Updated: Oct 14
Many people in their early and middle level careers struggle to grow within their organizations, in most cases pointing blame at factors outside of themselves.
It is appreciated that organizations have different working cultures with varying degrees of support towards the growth of their employees. Some are on the extreme and are in fact toxic environments that stifle growth. Ultimately, the thing we have most control over is ourselves, since organizations are really about people. I pose three guiding questions that could help one to assess themselves as they consider career growth within an organization:
In your workplace are you the person who would be the first pick up to join an important team or will you be the last pick, or no pick at all?
What do your colleagues have to say about working with you?
Are your intentional efforts only aimed at creating positive perception about yourself or do you go beyond that and delivery beyond measure?
These are important self-reflection questions for anyone considering personal growth in their careers.
Once you have reflected on these questions, there are some measures you could take to start becoming a first pick at any level in your career.
Add Value in your interactions: At your workplace you interact with many people, internal within the organization, and external with clients and partners. When you interact via the different communication platforms ensure that you leave a “good taste in the mouth" of everyone you communicate with. Prompt responsiveness is an important first step. Acknowledging receipt of any question you receive, even if a solution is not yet available, is a sign of a responsiveness. This of course should be followed up by the required action to find a solution to the question. Detailed, realistic, and sensible responses or contributions to communication are important. The communication should show eagerness to engage. The tone of your communication, as well as going beyond minimum expectations, will always leave the other party impressed and leave them with a "good taste in the mouth".
Have a learning spirit: Nobody knows it all and it is important to have a teachable heart and mind. If you have joined a new organization or team, it will be beneficial to ask questions on things that you that need clarification. Do not mind whether the questions appear 'stupid' or not. What's important is that once your questions have been answered, you end up learning one more thing that you didn’t know before. This learning and teachable spirit should continue throughout your work life, as you also ensure that you teach others what you know. A know-it- all attitude is rarely desired in many cases, unless it is accompanied by a teach- it-all attitude.
Talk in meetings: Imagine getting into a meeting and everyone is quiet. Five minutes pass with nobody uttering a word. Always keeping quiet in meetings not only denies that other participants a chance to hear your contributions but is also a bad show. Even if the subject under discussion is not your area of expertise, that fact that you have been invited to the meeting certainly means that you can offer some form of contribution. You could ask a question or make a comment that could prompt deeper thinking or deliberation, or even bring in a new perspective that hadn't been thought of before. Staying silent in meetings is as good as not attending the meeting at all. This same principle should apply to other collaborative platforms that you belong to.
Keep off the Politics: Organizational politics will not appear in any one's job description, but it is a given that one will come across the politics be it in a subtle way or pronounced way. This may include some form of struggle to have informal influence within the organization, and it is important be wary of such forces. Avoid being drawn into any of the camps that arise out of politics or also sympathize with unofficial causes that neither contribute to the wellness of the organization nor serve to fulfill your job's mission. Be wary of the electronic grapevine that is now a platform that is more and more in utilized to sway opinions and propagate personal causes. You will earn respect by not being drawn into such power struggles.
Be flexible: Based on your abilities and altitude you may be called upon to serve in an area that is different from your main work. You may be called upon to relieve someone who is way, or even asked to take on tough tasks that require your input. These kinds of assignments present an opportunity to expand your capacity, skills and knowledge and should therefore be embraced, and not perceived as misuse. Eventually as time passes you will realize that your resume gets enriched with items that others in the organization don’t have, courtesy of being flexible and available to take on tasks beyond your normal job description. A positive attitude towards extra tasks will go a long way in guaranteeing your career success.
Expand your network: Visibility inside and outside your organization is very important. There is no point of having great ability and accomplishments that only very few know about. It is okay to showcase what you are able to do, and you could do this by sharing best practices within your organization, participating in your industry segment forums or even publishing articles in the various media platforms that are available. You won't be known unless you lift your hand up and stand up to be counted. Step out and showcase yourself, because if you don’t, others will.
Stay in touch with your spirituality: Having silent uninterrupted few minutes every moment is a refreshing exercise for the mind. Spirituality is part and parcel of human life and committing your day to God every morning is not only a positive step towards mental preparation but is also a good act of surrender. This moment of prayer could be used to offload any heavy emotional items off your chest and freeing your energy to tackle the important tasks at hand. Prayer also gives you an opportunity to present difficult situations to God and ask for divine intervention. Prayer will give you the confidence to work through the day effectively.
Deliver Results: At the end of the day, this is what really matters and ensures the continued survival of your organization. Having your key deliverable in mind always is good practice, keeping track of any deviations and applying necessary corrective measures early enough. Uncontrollable external factors like COVID-19, tough political climate and others may hinder delivery of the desired results, but it is important that whatever abilities you have are fully deployed to deliver results. Avoid giving anyone a reason to point fingers at you due to your personal inability to act and deliver.
There are certainly many other factors that could contribute to your growth especially as you gain work experience but practicing the above eight will go a long way in improving your top-pick status. Additionally, you should incorporate into your work ethic any new useful insights that you come across different forums.
Lawrence Githinji is a Mechanical Engineer and Managing Director at Atlas Copco - East and Central Africa , with 20+ years of experience in Energy, Manufacturing , Mining , Infrastructure and Related Sectors.