How to Choose the Right Career Opportunities
Lately, your job isn’t as much as a challenge as it used to be. That’s only natural, since you become more skilled and knowledgeable over time. It can also be a bit frustrating, especially if you want to advance your career and don’t qualify for a promotion yet.
If this situation sounds familiar, then you’ve probably also done your research and found numerous articles and blog posts that advise you to take advantage of opportunities to showcase or stretch your skills. But before you volunteer for an assignment or ask your supervisor to give you more responsibility, it’s important to understand that not all opportunities are created equal.
If you select the wrong one, you could find yourself overwhelmed or sorely underqualified. That could reflect negatively on your overall performance. Alternatively, you could also do a great job—only to find that the project doesn’t have the impact you’d anticipated and therefore doesn’t win you the points you’d hoped for with your supervisor.
So how do you know which opportunities will help you advance your career? The answer lies in carefully assessing each opportunity in light of your unique professional situation.
Start by pinpointing the next step in your career path. Depending on your personal career objectives, you might want to make a lateral move to broaden your knowledge or follow a traditional, linear route to your ultimate goal. For example, if you’re an app developer and you want to be fluent in multiple coding languages, you should work on projects that allow you to perfect your mastery of those languages. If, however, your objective is to be a project manager in app development, then your next move should involve assuming more responsibility in the development process.
When an opportunity presents itself, you need to evaluate its potential ROI. Ask yourself the following questions:
Will this add to my knowledge in a way that supports my next career move? For example, if you’re a wiz at C+ but your iOS/Swift isn’t very good, look for an opportunity to practice iOS/Swift.
Is my current skill level or knowledge sufficient for me to realistically do a good job, or are there other things I need to learn first? If you want to become a project manager but you don’t have much practice with strategic thinking, then you might want to consider shadowing a project manager for a while before assuming the responsibility of coordinating an entire assignment.
Will I have access to the resources and support I need to ace this opportunity? Are there colleagues you can turn to for help? Will your employer provide you with any training? If you’re trying to figure out an entire programming language on your own while you’re on a deadline and have to deliver top quality work, you’re probably in way over your head.
Can I handle the work involved without it negatively impacting my regular responsibilities? Don’t make the mistake of taking on an assignment that’s so time consuming, your performance in other areas of your job takes a nosedive.
What’s the visibility and value of this opportunity for my employer and my industry? In her Forbes article “The Salary Chronicles: How Learning to Speak Up Landed Me a $16K Raise,” Erica Gellerman shares how she actually asked her supervisor to be considered for more visible projects. Likewise, you should find out how important this project is—even if you have to have a conversation with your supervisor. For example, if it involves developing a new kind of app that can help predict health incidents in patients with epilepsy, chances are it’s a high profile project that if you get it right, it could be a valuable win for patients, healthcare providers, your employer—and you.
If you evaluate every opportunity by asking these questions, you’ll greatly increase your chances of advancing your career in a way that showcases your potential to learn, as well as your ability to deliver on projects that add value to your company.