Career development is a tricky topic. What you do to get promoted in our 20s is unlikely to work when you are in your 30s (or even 60s).
Careers last a long time, often more than 40 years. The days when you joined a company out of school and slowly worked your way up the corporate ladder are gone. Now there are so many options to improve your career, like going back to school, switching companies, moving departments, and side hustles. It’s easy to get lost in all the options and know which one is best for you.
But there are time tested resources that can help you reach the next step of your career no matter what life stage you’re in. These resources are the people around you: Your boss, your boss’s boss, your company’s HR department, and mentors in your industry.
Let’s breakdown why you want their help to advance your career.
Talk to your boss
The reason talking to your boss is so helpful is because he is your closest evaluator. He sees your work most often which allows him to identify which skills you need to improve and where you excel.
In addition, his job is the one where you will most likely get promoted. He knows the skills to do that job better than anyone else in the company and he can help you learn how to develop those skills.
As you improve the skills he suggests, you will be considered for other positions at your boss’s level or his job should he leave.
Talk to your boss’s boss
Your boss’s boss is a great resource for several reasons. First off, she’s the person who will select your boss’s replacement should he leave the company and she will know what skills she looks for when hiring for that position. If you know what skills she values and you demonstrate those skills, you put yourself in position to be the frontrunner when your boss’s job is vacant.
In addition, your boss’s boss has more access to company executives and knows what the company’s long-term strategy is. If the company is doing something like shifting to a digital customer experience, she may tell you to improve your digital marketing skills. By being one of the first employees to learn those skills, you set yourself up for possibly leading a new department in that strategic area.
Take a look at my previous article to learn how to work closer with your boss’s boss: The person you need to know to get promoted.
Talk to a human resources mentor
Using your company’s Human Resources department to develop your career might surprise you, but they are a great resource. HR isn’t just for tedious paperwork. They are also there to help develop your career.
HR knows about the best industry events and can get the company to cover the cost of you attending. As you go to these events, you’ll learn what skills are important in the industry and get a better sense of how your job helps your own company. You may even meet someone at another company who wants to hire you someday.
Attending your company’s HR events, such as corporate trainings or company wide events, is another great way to learn general business skills and about your company’s goals. But more importantly, it will help you meet the people who work in HR.
If you develop a mentorship with someone from HR, that person can help you work through challenges. As a manager, you might need to talk to HR from time to time to ask advice before delicate conversations with your direct reports or mediating overly dramatic situations. As a non-manager, an HR team member who knows about you and your skill set can keep you in mind for internal job openings so would be the first to know about them.
No matter what level you are in your career, knowing people in HR can help you advance your career quickly.
Talk to industry mentors
Getting advice from a mentor outside your company can be great for long term career advice. Someone from outside your company, whether it is a former boss, an old professor, or friend, can give you some added perspective on your situation.
If the person is in your industry, it can be particular helpful. That person will know about job openings at other company, industry trends, and may have been on your same career path but a level or two above you. You can get specific industry advice about how to climb up the ladder based on what that person did.
Read my previous article about finding mentors if you need help reaching out to people in your industry to form a mentorship: Networking: More Than LinkedIn.
As a general rule of thumb, you want to meet with these people enough that they remember you but not so much that you are a burden to their schedule: About once or twice a year.
How to schedule that meeting and get the most out of it for your career? That will be the topic of our article two weeks from now. Scroll up to the top of the page and sign up for the mailing list to get the article!