There’s a crazy amount of career tips for consumption on the internet. I also know it’s hard to know what’s relevant in 2022 versus the obsolete information that also litters the internet. With my experience as a seasoned HR executive coupled with my time as a career strategist, I have a holistic view of the professional world.
In this post, I share the need-to-know career tips you’ve likely never considered as you make your professional moves.
First things first, I want to note a few things worth mentioning.
Careers do not look the same person to person. What one person does successfully another may struggle to accomplish —both situations are totally fine and should be normalized.
Career Tip #1: Understand that career growth can also be linear
This concept is illuminating once you really get into what I’m saying. We tend to think career growth comes in the form of promotions, more money, or leadership roles—which they do. However, think about career growth as a dynamic element that can also shift left and right rather than up and down.
Consider this example:
Your manager is going out on leave for an extended period of time and she asks you to take on a bulk of her day-to-day tasks. You may shirk at the thought of additional work, but a fast follow-up emotion may be curiosity because it’s an opportunity for you to gain a different skill set. One that you may not have necessarily had a chance to exercise previously. Without the promotion or permanent salary increase, your growth came by widening your expertise.
Quite honestly, I find this type of growth far more beneficial than upward growth simply because you’re adding to a wealth of knowledge as you climb the corporate ladder. I see too many professionals who aren’t well-rounded in their experience which sometimes hinders their ability to be impactful in roles of leadership. Not to mention the curse of a fast ascension. That deserves a post on its own so I won’t dig too far into that, but understand there’s a dark side there as well.
Career Tip #2: I promise you. Your manager is NOT a mind reader.
I totally get having a manager is a necessary-evil. A good manager, or even a decent one, is invaluable! But, seldom do they really know what you want professionally, unless you tell them—explicitly. Your manager can assume on your behalf with minimal success but I guarantee you they are going to tire of the one-sided guessing game. It’s not enough to communicate your needs or wants during your yearly performance review. It should be consistent conversation where you’re sharing what you’re looking for, discussing if the need is being met, or better yet, if it’s possible.
In doing so, you should have an idea of a clear ask. For example, are you looking for:
- More autonomy and agency
- Work flexibility
- Expanded responsibilities
- Bigger projects or more interesting work
- More money or promotion
- Management role
Now this is not permission to be a jerk or a squeaky wheel that can’t get work done because you are too stuck. You’ll never get anywhere with that approve. Just take this as a friendly reminder that communication is key as well as self-advocacy.
Career Tip #3: Not Everything You Want Will Be Possible
This is the other side #2.
You may have one very specific and seemingly easy request. And you can’t understand why it’s so hard to get. The answer may be as simple as your organization can’t do it. Everything and everyone has a limitation, whatever it is, and your ask may lie right outside the realm of possibilities. From my experience I’ve come across many requests for employees and we simply can’t meet the expectation. It’s not that we don’t want to, we just can’t.
This difficult discussion can open up some “negotiation” or finding a balance in the middle especially since talent is hard to retain these days.
Once you have a greater understanding of what’s possible, you will have a much more fruitful and productive conversation.
But here’s a very hard truth: If your ask is that important and you are not willing to budge, you should have some level of comfort resigning. I don’t offer this career tip and advice lightly.
A Real Life Scenario
Although I feel like this one is pretty obvious, I’ll put it into context to further illustrate the point:
If you’re a director and want a VP-level position working at a small(ish) company. The chances of there being a need for a senior role could be small since they probably want to avoid a top-heavy organization. The Leadership team members will be asking do they need another VP? Is there enough of a scope for this person? Does the long-term direction of the company support this decision? Do they want another VP? Most importantly, are you even the right person for the job if they decided to hire? If the company lands on a ‘No’ (again, because the business need may not be there), your best bet is to find a company that has a recognized need for your expertise at your desired level.
Career Tip #4: It’s Entirely Possible to Over Stay Your Welcome — Don’t Be That Person!
There, I said it!
It’s completely a thing to say too long at a job. This is my opinion, but I feel like it’s becoming increasingly more rare to find people who stay their entire careers at one company. It’s an aging practice—and one that I’m personally okay with going away.
Long gone are the days of staying with one employer until retirement, unless you founded that company. Even then they eventually step down and let someone else run the show.
We need a refresh every so often. We get complacent and bored, or worse, disengaged. Work performance starts to slip, become overly snarky when it’s most inappropriate, no one enjoys working with you anymore, you disregard rules or policy, the list goes on and on. We all know that person who feels toxic or is miserable to be around. I cannot tell you how many different ways a disengaged person shows up in the workplace. I can tell you it often leads to a dreaded conversation with your manager and I.
When I look at the person’s history, they are usually people who are very long-tenured.
I recommend when you feel yourself starting to become unenchanted with significant parts of your job, let it go. It’s okay. You deserve to work somewhere that excites you or at the very least you don’t hate.
Career Tip #5: If It Scares You, Do It.
I’ve hinted at this a few times throughout this post so it’s worth calling it out. Fear can be healthy when in the right context, especially if it forces us out of our comfort zone into something new that be beneficial. If you find yourself in a situation where you’re tasked to try something out of your wheelhouse and it scares you, it’s what you need to be taking on. I’m not going to place qualifiers on this because I know it’ll provide one inch of an out.
Just trust that you were brought into that situation not to run scared.
Take on that project, that promotion, that task, that [insert challenge] and you could out on the other side better for it.
Career Tip #6: Give Yourself the Opportunity to Say No
This not applicable to #5 (nice try!) but it can lend itself to it, indirectly.
This advice is something I literally tell every single person any chance I get. You should always be on the lookout for the next career move—you never know when that will be. In the generation of LinkedIn, it’s easier than every for recruiters and sourcers to reach out to passive candidates and lure them away with the promise of an upgraded career situation. There’s no harm in chatting with them to hear what they have to offer. You may even want to engage in the interview process to learn if there is mutual fit. The beauty of this all is you are not obligated tor required to take the job offer!
At the very least you would know how you are being compensated compared to similar positions, what other companies are offering with their benefit packages or just learn more about other interesting products or services in the world.
I wouldn’t bother interviewing other places if you aren’t at least willing to consider resigning. Companies only extend offers so many times only to be turned down each time. Therefore, enter into this practice with extreme caution. Don’t try this on your dream company knowing you aren’t going to leave your current employer.
Go forth and Be Great…
We’ve given you lots to consider. Hopefully something in this maze of words you find something that resonates with you and you take it with you on as you move forward professionally.
Tell us below if you find anything helpful or what was the best career tip you’ve ever received.