choices are widened over narrowed. This widening is often best achieved through academic qualifications – the MBA, certificates, the Harvard Exec program etc, which are all tax-deductible costs for the corporation.

Finally – I want to tell you that you are half way there just for asking the question. The thing that most corporate career people seem to say is the lack of opportunity, where as most corporate HR people would complain about the lack of ambition in most of their employees. If you are willing to create an opportunity and career with your existing employer, I think you will be amazed by the reaction. But key to all this is finding a mentor.

Good Luck – and if I can help further, please: just ask!

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