I think this fact is unappreciated by most of us (myself included).
A lot of us think that the organization we work for is somehow responsible for our professional growth by giving us interesting projects to work on, giving us well-timed and well-delivered trainings, giving us leadership roles and so on. Unfortunately, what happens when the organization doesn’t deliver on these expectations is that we end up dissatisfied and disengaged. We start looking for a way out, only to realize that blaming the current organization for lack of growth/skills doesn’t cut it outside. Nobody cares!!
Your potential employers don’t care how you got the relevant skills. They only care if you have those skills. This is the part that is underappreciated.
The leaders you see and admire are basically a sum of their experiences. So, if they seem to able to handle all kinds of projects, it’s because they stepped up and took on different kinds of projects. If they can figure out the right technology to use, it’s because they have failed using the wrong technology. If they seem to know how to do great presentations, it’s because they have been presenting for ages.
So, if you are aren’t able to grow in an organization, don’t stay there for long. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but leave you must, when you can. And this is where many of us walk into a dangerous trap – we choose to stay back because we have achieved a comfortable inertia. I’d argue this is one of the most damaging things you could do to your long-term career success.
Let’s be clear about what ‘growth’ is – it’s not just the next hay-point promotion or sexy new title. If these don’t involve substantial learning or upskilling opportunities, best to avoid these temptations. Again, I know this is easier said than done – most of us are conditioned to accept what makes us look good (especially on social media). But times are changing rapidly, and empty titles mean very little without real skill upgrades to back them.
When we own our own growth, there is proactivity and push involved. Volunteering for new opportunities, especially risky ones, become immensely important. The moment we do that, we (mostly) see this strategy start paying dividends in our current organization. Leaders tend to allocate interesting or innovation projects to those who are willing and energized to make them a success – whether the projects ultimately succeed is actually less important. Chances are, you will be rewarded for sticking your neck out than staying safe within your comfort zone.
If you are in an organization that does make an effort to proactively ‘grow’ you, I am certain that you are already owning your growth triggering a virtuous cycle (take ownership-become proactive-get assigned new projects- grow and loop).
If not, it shouldn’t matter Luckily, we live in an era where we are not dependent on our organizations to prepare us for the future. Barring leadership, there is virtually no skill that we can’t gain on our own.
So if you find yourself spending slouching comfortably in cafeteria, complaining about lack of growth in your current organization, it’s time to step up and take control of your growth.