Do you have a plan to build your professional career? Do you even know where to begin? Or what goes into developing a career with relevant skills? And where do you start? An important skill in managing your career is communication! Communicate how your work is adding value to your organization, your boss, and stakeholders. The timing in communicating your work/deliverables includes frequent updates as you hit (or miss) milestones in your work and when you have completed the work. A couple of tips to remember as you communicate your progress:
- Notice how you are building your knowledge, skills, experience during a project/task. These tasks are building blocks to your “technical” skills.
- Provide frequent updates to encourage feedback from your boss and stakeholders on your progress. Creating awareness of where you are at work allows you to pivot and remain in sync on the latest priorities that could present an opportunity to build your skills.
- Be aware of how you are leveraging your strengths. For example, if your strength is to be a bridge-builder, share how you could obtain feedback from the team and/or your customers to forge and or strengthen relationships toward the completion of the work/task.
- Ultimately, the goal is to share how your skills and strengths are being multiplied or leveraged, to continuously improve and grow the organization as you serve your boss and internal and external customers.
Keep in mind that the core message in completing the work is not on “technical” skill alone; you need to include “interpersonal” or “emotional intelligence” skills. Combining your technical and interpersonal skills build defining moments in building the leader that is within you – these skills eventually becomes your brand. The benefit of communicating these messages over time will help you build a pathway to grow your career.
Your brand is made up of what you believe you are meant to do and your values. It’s values that drive your communication and your actions. Values are patterns of behaviors. Have you heard anyone say: “Give it to Cara, she will know what to do, and she will get it done on time.” In this case, it’s Cara’s values of responsibility and time management that drive her actions, behaviors, and over time. She sets a standard, expectations on her character and how she is being perceived in getting things done. Think about your behaviors, patterns in communicating and getting your work done to your boss and stakeholders. How would you describe them? Better yet, how would others describe your behaviors? These behaviors become an expectation observed by your boss, colleagues, and other relationships that you interact with. Again, the ultimate goal is to be aware of what you value as you express how your skills and strengths are being multiplied or leveraged, continuously improve and or grow the organization, and serve your boss, co-workers, and internal and external customers. The benefit of doing work and communicating your messaging over time will help you build a pathway to grow your career.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Professionals understand the value of social awareness. Understanding how to read and navigate your work environment can uncover unmet needs or areas of improvement in the organization. These areas of opportunities are fertile ground to grow skills, abilities, and over time, your talent that stands up to be a recognizable brand. And, as you engage in these work opportunities to do work, consider each moment to communicate your progress toward completion. This progression demonstrates your ability to get your work done and is a fundamental building block or evidence of your capability. They demonstrate the “what” and “how” of your work that your boss and stakeholders are measuring. The more you can describe how your work and the work of others is building momentum toward a common goal and or strategy, and the more your boss will see your potential in your abilities to be a team player, a critical thinker, problem solver, etc., who has potential. As mentioned previously, these building blocks are your brand’s blocks of trust, which can include perseverance, solving problems, working well with others and your team. Another key benefit over time is that these skills build your self-confidence.
There is one caveat to managing up your career; you are in the driver’s seat. You have control over the speed and care of your message. Just like a car, you can choose to park your communication or drive it on the road, communicating the mile markers that you are reaching until you arrive at your destination.
Get a clear picture of your role.
- Do you understand your work and its impact on the organization?
- Do you know what you are accountable for? Accountability is an “account” of your “ability.” Are you stewarding managing your abilities, your talent well?
- Are you clear on what authority you have in your role? i.e., a budget of x to spend on an agreed-upon task.
- If not, I recommend you refer back to your job description and then create your list of what you do for the organization that adds value. Once you conclude the impact your role plays in the organization, talk with your supervisor to make sure their understanding of your work aligns with yours.
2. Understand what you need in knowledge, skill, and experience to move to the next level.
- Once you have identified your role’s accountabilities and authorities, identify the next role you seek to grow into; this role can be inside or outside your organization.
- Look up roles on LinkedIn and Indeed, then identify what skills and experience are required for your next move.
- Next, identify what your skill gaps are to reach the next level. For example, your next move may require technical skill, certification, or experience managing people and projects. Come up with ways to develop those skills and talk with your supervisor during your next one-on-one about opportunities for professional development within the organization.
3. Identify the communication skills you need to sharpen to navigate your career and your brand.
- Practice building your skills to communicate in writing, speaking, and listening.
- Share your work progress in writing via email or write a short brief on the task with your boss and colleagues.
- Practice speaking by seeking opportunities to present your work or a topic that can add value to your work. Volunteer to speak at meetings and/or volunteer to develop a team professional development workshop to present at the next staff meeting.
- Practice active listening, repeat key points back, and ask questions helpful in the conversation to convey that you are engaged. Take good notes and refer back as needed.
4. Look for opportunities to stretch your skills.
- Be self-directed and look for projects that are being created at work to expand your skills. Taking the initiative is key.
- Discuss with your boss how you would like to grow in a certain area, such as a skill, your experience, or grow your interpersonal/communication skills.
- Reach out to mentors inside and outside of the organization that will guide you to acquire new skills. Continue to build your professional network.
5. Grow your brand purpose.
- Be aware of your values and how those values drive your decision. For example, I value being creative; I love being with people or spending time analyzing data. Identify your north star and seek opportunities and experiences that can align you with what you value.
- Identify a cause within the organization and volunteer to serve to build a skill. For example, to host an event or manage a team of people.
- Identify external associations or clubs where you can serve in a role that lines up with your brand to build experience, skills, and your network.