It’s National Career Development Month, and we’re debunking some common myths surrounding the career development journey.
Career paths look different for everyone—there is no one-size-fits-all approach to career development. So, why believe that there are only a few tried-and-true ways to succeed?
In honor of National Career Development Month, we wanted to look at the many ways people come to reach their career goals. In addition to showcasing four Progress career stories, we shared five common myths about career development, and why they aren’t the be-all end-all of professional achievement.
Managers play an active role in career development and in supporting you identify opportunities to grow. They have an essential role in coaching and enabling you to take responsibility. While there are career influences outside your control, it is important to identify what is within. You know your career journey best so you can best outline your future aspirations.
There is a cultural element to this. I have been conditioned to expect my work to speak for itself, and to think that asking for opportunities comes at the risk of me appearing overly ambitious, forward or too eager (in my head, at least). So, part of my journey was consciously unlearning some things and learning how to be more open about my expectations and aspirations. Identifying and discussing what I want to work toward is a crucial component of crafting a plan forward with my manager.
One common shock we have encountered with new managers is that becoming a leader often requires you to unlearn how to be an individual contributor and shift your mindset—from solving challenges hands-on to empowering others and delegating, from managing your calendar, to balancing multiple, etc. If this is the direction you want your career to take, this is excellent. However, it is equally excellent to choose to develop as an individual contributor. Having direct reports is not the only marker of career growth: Focus on building your skills, growing your internal and external networks and identifying opportunities for new projects or roles you can take. Horizontal and vertical career development are both equally important paths you can take to grow in your career.
Your degree can determine your career path, don’t get me wrong. If you want to pursue a career in a field that requires deep domain knowledge, you need a degree (e.g., medicine, law, architecture, etc.). That is not, however, the full picture. Your degree is one element, among many, that you can consider when envisioning your path. There are multiple examples of people working jobs that did not exist when they graduated, as well as people changing roles, positions or industries entirely. There is more to your career than your choice of major. Consider your experience, your interests, any transferrable skills or knowledge, your passion projects, your learnings and accomplishments. Think about how you can leverage all this to identify where to advance your career next.
Rest matters. Off hours are not a luxury item. To do our best work, we need quality downtime. Hard work and extra hours aren’t always synonymous. There are moments when we do have to stay extra hours, but doing so consistently can signal lack of productivity or time management as easily as it can signal a solid work ethic. Talk to your manager to understand their expectations of you, align on clear objectives and set measurable key results. Partner with your manager to co-create an individual development plan and set an ongoing cadence of reviewing it.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It has to be one of the earliest forms of career conversations we experience. Maybe your answer changed overtime, but the essence behind the question remains evergreen:
“What is career development to you?”
When we ask this question at Progress, we are used to getting very varied answers: A promotion, more money, learning new skills, having larger impact or new interesting projects. The list goes on.
Career development means different things to different people at different times. Besides, people, companies, the job market and whole industries change constantly. It is as complex as people are complex.
A career journey can be linear, but the trajectory depends on where you choose to go next. From career ladder, to career wall, to career maps: There are multiple paths you can take. Where you go next depends largely on two things: Where you can and where you want to go.
Mariyan Vasev is a psychologist, a knowledge-sharing geek, and a Talent Development Manager at Progress. He is part of the People Team and likes learning and supporting others' growth. Some of the projects he is involved in include the Mentorship program, onboarding, and LEAD, the global manager development program at the company. He is also a co-leader of Plus, the LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG) at Progress.
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