In the hyper competitive job market today, if you are not moving ahead you are almost certainly falling behind. The best way to move ahead, either in your current job and company, or any other is to champion your own professional development. Simply stated, development is the “engine” that powers your career. To take on new skills and apply them effectively to solve business challenges is to separate yourself from the crowd and get noticed.
If development is the engine of career growth, then feedback is the fuel that makes it go. The fact is, none of us see ourselves as we really are. No matter how self-aware we may claim to be, we view ourselves through the filter of our unique life experience. Sure we have a general idea of the things that we can do to improve our skills, just as we have a sense of our appearance at any given time. But we cannot be sure of what we look like without the help of a mirror. In the same way, feedback is the “mirror” that reflects what we look like from a developmental perspective.
So where does this feedback come from? While it can come from a variety of sources, including bosses, co-workers, family and friends, there are some rules of thumb to keep in mind. Generally speaking, the higher the level you are in an organization, the broader and deeper the feedback you need. You need to expand the feedback pool because of the breadth of the impact you have on an organization, and to combat the tendency for feedback to dry up at senior levels.
On the other hand, if you are in more of an entry level or junior role, you can rely almost exclusively on the feedback of your immediate manager, as jobs at these levels tend to have a more limited scope. Of course, when you are relying on the feedback of fewer people, you must ensure that you have an effective and productive working relationships, lest you run the risk of being frozen out of feedback altogether.
Once you get the feedback you need, the key is to do something about it. Do not kid yourself into believing that it is someone else’s job to see to your development. You are the prime stakeholder in your career and you need to take charge of it. Look for the types of projects, assignments and training that will build your skills in critical gap areas and aggressively go after them. Explain to your boss, HR or whoever else will listen that you are interested in taking on new skills that will serve you and the company well. There is absolutely no down side to this discussion.
Make today the day you decide to pull away from the pack. Learn to drive your professional development, fueled by feedback and watch the scenery blur as you zoom along.