If you’re like a lot of professionals, you may think the quickest path to advancing your career is to change jobs. But the truth is opportunities to expand your skills likely exist within your current company — and they’re up for grabs to those willing to tap into them.
As the executive vice president and chief administrative officer at real estate investment firm Spirit Realty Capital Inc., I’m responsible for several functions across the company — from human capital management and marketing to corporate communications and project management. One thing I’ve discovered throughout my career is that those who are willing to expand their role often become more valuable to a company, while also setting the stage for their future growth and the career they aspire to have.
The good news is expanding your career is easier than you might think. Below, I share five tips that will help you get started.
- Volunteer to lead a project that’s outside of your comfort zone: Think about a work accomplishment that you’re especially proud of. Chances are, the moments that stand out the most are ones in which you pushed yourself outside of your comfort zone. As referenced in The New York Times, being slightly uncomfortable can push us to achieve goals we never thought we could. When you embrace the risk that accompanies new projects or responsibilities, that’s when you really grow and develop. Get into the habit of taking on any project you don’t know anything about, or volunteer to lead an assignment that nobody else wants. Another idea: Support the business units that are unsuccessful or have a bad reputation and work to turn them around. It will undoubtedly be a huge challenge, but that’s how rewarding and successful careers are usually built.
- Think of ways to improve upon what’s currently being done: It takes just one person looking at a process in a new light to discover a way to do it better — and that’s where you come in. Become a catalyst for process improvement. Challenging the status quo can ultimately save money and time. Whether it’s internal or external innovations, keeping up with today’s competitive and fast-paced business environment is a priority for most companies. As Anush Kostanyan wrote in Fast Company, “Ideas are the most expensive matters nowadays and so far, the best contribution you can offer to your organization.”
- Voice your opinion. Many business leaders agree that employees who have influence are major company assets, as this article in Forbes points out. A surefire way to begin to garner that influence is to voice your opinions. Foster an understanding of how the business works outside of the human resources and talent management department, and then have the courage to share your viewpoints. Remember, no one else has the exact same view of the company as you do — you have the opportunity to see, learn and share those experiences, which may lead to companywide innovations and changes. Having a voice is also about control: There will be times when it’s necessary to fearlessly share your opinion and other times when taking a step back is also necessary. By sharing your views, though, you’re demonstrating your value and bringing ideas to the table that no one else can bring.
- Research your ideal job — then get to work acquiring the skills needed: Whether your ideal job awaits in your current department or an entirely different field, find out more about the job title you aspire to have. What is in the job description? What type of skills do successful people in that role have? How can you acquire or grow your skills to get your dream job? Career paths are not set in stone. There is no one way to get where you’d like to be. In fact, as you work on building the skills and competencies needed on your path to your ideal job, you’ll likely have the chance to wear many hats — and that brings with it its own opportunities, since a broad skill set and diverse accomplishments will increase your value to companies and could even increase your pay, according to Harvard Business Review.
- Get a mentor: Research shows that having a mentor is important to success — and I couldn’t agree more. In a 2013 executive coaching survey, 80 percent of CEOs said they received some form of mentorship. In another study by Sage, 93 percent of startups shared that mentorship is instrumental to success. Through valuable connections, insightful advice and constructive feedback, mentors amplify your chances of success in business and in life. They allow you to fall and scrape your knees, while also stretching you and helping you achieve your career goals. In business and in life, it never hurts to have a champion.
Whether you’re just beginning your career or are a seasoned veteran in the industry, it’s always a good time to seek out ways to expand your role. Not only will your company benefit, but the personal growth you’ll experience along the way will make all of your efforts worth it.
Michelle Greenstreet is the former executive vice president and chief administrative officer at real estate investment firm Spirit Realty Capital Inc. She is now the chief administrative officer at Sterns Lending. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.