Within the last 9 months, I have moved from Accounts Manager to an Assistant Finance and Marketing Manager into my present position as a Reservations & Marketing Associate. One would think that I had changed companies, but I haven't (not yet) - and here's what all this transitioning has taught me about my career.
"A passive approach to professional growth will leave you by the wayside" - Tom Peters
1. Always have a Plan B
When I entered the field of hospitality a little over a decade ago, my professional goals were quite simple : get a job that pays well, and work with someone who could be a great professional mentor for me. I imagined myself running a department in a field where women at the top was, and still is, woefully under-represented. Within 4 months of being on the job, my mentor was transferred to another hotel, and my carefully laid plan was technically in ruins.
What I did, and what I learned over the ensuing years, is that when you are new to a company and trying to establish your own credibility, sometimes it is a blessing to not have to "follow" someone else's blueprint.
Being on my own allowed me to develop the (still fledgling) department in the way that I wanted - making and correcting my own mistakes without day to day oversight, learning first - hand how to balance the needs of my internal and external customers, building teams, and how to provide (if needed) guidance and mentorship to the (gasp) 7 or more staffers who passed through the department while I was assigned there.
2. Recognize your strengths and non-strengths
While I am a trained accountant, I (unbelievably) find the day to day minutiae of accounting extremely draining. I much preferred handling the communications with our trade partners and external vendors. I enjoyed interacting with guests. I was good at developing staff, and implementing policies and protocols. I was very interested in helping to develop the social and "human" side of our brand, less so in cold calling / threatening delinquent suppliers, or fielding questions about expenses and cost control.
When you go to an interview and the (inevitable) question of what your strengths and weaknesses are, arises ; most are stumped. In the last decade I have learned, very clearly, what mine are.
In order to maneuver successfully towards your career goals, you must align your strengths with the needs of the company you work with. Should you find yourself misaligned, then you should carefully consider whether a change is warranted.
3. Growth and comfort do not co-exist
Most companies have employees who have many years of service - they seem to be extremely loyal - but are also stagnant. They become quite bitter and resentful when they are passed over for promotions or training opportunities, yet they never try to consider what they need to change in order to kick-start their careers.
These are the same people who know their job descriptions verbatim. They have never truly challenged themselves to learn something new- or to even make changes to how things are currently done in their present jobs. They under-perform, or barely perform - never giving more than the allotted time or effort to any task. In short, they do not grow.
Growth isn't for everybody. Some people just want to stay the same forever. If this is your mindset, then fine. If not, then next time a challenge presents itself, don't hesitate to go for it.
Which brings me to
4. Work to become, not to acquire
After a decade as an accountant, I realized that there really wasn't much more for me to accomplish professionally. My personal goals have changed, and at this point, what I envision for myself is far removed from spreadsheets and deadlines.
In order to transition from my former role as an accountant, I will need to work at developing new strengths and challenge myself in entirely new disciplines.
In business, most owners/ managers will not just throw raises and promotions in your lap. You will have to work - hard. Proving yourself an asset can be challenging, especially when you are already established with one clear set of competencies. Reinvention may require you to take several perceived steps backward. You may have to forfeit your current salary level and the perks that come with it. You may even become junior (or at least less knowledgeable) in a new environment, for a good while.
The key will be to be clear about the goal - and become who you want to be professionally in spite of the challenges.
5. Buy In
I wasn't always on board with the changes I have been making professionally. It has taken quite a bit of coaxing - and lots of careful thought - to become comfortable with the new vision. Inevitably, there was a period of great resistance to the change - but I decided that the best approach to things is to go downstream ... focusing all my energies on the desired outcome - simply put.
"the most valuable skill or talent that you could ever develop is that of directing your thoughts towards what you want" - Abraham Hicks
It doesn't matter much where you are professionally, there will be opportunities for each of us to make changes and to grow. The key to being successful is in identifying which opportunities align with our own career plans and capitalizing on them when they present themselves.