How To Create A Career Path When Your Job Doesn’t Have One
Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife
Lately I’ve been thinking about my next big career move. I know it’s a little premature. I’ve only been with Forbes on their Audience Development Team for a little over four months now, and I absolutely love it. The people are great, the work is always new and interesting, and I’m passionate about what I do — but I think it’s always good as a young professional to have a long-term vision in mind, to have a bigger goal you keep reaching towards, in order to keep everything in perspective and help you align your personal goals with the business goals of the company – as well as to keep from getting complacent (which is huge).
The problem with this, though, is that many companies today, like Forbes, that are trying to adapt to changing times have no clear career path for their young employees, especially those in newly created tech or online jobs.
This makes answering the question, “Where do I go from here?” very difficult. I may not always like the answer to that question. I may not always stick with the answer to that question. The answer to that question may change or evolve over time — but I must always have one. As a self-proclaimed high-achiever who has many things I want to accomplish in life (and as fast as I can) – I must always have an answer to that question, a singular vision towards something greater.
So I asked myself: what is that vision?
I was talking to one of my co-workers about it the other day who has been with the company for a year now, much longer than I have and perhaps much more deserving of a promotion, about what her next steps are in her career, and especially within the company. Turns out – I wasn’t the only one experiencing frustration. She also was uncertain about where she could possibly fit in at Forbes in the (hopefully not too far) future. The reason for this is because those new jobs, the next steps for me and my co-workers, have just not been created yet.
As the journalism industry begins to change, a new model for journalism is being put in place that I believe Forbes is at the forefront of. This new model includes my position as an Audience Development Associate – where I work to promote Forbes content daily and improve the quality of the site overall — and many of my good friends’ positions as Producers – who guide our contributors and help police and edit the site. Both of these positions have never existed before, especially not in journalism – and because these positions have never existed before, neither do the positions that would naturally or logically follow them.
There is no Audience Development Representative or Audience Development Executive to aspire to, which is the next logical step for many young professionals at entry-level positions in their companies. And gunning for someone else’s job – as say manager of the team or director – isn’t smart either. That kind of thinking becomes adversarial and counterproductive – hoping the person currently in that position fails or leaves, or maybe, just maybe gets promoted. And that boxes your talent in, makes you conform to a set of rules and standards that perhaps aren’t the best fit for your unique skills – but maybe are the best fit for the person currently in the position. It brings you down and leaves the future of your success in someone else’s hands instead of your own. It makes you feel as though you have no control. It’s not a good feeling.
As a result, I believe that it is up to you as the employee to create the job you want, to identify what the company is missing and what the company needs and be that.
The job I will have in the future, say one or two years down the line, doesn’t even exist yet. I’ll have to create it, to be entrepreneurial in my own company, to sell and advocate for myself like no one else (hence the name of this blog: Elevator Pitch – Going up?). And, luckily, that kind of thinking resonates with the Forbes mission of entrepreneurial journalism, which encourages people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and build their own brand in person, online, or at work.
So, that’s my vision. That’s the position I’m gunning for – not my boss’ job or my boss’ boss’ job. It’s something different entirely, something that suits my interests, my passions and my talents uniquely, something that hasn’t even been created yet, which leads me to my advice for you and other young professionals: always look for the cracks in your company’s infrastructure. Always be thinking about what your company is doing now that could be done better – and, especially, how you can be that person to fix it. It’s there, if you just look hard enough.
Just how do you find it, though?
Look for problems. Focus on problems. Embrace and enjoy problems – because wherever there is a problem, there is a solution close behind.
Read in between the lines. Pay close attention to what your co-workers say, or don’t say. It’s usually the things that they are ignoring that need the most attention.
Think small. It’s about the little, practical things you can do to make you and your company look better. Once you’ve mastered that, look for bigger trends.
Get to know your people. Trust them, and make them trust you. Be very real and candid with them. Form alliances with them. If you do this, they will tell you their problems and the problems within the company – and they will help you to succeed in fixing them. (Producers: Thank you! I love and appreciate your advice, support, and friendship.)
Get to know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What makes you happy? What do you want? Even if what you want is completely different than what you are doing now, embrace it. There is a way to harness that tension to make you, your job and the company better. The magic is in figuring out what that way is.
And, once you’ve figured out that way, that job that only you are uniquely suited to do, that the company needs, set up a meeting with your boss to talk about it. Tell him what you think needs to be done and why – and especially why you are the best person for the job (and a pay-raise). If your boss disagrees with your conclusion or shows some resistance, don’t get discouraged. Adjust your thinking and try again – or find another company (or person in the company) that supports your mission. Chances are, though, your boss will admire and respect your tenacity – and help you to accomplish other great things in the future. After all, half of the battle to getting what you want is asking for it.
When are you going to ask for yours?
- How To Win In A Dead End Job (forbes.com)
- Congress: You’re Fired! (middlebrickroad.com)
- Is Forbes the model for a digital-first media entity? (gigaom.com)
- 44% Of Employees Are Unsatisfied (bizsugar.com)
- Best – And Worst – Paying Jobs in the United States (bargaineering.com)
- Dear Forbes: 20-Somethings Do Take Themselves Seriously (thedailymuse.com)
- Three Reasons Why Apple’s New Campus Is Ready For Anything – Forbes (nadernazemi.com)
- IT (Information Technology) Career Path Guideline (web-workathome.com)
- In journalism, what’s new is actually old… and ‘that’s the way it is’ (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Roundup: 20 Reads for Women Entrepreneurs, Part II (grasshopper.com)