Defined Career Paths Are Dead
Many young people I have worked with are concerned about quickly moving along a career path at their company.
I view them as a generation worried about security, money, and many other world issues, who are searching for stability through work.
They want to jumpstart their careers by proving their worth early and often. As most people tend to do, they crave milestones to recognize that worth. They seek a next step to move towards.
Depending on where you work, an officially defined career path may be crystal clear, or it may be totally nonexistent.
The good news is: Regardless if your company has an established career path, you can still gain invaluable skills as a novice in the workforce.
In fact, by being new, you’re at an advantage.
Feelings of insecurity are common at your first job — it isn’t easy. You’re coming into a setting that you know nothing about, and have to figure out the best way to stand out amongst the crowd and make a difference, while still fitting in socially and professionally.
At first, there are loads of jargon to comprehend, languages made up of baffling synonyms, and a ton of administrative setup tasks to navigate. It’s overwhelming, to say the least.
But what most people overlook about being a novice is that it is a unique time in your career.
It is a time where you can make lots of mistakes, ask lots of questions, and learn from everything to take into your next challenge.
These days, young people plan to be at their first jobs for only three years or less, a stark contrast from many previous generations.
Within that short amount of time, there are plenty of things that you can do to jumpstart your career — even if your company doesn’t “officially” provide any of them.
Collect lots of information from your more experienced coworkers and managers. If you don’t understand something, ask (when the time is right).
Learn everything you can. Seek to understand the bigger picture strategy and goals of your team and others.
Think outside of your core responsibilities. What knowledge do you have that could help other teams?
For example, if you’re taking calls in a call center all day, you have extremely valuable data and insights about customers. Find ways to share this information and showcase your role.
Being able to make eye contact, listen, and form a response are crucial business tools, and are necessary skills to hone early on in your work life.
Ask good follow-up questions that show that you’re listening and working to understand — even if you don’t quite yet.
Those weekly presentations to managers may not seem like a big deal, but being able to confidently discuss your project absolutely is. Ask for feedback and take lots of opportunities to practice public speaking.
Start holding networking meetings with a dual purpose: to learn about that person’s role and how what your team does affects it, and to understand their career path and if it’s something you would want for yourself.
There is no worse time to update your resume than when you are looking for a new job.
Take notes on the specifics of the projects and goals you have accomplished, including as much quantitative data as possible. You will be able to then condense that into digestible bullet points for your resume, when that three (or one)-year itch hits.
As someone new to the workforce, you have plenty of time to earn more money, plus experience new roles and industries.
Make the most of the time you have early on to practice some of the most critical skills you’ll need to be successful, whether it’s at that company or a different one.
Don’t wait for HR to dictate your path for you. You may be waiting a very long time!