The basics for organizing your career path

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I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I was younger I thought that all adults had their career all planned, ahead of time. They all had a path to follow, a little like the blueprint we follow at school.

I quickly realized that this is not the case, but I always had hope of meeting someone who could help me develop my career plan. Find a mentor. I’ve had a few, they’ve all helped me in their own way, but no one has been able to decode the steps that exist to advance in their careers.

Over the years, I have developed a desire to help my teams develop. I have seen extraordinary transformations. For example, from an operator to a quality expert, or from a video editor to a design engineer.

So I’ve decided over the years to try to look at the models and identify the important steps, which I’ll be sharing with you in this article.

The basics to develop your career

Before I get into explaining the important steps in the development of a career, let’s talk about the basics. 

1. Always want to evolve and get to know youself

Personal development must be an integral part of your time distribution. You must develop your soft and hard skills. The school helps a lot with hard skills, but it is absolutely necessary to not neglect the soft skills and the skills you develop in real life experience. You can do this in several ways. For example;

  • Taking training courses,

  • Reading books, you can draw inspiration from blogs

  • Are you looking for mentors or coaches

  • Choosing the right projects at work to help you grow

  • Choosing projects outside of work, volunteering, or other…

The most important thing is to make it an habit. Aside from the fact that you will learn, you will always be up to date.

A side effect is to create a sense of trust around you. Let me explain. Your colleagues will perceive in you a person with whom it is possible to develop and go further what creates a virtuous environment.

Self-learning is essential, because without it you will most likely have great difficulty making choices and stimulating the best opportunities for you.

2. Constantly develop your understanding of the market

At the beginning of your career, it’s a little less important. Keep a curious eye. Over time you will see that your progress in the business will be related to your level of understanding of the market. The closer you are to the CEO, the more important it is to know your competitors, the market you are in. This will allow you to make better decisions, but most importantly to sell your ideas to everyone—your colleagues, your bosses, your customers…

3. Develop your network

We often talk about it, but developing your network is really essential to help you develop your career. There are several networks to maintain.

First your network of family and friends, it is them who will be there to help you think and make more difficult decisions about your career. They will be there when the stress is at its maximum as much as you will be there for them. It is important to have these relationships that last, no matter where you work.

Then it’s important to have a network of close colleagues you trust in your business. You don’t need to have many. However, they are essential to help you understand political issues.

Then, develop your general network within your company: it is important to know and make yourself known, for several reasons. Having a network within the company helps to identify opportunities that would otherwise be invisible to you, helps you to set up beautiful projects, for example.

And finally, develop your network outside the company in your field and in others. In your field to help you understand the market and what is expected of you. In other areas, because it can inspire you to develop new methods, ideas … and you never know where your next career opportunity will be.

4. Recognize potential advancements

It is important to talk about the fact that there are several ways to move forward. Sometimes you think that moving through your career means raising the hierarchy of your company. Bad news for you, more and more companies are trying to have a flat hierarchy. So if we believe that moving forward means moving up the ladder, we’re going to be disappointed very quickly. Progress can also mean

  1. Learning new things i.e., skills, fields,
  2. Teaching and sharing our expertise
  3. Be more effective
  4. To increase the quality and impact that his work on others and society.

Note: The importance of the impact should not be overlooked. Since we all want to leave a trace around us, this element is important to recognize. Being CEO is not the only way to make an impact. Think of all these artists or bloggers who are helping society go further and ask the right questions. Another example, think of all the fantastic teachers who have changed your lives. They have had a definite impact. Improving the quality of their teaching becomes a way to progress.

Steps of career development

Basics are essential, because without them these steps are incomplete. If you make the basics, your career will certainly evolve.

You do not need to follow the steps. However, if you follow the steps, it will speed up the pace, if it’s what you want, of course. Another effect of these steps is to help make choices and take more difficult decisions in the course your career. For example, when it comes to choosing a project or another, or when it’s time to leave your company.

The steps are heavily related to your leadership evolution.

1. Master the basis of project management—the triangle: Quality, Time, Cost.

Start with personal project management, where you are the only team member. Sometimes this one only step is enough to evolve. 

Then start managing projects with team members who are in your department. They will have the same priorities and your manager (manager) can help you if needed.

Ideally choose a project with little visibility, pressure outside the department that will help you practise the basics well.

2. Manage your customers (stakeholders)

At this stage, the project is usually larger. Your boss is not the only customer. You have several clients in the organization and must identify them. This step is crucial without it you will not be able to easily move on to the next step. It’s a bit like selling a house. It’s easier to visualize when the furniture is in the house than if the house is empty. As your career progresses, it is easier to demonstrate your skills and then be offered a new positions.

How to satisfy your customers?

First of all, you have to know how to identify them. Careful, clients are not just executives or members of management. They may be colleagues or influential people in the company.

How do you recognize your internal customers?

The easiest ones are the users of your project, the people who give you resources and the people who invest in the project. Very often 80% of our clients are identified but often we miss a few and that’s ok.

The most important thing is to be able to identify stakeholder on the way. For example, a colleague is angry that he is not aware of the project. Another thinks that he should be responsible for the project… Whenever there is discomfort, one must ask yourself questions and, above all, be open-minded. Could this person be a team member or a client who was unknown to this day?

To satisfy them, it is first necessary to develop confidence, then to develop the appropriate communication plan. We have to keep in mind that they have to be able to follow the project and be confident that we will meet their needs and frustrations. At first communicate more with them, let them learn how you work, it will work on your relationship trust. 

3. Lead a visible project 

Visibility outside the team is another important step. The goal is to make you known, but without taking a political risk.

There are a few possible ways to do this. Either by taking a uni-department project that has stakeholders (clients) outside your team. Either by leading a simple project with team member from various department. In both cases it is important that there is little risk of failure. The project as to be very important for the organization, but should not be critical, only visible and important. 

The interest is to present your results outside your team, and demonstrate your skills, ideally without running too much risk of failure. So the project must be 100% in your expertise.

For example, a cross-organization continuous improvement project.

4. Mastering the creation of a multifunctional project

Here there is a keyword: CREATION. You start with an intuition, a problem, an opportunity. The idea is to set up your own project and team using your influence.

The key here is to be autonomous! No manager to identify the problem or to build you a team. You mount everything by yourself.

Here you will develop your influence talents to a higher level. At this stage, you have to master the previous step presented, if you don’t it will be very hard. 

I recommend, if you see a great opportunity and are not ready, to present it to your manager/manager and it will help you set up the project and you can work on Step 3.
It is only after that stage that I suggest you start having employees—“direct reports.”

At this stage you should have developed your :

  1. Project Management Skills
  2. Internal network
  3. Ability to communicate
  4. Influence Leadership Skills

5. Direct management

At this stage, you should master the basics of project management so that you will begin to develop other development talent. For example, becoming a coach, helping to make career plans, guiding your team politically…

6. Direction step

At this stage, you should be at the stage where you have to think a lot about the future and build strategies. Be ahead of your teams. Identifying projects, assessing the capacity to develop talent, developing teams, etc.

By the way, the time distribution guide that I offer below is a basis for building strong teams over the long term. I recommend that you read it with that in mind.

I realize that this artible could go on forever. And each element could be further developed. Tell me in the comments where it would be interesting for you to learn more :)!

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