Moving on up — how to develop your career

4 Minute Read | Author: Amanda Phelan

BEING good at your job, and fulfilled by your chosen career, are among life’s most satisfying achievements. But it’s important to continue to develop your career because − like anything − it can suffer if it stalls or stagnates. 

And the experts agree a plan of career development is vital to help prepare you to apply for advanced positions and take on more responsibilities on the job − and more money in your pocket. 

Research, and attaining the right skill set, are key writes Peter Cullen, in the Australian Institute of Management magazine, Career Doctor. 

“Your ability to accurately determine the skills and attributes needed to fulfil the requirements of your career progression requires research, honest self-reflection and time,” Cullen says. 

“Where practical, your research will involve discussions with the person currently in your chosen role, their peers, the person they report to, HR and anyone else you think is relevant to better understanding the role. This assumes the role is with your current employer. This will be more difficult for external opportunities where you will need to rely on the internet and any industry or company contacts you have.” 

Cal Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown in the United States, calls knowing your strengths at work “career capital“, a concept he focuses on in his book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. 

“Career capital are the skills you have that are both rare and valuable and that can be used as leverage in defining your career,” he writes. 

“Basic economic theory tells us that if you want something that’s both rare and valuable, you need something rare and valuable to offer in return − this is Supply and Demand 101. It follows that if you want a great job, you need something of great value to offer in return.” 

So, how do you put yourself on the fast track for career development?  

Dr Anya Johnson, from the University of Sydney Business School, shares these five tips: 

  1. Build and manage your network:Meet people in your industry and keep in contact with them – make an effort to see them or email them at least once a year. Your contacts can help you keep up to date with what’s happening in your industry, they can give you support when you need it and advocate on your behalf.  
  2. Create the role that suits (and extends) you: A job is never just what’s written in the job description. There is always scope to craft it in different directions and shift the boundaries in ways that provide opportunities for new challenges and to continue to develop your strengths. It will also keep you interested and possibly help you stand out.
  3. Proactively seek feedback: Ask others around you to give you feedback on the parts of your job you want to improve on. This might be a colleague you trust, or your manager. Sharing the parts of your job you want to get better at, and getting others involved in helping you make it happen, can be the springboard you need. 
  4. If you have something nice to say − say it: We often notice what isn’t working or the things others do badly. But try to notice when something goes well and don’t let the opportunity to mention it slip past. Your colleagues, boss and your employees will feel much more energised and encouraged when you give them positive feedback, and you will be creating a positive work environment. 
  5. Put yourself in others' shoes: Always consider how something looks / sounds from the receiver’s perspective. So when you write an email, before sending it off, read it through as though you were receiving it. Taking a little more time to consider how you are communicating will pay off in the long run. 

So, there you have it. You’re armed with good advice from the professionals in-the-know − now, it’s up to you to use these tools and move forward. See you at the top.