I had a quick chat with a friend and colleague today, and he asked if I was still loving my gig at LinkedIn.
When I said yes, he lamented that finding a great fit in marketing and social media seems to be so tough, and he was glad it was working out so well for me. But he asked what he could do to find a great fit for himself in the digital marketing space after what was feeling like a stalled career progression.
My response felt like I needed to write it down in more detail, so here it is.
You’re probably not adaptable enough.
Most people make their career decisions based on a simple but deadly thing: ego.
They want a fancier title. More recognition. More visibility or cache or “influence”. So they make their career decisions accordingly. Most often, that means seeking out the next rung above them on the ladder they’re on. Or a “sexier” company, or more management responsibility, or something equally status symbol-esque.
If you’re thinking linearly about your career progression, you’re likely missing hundreds of opportunities to broaden your skills, explore a new part of the business, or gain valuable experience that will come in handy later even if it feels like a jog sideways or even backwards for the moment. (Read Pam Slim’s Body of Work for more on how our careers are more like interconnected webs than straight lines).
We get way too hung up on the superficial stuff.
In my role at LinkedIn, I don’t have an executive title or a team to manage this time around. Stepping into an individual contributor role is helping me really roll my sleeves up to work directly and consultatively with clients (something I’d sort of lost touch with as a marketing leader), and I’m getting to learn about digital marketing’s applications across many sectors, including the world of talent and employer branding (a net new skill set for me that will almost certainly pay dividends and open doors down the road).
Stay open minded about what “next” looks like, and the world of possibilities opens much wider.
You’re focusing on deliverables, not results.
I’ve had a fair few people ask me to look at their resume in the last 6 months, and one theme is common:
Many read like to-do lists instead of results dossiers.
When you’re shopping for a new role, prospective employers and leaders want to know what you can help them achieve. That means that your resume, LinkedIn profile and other associated assets need to clearly talk about results, not the items in your past job descriptions.
For example, if you were involved in demand generation, you’re best off discussing the lead volume, conversion rate and deal size you achieved for your company and how you did that, rather than “delivered 25,000 emails and published quarterly whitepapers”. Those are the means, but the money is in the results.
Same goes for the company you’re working for now; if you’re looking to advance, your quarterly and annual reviews should focus on results-based elements, not a tick list of the tasks you completed. Being your own advocate involves keeping track of where you’ve asked strategic questions, made well-thought decisions, or produced results that made a difference.
Remember too that “results” are both qualitative and quantitative (not every campaign or initiative will have a positive ROI, but every one should have a result that helps you learn something new) should speak to the value you added to the company, and what you did that will leave it better off than it was before you joined.
You’re too self-centered with your networking.
Most of us know by now that the best jobs – internally or elsewhere – are often not advertised, but even if they are, you’re more likely to land a great job via the network of people you know.
The trouble is that you really need to build the network before you need it. It’s like saving money to earn interest; it’s hard to cash in the dividends if you try to withdraw the instant you invest.
It’s easier to do that if you start today by building relationships on the basis of what you can do to lift up others, contribute to their success, and help them achieve their goals. You’ll learn in the process, and if you do right by those you’re working with, they’ll remember that later.
If you’re too focused on what other people can or “should” do for you to help advance your career, they’ll remember that, too.
And if you’re embarking on an external job search without a strong network in place, be incredibly helpful, gracious and specific about your asks of others to make it easy for them to help you if they’re so inclined.
Your attitude is showing.
This is one of those woo-woo things, but after a career of both rapid advancement and success and spectacular failure, I can tell you that your attitude really matters.
I see all too many people pursuing new roles with a chip on their shoulder, angry about getting let go or held back, or frustrated by a difficult manager or a limited budget, and they drag that luggage right into their hunt for their next play.
Nobody wants to hire someone who disparages former employers or coworkers, gripes about how unappreciated they’ve been, or trudges through their days focused on everything negative.
That’s not to say advancing your career isn’t hard. It is. So find your trusted inner circle and vent away to them offline. Get a therapist. Get a career counselor. Get a punching bag. Whatever combination of things works for you to let go of the toxic energy weighing you down (I told you it was woo-woo).
Then channel all that frustration into the art of the possible, illustrating a path forward that’s all about untapped potential, new possibilities, a dedication to driving results, and excitement about what’s to come.
What have I missed?
Many of you have enjoyed remarkable career paths and I know our readers here would love to learn from your success.
What do you think holds people back in their career progression? Can you share something with everyone that might help them as they look to move upward and forward with their professional experience?
Looking forward to your input in the comments.