How to develop your career without changing your job

Written by Professional Academy Management and Leadership Tutor, Kathryn Knights

‘We’re here to put a dent in the universe. Otherwise why else even be here?’ Those are the words of Steve Jobs and if you’ve ever felt stuck in your job or frustrated that you’re not pursuing more fulfilling work then this blog is for you. I’ll be focusing on how to develop yourself within the context of your current role to help you move closer towards making that ‘dent in the universe’.

When your job isn’t igniting a fire inside you it can feel like the only way to solve the problem is to make a dramatic change. But there are ways to invest in yourself within your current role that can reignite that fire and lead to career advancement.

I’m talking about your career capital. Once you know where you want your career to take you you can start to build your career capital.

Career capital

Career capital can be defined as the skills you have that enable you to:

1. Make an impact in the workplace

2. Make you a valuable asset

3. Develop a successful career

Cal Newport (professor of computer science at Georgetown University and the author of six self-improvement books) defines career capital as: ‘the skills you have that are both rare and valuable and that can be used as leverage in defining your career’.

Why skills trump passion

Have you ever been told to pursue your passion?

The passion hypothesis assumes that there is a pre-existing passion in a person and that the key to professional happiness is to find a job that matches that passion. But the passion mindset is selfish. According to Newport the problem with the passion mindset is that it leads people to approach their work asking, ‘What can the world offer me?’ instead of, ‘What can I offer the world?’

Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is to follow your passion. In his book ‘So Good They Can't Ignore You’ Newport states: ‘Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.’

How you can develop your career capital

1. Know what’s really valuable in your field - if you’re struggling to work out what skills would be important for your career, pick three people in your field who you admire. What skills have they got that you aspire to have? Then choose one or two skills for you to work on yourself.

2. Have a goal - don’t confuse being busy with being productive. It’s easy to be busy but at the end of the day how productive is it? Think carefully about what you want to develop in relation to your skill and then start work on it. For example, if you want to be an expert presenter you might begin by focusing in on mastering the skill of telling a story first and then focus on voice projection. Make your goals as small and specific as possible so you have no excuse to procrastinate about them.

3. Stretch yourself - getting out of your comfort zone always feels difficult but that’s where the growth happens. Think of a bodybuilder in the gym. When they put their muscles under stress their body goes into repair mode after the workout to make those muscles stronger for next time. It might feel tough at the time but their body is improving after every session. So try to push past always focusing on the easy things, because that’s exactly what they are – easy! Real growth comes from doing things that are a healthy challenge.

4. Get a mentor - you can’t get better and maintain motivation all by yourself. Use people around you to help you get there. A mentor will give you feedback; sometimes that feedback will be motivational and at other times it will be developmental. It’s that developmental feedback that will help you to re-focus and make progress towards improving your skills.

How to look after yourself and avoid burnout

In the digital age the lines between work and personal life have become blurred. But many expectations about how accessible we should be have been placed there by ourselves, leading to us creating our own internal pressure.

Be clear with yourself and those around you about when work needs to stop and down time begins.

Trying to better yourself is ultimately very fulfilling but it can come at a price if you don’t look after you health. So keep your goal in front of you but keep your health in front of your goal.

If you need further advice, get in touch via LinkedIn.

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