Recently, I interviewed a very impressive 30-year-old candidate for a sales role. During the interview, she asked if I had any type of career strategy when I was her age. The question intrigued me and spurred me to write this article. When I sat down to reflect on the career path of my early 30s, I realized that I made some strategic decisions that truly paid dividends. Among them, the following three strategies put me in the best position to boost my career.
Choose the job where you have a chance to work with intelligent and talented people, even if it means passing up another job with a higher salary. All workers, regardless of age, should always be learning and improving, but this is especially true for workers in their 30s who have decades ahead of them. Having access to mentors and leaders who guide by example and also give good advice when needed is important for career development. In some companies, a sales rep might be stuck interacting with only their immediate sales manager, which can be limiting to the rep if the manager is not dynamic nor has the intention of being a mentor. However, other companies have plenty of valuable resources − if the role is right and if the employee can interact with senior leaders. In short, find a place where you get to work with smart people, and you will become smarter.
Throughout my career, I have always thought "two jobs ahead" before deciding on a new company. This does not mean I was planning to job hop from day one. Before joining a new company, I always asked myself: “In three or four years, will I have received the experience to be a desirable candidate for other employers?” One way to assure this is to join a company in a growing industry. As the company and the industry grows, you will have opportunities to learn new skills and understand new technologies that other companies will find desirable. Don't settle for companies with a dead-end technology or limited growth potential, even if they offer a larger salary.
When people think about something they want to improve in their skillset, they automatically choose a weakness. Schools teach students to shore up weaknesses from an early age, and we have been conditioned to put our attention on improving those weaknesses. In addition to working on weaknesses, it is a good idea to identify your strengths and focus on improving what you’re good at. One good way to identify strengths is to ask your boss, colleagues, friends and family for honest feedback. Also, take note when you receive praise for work that comes easily to you. Perhaps you are good at compiling data and making presentations for meetings. Take one or two hours out of your day to go online to study how the best presentations are made. In a short time, you could learn numerous tricks and ideas that can really boost your presentation skills and impress higher ups. Basically, never stop learning and never stop improving, even in areas where you are already strong.
Of course, these tips are no guarantee of career success. Many other factors will determine the overall path that your career takes. And success can mean many things to many people. But what these tips can do is put you in the best position to take advantage of the opportunities that come along on your career journey. They helped get me where I am today − working for an industry leader that is making the internet a safer place for organizations and employees.
I hope they prove beneficial for you, as well.