Most great careers rarely follow a straight line. Ask anyone who started a business or worked their way to the top of an organization and you’ll probably find that it was a long and winding process. Often it’s through turmoil and disruption that new leaders arise and existing leaders wane. Sometimes the organizational tree you are climbing gets chainsawed out from under you because of external forces, and you find yourself back on the ground looking around for a new sapling to scale. You soon realize that it’s not about the climbing at all, it’s about growth, and getting involved with the right group of people who can figure out how to grow together.
Or maybe the tree you are in is stable, but you figure out how to grow an entirely new branch that nobody thought was possible. Soon, new jobs are created where none existed. It’s these non-standard opportunities that often provide the best career growth because instead of fighting your way up the typical career climb, you find yourself on a new branch generating new revenue streams. Everyone loves new revenue streams.
What I’m really talking about is growing your career on multiple dimensions. In doing so, you may put yourself in the best possible position to eventually follow a typical career progression because most great companies like to have well rounded leaders. With that in mind, here are some different ways to grow your career:
The expert—No matter what business you’re in, it always helps your career to be the expert. Often people can grow their influence, income, and value in an organization simply by becoming the go to expert on a specific topic that is critical to the organization. I’ve seen this done to great effect many times and watched people move up in an organization without actually moving up through the levels. They get invited to more meetings, they constantly get asked for their opinion, and they are often relied upon when times get tough because they are critical to some specific function or area of the company. It can be as simple as being the expert in the business software your company uses, or a technical facet of your product or service offering. You need to have a focus on continuous learning with the ability to dive deep into any topic. Becoming an expert in a specific area or multiple areas can be a highly rewarding career in and of itself, but it also lays a solid foundation for future expansion of your career into leadership or other roles.
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