During my first few years of post-college work, I was fortunate to have multiple opportunities to move up at my company in both position and pay in a short period. But as you take on more responsibilities, roles get more difficult and there may not be as many open positions for further promotions.
Searching for next level opportunities is not a bad thing, but we must do it in the right way. Not too long after taking on one of my new roles, I scanned internal job boards for opportunities that would allow me to take the next step within the same company. Was this inherently wrong of me? I don’t think so. Should we aspire to progress in our careers? Absolutely! But was I being hasty? Looking back, I think that I was.
For one, my body of work in this new role was still small. Did I understand the job? Generally, yes, I had a pretty good grip on my responsibilities. Did I have a lot to learn? A tremendous amount. It is hard to learn the idiosyncrasies of a job and reach your full potential in a short time period. It may take multiple years to fully grasp the ins and outs of your market and build your customer base to where you want it to be.
In our careers we must check our motives. Are you looking for the next promotion because you are inspired to succeed, or are you simply avoiding difficulties that exist in your current role, hoping to dump them on the next hire? I have had successful periods in my career, but I have also had challenging times, with heightened stress and results that needed improvement. But by working through some tough seasons, I have had the fulfilling experience of turning an unprofitable department into a profitable one. Sometimes, trying seasons help us develop into better workers, and afford us the opportunities to learn new lessons from both failures and successes.
My former boss and I were talking about my career development one day, and he encouraged me to essentially put my head down, focus on my current role, and work to produce positive results. He implied the need for creating a body of work that showed people that you can be responsible and successful in the role you are given. It inspired me to regroup and refocus and create a more detailed action plan for success in the spot that I was in. It paid off. And I truly think having tunnel vision (in a good way) contributed to the results that I was able to produce. With this mindset, what I did at work always related back to my end of the year goal I had for the department I oversaw. This single-mindedness gave me a drive and determination to do what needed to be done to reach these objectives.
So… aspire to progress in your company. Learn new skills. Want to be promoted. But don’t look for the next big thing at the expense of not focusing on being successful where you are. Because after all, being successful in each role you take on will help you to earn new opportunities in the future.