You may need to step out of your comfort zone if you want to advance your career in an open organization. Taking a backseat approach and letting your managers drive you where they think you should go may not always get you to the best destination.
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Ensuring that you, the employee, are having appropriate conversations with your manager will be a key factor in your success—as Sam Knuth mentions in "What to do when you're feeling underutilized," and as Allison Matlack also points out in "4 tips for leaders helping others evolve their careers." Both writers agree: An open leader's primary responsibility is to provide context and tools training.
However, employees needn't be afraid to take the wheel.
After all, if you don't ask, the answer is always "no." Anyone working in an open organization should take advantage of opportunities to find their own contexts, tools, and training.
Sure, have one-on-one conversations with your manager—but maximize their impact by stating not only why (context) you feel this is the direction you should take, but also how (solution) you can get there. For example, "I plan to grow my position by doing x, y, and z."
Let me explain four ways to do that.
Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are a useful resource for taking charge of your career because their primary purpose is planning short and long-term goals that align to your unique skills and interests. In an open organization, it's imperative to be flexible to changing business needs and be adaptable to new opportunities. With that in mind, an agile approach to goal-setting allows you to plan, develop and iterate often on your goals. Start by creating smart goals.
Smart goals are those that are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. Prioritize the top three things you want to accomplish, keep yourself on track of your quarterly goals, and schedule your own quarterly reviews (don't wait for your manager). Share this information early and often to ensure you and your manager have the same shared vision for your career. If there is a gap, iterate and replan.
Find the nuance
Finding success is not just about the work you are assigned to do, or the tasks you have to complete; it's also about knowing the nuance of that project. How does what you are working on align with your company's mission? Why does what you do matter?
If you know this, then you know your role as an associate with or without the assistance of your manager. If you don't know this, then find out; book a one-on-one with the project sponsor, ask your teammates, ask your manager, or even have a skip-level meeting and ask your manager's manager! I hardly know anyone who'd turn down someone asking more questions about how their role fits into the organization's bigger picture. Allow yourself to open up and ask smart questions.
If you do, you'll be enlightened—and you might be surprised at just how important your role is. Those conversations will also assist you with spotting gaps and opportunities that might otherwise go unnoticed, not just for you but for your entire team as well.
Doing the job you were hired to do is wonderful. But it won't likely put you on the short list for promotion opportunities immediately. Strive to be more visible to your management team by joining communities where your voice can be heard.
You can do this in several ways:
- Make yourself a viable part of your company's life by speaking up in meetings and being an active volunteer.
- Read more articles on Opensource.com and engage in open conversations.
- Join a Toastmasters organization near you, learn how to find your voice, process information on your toes, give and accept feedback.
- Join a professional organization such as Project Management Institute (PMI) if you are a project manager or International Institute of Business Analysis dedicated to promoting the business analyst profession worldwide.
The more you participate, the more opportunities to demonstrate your value.
Know your tools
Yes, it's easy for a manager to lead you to the well and say "drink," but sometimes there's so much water that it's overwhelming.
Take one drink at a time.
Start by searching the vast array of information that's often available to you but not quite in your wheelhouse just yet. Read, research, and relate. What tool is right for you? What training will help you get there? Still unsure? Engage your human resources department, your IT department, or your training department.
At this point, you have what you need to assist your manager in being your advocate, as Allison recommends. Additionally, you've made it your job to get more challenging, meaningful, and interesting work, as Sam suggests. Certainly, taking the wheel—understanding the nuance, being visible, and knowing which tools are right for you—will get you squarely on the road you want to be traveling and on the path to driving your open career forward.
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The nature of work is changing. So the way we lead must change with it.