Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that in order to get the most from career moves or advancement you must first understand yourself—your needs and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Once you have that core understanding, you can be intentional about your career choices and your strategy.
Here are some of the key ways you can be intentional in your career:
1) When plotting your career progression, know your core priorities.
Every time I make a decision in my career, I think about the why. What is it that’s really important to me when it comes to work-life balance, opportunities, and overall experience? For me personally, there are three key things I think about when contemplating a career move: culture, flexibility around work-life balance, and opportunities to learn. I’m a working mum so I want to be able to pick my child up from the nursery, but I also want to be on a constant, steep learning trajectory. If I ever feel like I’m plateauing, that’s when I start to think about moving.
Moving to a smaller start-up allowed me to change my learning trajectory whilst still giving me the flexibility I wanted. I’m taking on new responsibilities that weren’t available to me when I worked at larger companies. That was a deciding factor in my decision to move, and I was able to confidently make that decision because I knew exactly what was important to me and what I was looking for.
Employers also really like it when you’re showing that you’re being intentional in a career move and it’s certainly something I look for when hiring into my team.
2) Focus on gathering skills and experiences.
When I think about my career trajectory, I don’t think about the title so much anymore. I care more about gathering skills and gathering experiences that I know will eventually help me progress to something bigger. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what your title is if you’re gaining those skills and experiences. If you’re pursuing skills, you’re creating a holistic career for yourself. It might lead you to somewhere you didn’t realize was even possible for you.
3) Seek mentorship for specific needs.
The first time I’d heard of mentorship was at the beginning of my career at LinkedIn, and when I arrived people advised me to get a mentor. The problem was that I didn’t know what I needed to work on with a mentor. In retrospect, I probably wasted a whole lot of their time.
To make the most of mentorship, recognize what skills you want to improve and where you want to develop. Then find someone who has the ability to help you develop those skills instead of just getting a mentor for mentor’s sake. Have a purpose, choose wisely and always prepare questions or specific scenarios so you’re making the most of your time with your mentor.
It’s also OK to have more than one mentor if you’re looking for coaching in various different areas.
4) Run towards the fire.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given was actually quite recently: run to the fire! If you see an opportunity or a problem that needs to be solved, run to it rather than away from it. That’s often where you can learn new skills, get new experiences and build your brand across the business.
This can be scary because of course our natural instinct is to get far away from major problems. But, if we want to learn and develop, that’s exactly where we need to be.
5) Know your purpose.
You can achieve things above and beyond what you thought possible if you know what’s driving you. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What gets you out of bed every day?
All of us are aiming for something larger—opportunities to travel, provide for our family, etc. By knowing your purpose and using it to guide you, you can become much more productive and resilient and get a lot more joy out of day to day work.
As you gain new experiences, you may find that what you want out of your career changes. By opening yourself up to those experiences and understanding your core priorities, you can develop your career both organically and intentionally.