January is the perfect time to assess your career, to make sure you’re heading in the direction you want to go. In doing so, like most of us you’ll probably find some areas that could be improved – but what are some best ways of truly positioning your career for success? Rather than making long-term plans, a lot of career success involves maximizing your potential each and every day. Consider what you can do to make sure you take advantage of every available opportunity, so you have the best chance for a long and successful career over the next year and beyond. We spoke with leaders from across Skanska USA about the best steps you can take to maximize your career, today:
1. Step up to the challenge: Regardless of the job, there’s always a first time that you approach a daunting task or assignment, and it’s natural to be a little uncertain. “I try to encourage people to take on new challenges, and at times I push them into areas before they think they’re ready – areas for which I have confidence that they’ll do well,” said Bob Rose, senior vice president. “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.”
It’s likely your manager has been in a similar position before and can see your potential, so don’t be afraid to say yes. “I look back at my early career – every new job or project that I took on had new challenges that were out of my comfort zone,” said Steve Skinner, executive vice president. “I didn’t know if I could succeed in them. But I did, and I grew with each successful venture I got into.”
2. Find a mentor, and be a mentee: Mentors are an important way of connecting your career goals and ambitions with tactics and a mindset to make your goals come to fruition. Why? A good mentor brings trust, wisdom, guidance and an alternate perspective. Meaning that as you plan your career trajectory, you have constant encouragement and someone else rooting for you to succeed. It doesn’t have to be someone you report to, but it should be someone you look up to and admire. “I never went about finding a mentor in any formal way,” said Robb Fonkalsrud, project executive. “I would generally find someone whose leadership style I respected and wanted to emulate, and it was just a natural bond after that. I picked and chose the leadership styles I respected, which helped me develop my own style.”
Once your leadership style has had a chance to evolve, it’s your turn to help develop – and invest in – younger employees. Be ready to listen and give guidance based on your experience- and honesty is key. When talking with younger employees, “I listen to their concerns, their thoughts about where they want to head in their careers, and anything else,” added Fonkalsrud. “In responding, I use my experience and wisdom to help them see into the future a bit. If they ask me for something – such as if they want to try a different project role- I always follow through, and I’m honest about the decision. I feel that honesty is the basis of the whole relationship.”
3. Demonstrate your value: Showing senior leadership that you’re invested in your work is critical to your career development. By showing your commitment, you’re validating all of the time and resources being invested in your development. “I look for our younger employees to demonstrate that they have a strong work ethic and are passionate about what they do,” said Fonkalsrud. “When I see that, it lets me know it’s a good investment of my time to help guide them.”
Beyond hard work and dedication, exhibiting self-awareness is also key to showing your value. Understanding your surroundings indicates to your superiors that you have a good grasp on both the project and the customer’s vision. As Lisa Picard, executive vice president, says, “As long as you are focused on what’s in the best interest of the project and client, you will actually do your best work to exceed your supervisor’s expectations.”
4. Plan for professional development: A successful career generally doesn’t happen by chance. You can start planning now, working with your manager to create a development plan to provide you with a roadmap to career success, based off of your short-term and long-term aspirations. “Having the discipline to think through a development plan can force you to step back and make sure your energies are going toward activities that contribute to the overall plan,” said Susan Jenkins, vice president and account manager. Constructing a development plan is also a good way to check in with your manager to make sure you’re developing skills and remaining focused on finding the best way to meet your personal or professional goals. You should revisit your plan a few times a year for fine tuning, as you learn new things, meet new people, and encounter new ideas.
In the busy day-to-day, seeking out opportunities for professional and personal growth can seem easy to push off to a less chaotic time. But it doesn’t have to be hard, and it’s worth every second. By integrating these four steps into your career, you are making an investment in yourself by making use of every resource available to you to build your career for success in 2016 and beyond.