Enhance your expertise
Think about your skills, where are your gaps? What can be done to fill them? Do you need training, coaching, a secondment? It is much easier to approach your manager to invest in your career if you have a plan to show them. Also bear in mind that if you can train to become an expert in a particular subject, it’s possible to progress in your career as a independent consultant or specialist rather than a manager. Without a team to look after, you’ll almost certainly have greater flexibility in terms of when and where you’ll be able to work.
Consider a mentor
Know someone professionally that you have a lot of respect for? Consider asking them to be a mentor. Mentoring is much discussed, but the number of people that have them is still surprisingly few. A mentor can be hugely valuable, they will encourage you to think about your own career and develop a vision, pulling you out of the “day to day” to think about yourself. They will also have valuable advice for many career issues you may encounter.
Build your network
Take time to build a network of colleagues and associates. This will help you to build your personal “brand”, they will bring fresh ideas and solutions to work conundrums but also can act as a support network in navigating the bumps in your career path. It can be hard to find time to fit in networking with flexible hours, but it can be as simple as having lunch with someone in a different team or department, and external networking can take place at a skills event whilst gaining CPD points, at a breakfast event before work or a social situation!
Consider flexibility that covers full time hours
We would love to say that the opportunities to work part time and progress your career are endless, but whilst we are doing our best to improve things, sadly that is not currently the case. Many employers require a “full time” presence for senior roles, especially if managing a team or in a client-facing role. However, there are still some options for flexibility in these scenarios, for example:
Consider whether you know anyone who could share a role with you, with each of you doing 3 days per week (Mon-Weds and Weds-Fri). This will ensure that the role is covered 5 days per week, opening up more senior opportunities. In addition, for businesses it has numerous benefits, two sets of ideas, access to a complementary but wider mix of skills, holiday cover and many more!
Four days per week
Working four days a week as a senior member of staff can actually be a great way to support your team; with your guidance for most of the week, they’ll have the opportunity to be independent for one day out of five. This can function as a useful learning experience for younger members of staff. It allows them to develop their own management skills while knowing they have your support to call on in the surrounding days. It makes great sense for the business as it helps with succession planning
Think about what you want to achieve in the next year and over the next 5 years and break it down into achievable pieces. You can then evaluate whether you are moving in the direction you had hoped, separate to the appraisal of your current role/company. Being able to measure your achievements will help you to avoid treading water and ensure you keep on the trajectory you would like
While it can be frustrating to have to slow your ascent to the role of your dreams, it’s important to note that there’s no need to rush. It’s worth thinking of your career as a tree rather than a ladder - there’s no harm in taking a rest on some branches, or choosing to move sideways rather than directly upwards.
Sometimes your ‘career tree’ might be full of blossoms and leaves; other times it might seem wintery and barren. But remember: there are plenty of fruitful seasons left to come, so don’t be afraid to take your time and work according to what suits your lifestyle right now.