Friday, March 10, 2017

Three Dimensions of Career Growth

Recently I had the chance to have a candid conversation with a young work colleague who was considering a job/company move.  She is early in her career, performing at a high level, and was more than intrigued with this new opportunity/offer.  Before engaging on the specific role/title/comp plan of this opportunity, I asked her to reflect on this role on “three dimensions” and we would “chart out” how this opportunity might fit into her career plan.

Now with over 30 years of a professional career (wow is time flying!) my personal experience has suggested that we often get too caught up in titles and compensation elements rather than staying focused on three key foundational elements/dimensions for long term career growth and success; these three “dimensions” being:

1    1.) Skill Development
2    2.) Business Impact expansion
3    3.) Organizational Experience breadth

In other words, when assessing a new role or opportunity, lets reflect on it through the triple lens of “Skills, Impact, & Experience.”

Skills: lets use the x-axis (model above) for this dimension and ask your self how well the opportunity being reviewed DEVELOPS your current skill set.  Does this role allow or even force you to build new skills and learn how to deploy them in the work environment?  Too often opportunities become available that utilize your historic skills without offering the chance to build new skills.  The broader the opportunity to build new skills, the farther “right” you would plot the opportunity on the x-axis.  The opposite is also true.  If an opportunity would only allow/require you to use a very narrow set of your skills, not allowing you to even “keep current” on your existing sill set, you would plot it to the “left” on the axis.

Impact:  lets use the y-axis for this dimension and ask your self how well the opportunity being reviewed EXPANDS or increases your impact on the business.  A specific individual comes to mind that over her career took a number of “lateral” roles, each one offering opportunities that allowed her to work on bigger and broader parts of the business.  The greater the impact expansion, the farther “up” you would plot the opportunity on the y-axis.  Even if an opportunity is a “promotion” but has you having an impact on a smaller part of the business than you are currently “touching,” you would plot it farther “down” on the axis.

Experience:  lets use the z-axis for this dimension and ask yourself how well the opportunity being reviewed BROADENS your set of professional experiences.  Too often we get “pigeon holed” into narrow roles, with every successive move actually narrowing/limiting the work experiences.  This is a dangerous tendency, especially early in one’s career.  It’s vital that you work on broadening work experiences as a way to put your “expanded skills” to work in the professional setting.  Like above, the more the role broadens your experiences, the farther “forward” you would plot the opportunity, and the more the role narrows/limits your experiences, the farther “away” you would plot it on the z-axis.

I won't try to do an on-line plot as an example, but try this model out on a recent role/opportunity you have reviewed.  See if the role plots to the “right/up/toward you” quadrant (which would be great!) vs. the “left/down/away from you” quadrant (which would not be great!)  Keep this model handy as you reflect on opportunities going forward, and I am confident that you will find it productive to drive career growth and success over the long term!