“If you’re not growing, you’re dying”.
That rather dramatic quote was originally attributed to William H Burroughs, of all people, but has been readily co-opted by Tony Robbins and fellow thought-leaders of the business world. And it’s easy to see why.
Whatever your career goals- whether you want to move up the corporate ladder or finally make a move on that start-up idea- you need a plan for growth. It won’t just happen; you need a strategy, and then you need to execute that strategy. You can’t just sit on your hands- you can be sure your competition won’t be.
These plans for progression are also important for employers and companies. In a survey taken last year, 63% of US workers said lack of opportunities was a factor in them quitting their jobs; with 33% saying it was the primary reason. If employee retainment (and, indeed, engagement) is important to you, then prioritising and investing in their growth is a great place to start.
This article has the 4 essential tips to help you grow the career you really want, and help you go out and get it.
What is career growth?
First, let’s drill down on what “career growth” is- and it is not to be confused with “career development”. These terms can be used interchangeably, but there is an important distinction we should stress before we get started.
Career growth is your big-picture vision. It is both the journey and the trajectory. The processes that get you where you really want to be, not where life has led you.
Steps on this journey might include:
- promotion to a job with more responsibilities
- taking your first leadership role
- a lateral move within your company that gives you the scope to learn valuable new skills.
All these can be seen as progression, but they have more impact and meaning when part of an over-arching strategy.
So, how is this different from career development?
While career goals revolve around the long-term vision, career development refers to shorter-term activities. These can be part of a company’s pre-set development plan or learning a new skill to help your performance in your current role.
Career development is isolated efforts; career growth is the big-picture thinking under which these career development actions fall.
The benefits of career growth
Whether success at work defines your happiness, or whether it just facilitates it by getting you the lifestyle you desire, happiness and success are intrinsically linked.
Career growth gives us a sense of purpose and direction. To fulfil our potential and be the best version of ourselves.
Studies show that allowing yourself to get too comfortable can lead to less happiness in the long term.
Stagnation. Plateau. Call it what you will.
Getting ourselves out of our comfort zone is where the stimulus for real growth comes from. From constantly redefining what we thought we were capable of.
These 4 essential tips will not only give you a roadmap for real career growth, they will help you define what you really want, and redefine what you thought was really possible.
Everything else stems from this one, so if you are taking notes, capitalise, underline and get out the fluorescent marker!
It’s easy to just get swept along in life. Vaguely happy. Sated. Money in the bank, bacon in the fridge. But that is the antithesis of growth; malaise and dis-satisfaction are just around the corner.
For optimal growth, you need to define your goals, and then segment them into the steps that will help you achieve them.
In “Art of the Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer”, Steven Kotler used cutting-edge neuroscience alongside studies into the habits of elite-level performers to make a template for what drives mastery and achievement in humans.
We perform better and maintain the motivation necessary to achieve excellence when a passion and a purpose drive us—the end-goal for our career growth.
His research found that big goals outperformed small, vague ones, so aim high.
What is success and happiness and achievement for you? Set some time to think about what this means for you and make this your Massively Transformative goal.
This goal is then achieved by breaking it down into High, Hard Goals (achieved over several years, sequentially or simultaneously), and then again into Clear goals.
How do you get where you really want to go? One step at a time.
Each day you set a checklist of challenging but achievable tasks, that you commit to ticking off, hell or high water, then at the end of that day, you are one day closer to your High, Hard Goals, and thus your Massively Transformative one.
It’s that simple, you just gotta put in the work!
A key point to mention here is the importance of focusing on your daily clear goals, once you have set the bigger ones.
Forget about attaching yourself to this future success, keep your attention on the path you have set to get you there. That might sound a bit woo-woo, but it is based on the neuro-chemistry that drives human motivation.
By making the effort of completing the checklist your focus, you plug yourself into a habitual dopamine loop.
Dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.
You are attaching your pleasure to the effort, in essence, not the reward. The effort then becomes habitual, motivation is fuelled, and your performance is optimised.
And you are on your way.
2.Develop a Growth Mindset
Developing a “growth mindset” is essential to execute your goals, big and small.
Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term to refer to people’s beliefs regarding their talents and abilities.
People with growth mindsets believe their intelligence and skillset can be improved over time; people with a fixed mindset believe ability is innate or something you were born with.
Most of us have a mixture of the two, but it is the growth aspect you need to nurture to grow the career you really want.
This relates back to constantly pushing ourselves outside our comfort zones. The more we do this, the more achievable we see it is.
“Mindsets are just beliefs”, says Dweck, “They’re powerful beliefs, but they’re something in your mind. And you can change your mind”.
So say Yes to that interview, even if you’re don’t feel totally qualified.
Take that course.
It’s all easier after that first step has shown you it was achievable. In fact, the goal-posts for ‘achievable’ itself start to widen.
“Whether you believe you can’t or you can’t, you’re right”- Henry Ford.
3.Build Your Communication, Teamwork and leadership skills
If you want to progress in your career- wherever you see that path leading- then becoming a skilled communicator, a good team player, and a leader is essential.
Communication skills to get that job or pitch to investors. To help you engage and connect better with your colleagues.
Team-work because, well, even the brightest minds on the planet need to collaborate and delegate effectively.
And the leadership skills to successfully marshall and motivate your team as you progress closer to your larger goals.
Taking the time to assess and improve these core competencies will set you up to take full advantage of the opportunities your hard work affords you.
4. Be a life-long learner
You have likely heard of Warren Buffet’s prodigious reading habits. 500 pages (or six hours) a day is his prescription for success. That is not realistic for most of us, unfortunately, but the principle of being prepared to invest in yourself, and your own growth, is valid and worth stressing.
In ‘Peak Performance’, Steven Kotler suggested 25 minutes a day in a subject just outside your comfort zone, which is more achievable for all of us—stimulating your curiosity, building your knowledge and your brain’s pattern recognition system.
Optimising your cognitive performance and preparing yourself for success.
One option is to kill two birds with one stone and tie this in with the previous point on building essential business skills. Business management courses not only help you learn the theories that underpin all aspects of business, they build your skillset, plug gaps in your knowledge, and give you a vital competitive edge when growing your career. A shrewd investment in yourself and your career growth.
We hope you use these 4 tips as the springboard, the roadmap, and the toolbox to the career growth you really yearn for. Now you just need to go out and get it!