Why Owning Your Career Is the Key to Boost Your Income

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Those who take full ownership of their career will reap big rewards in career growth and see massive gains in their income.

Who is responsible for your career development

Many employees take a wait and see approach to career development, waiting for their manager or boss to come to them with opportunities or promotions. While that may work in limited circumstances, it is also a very career limiting move.

Michelle Smith, an expert on talent management, recently wrote an article titled “This Is Not a Surprise: Managers Are Terrible at Developing Talent“.  And in the article, she states: “Managers are worse at developing their employees than at anything else they do. This was the conclusion of Korn Ferry Institute leadership development researcher Robert Eichinger, who found ‘the ability to grow talent’ was ranked 67th out of 67 different management competencies, despite decades of investment in various performance management initiatives.”

Based on these findings is your manager really the person you want to solely rely on for your career development and progression?  The earlier in your career you can realize this the earlier you’ll realize the need to take ownership of your career.

What does “Owning your career” mean?

Owning your career means that you need to take the driver’s seat on where you are going. In order to really take ownership, you need to take the following steps:

  1. What’s your end goal?  If you are an entry-level analyst in finance, do you have a goal to get into management one day, maybe become CFO? You don’t need to map out your entire career, but you do need to set goals for yourself.
  2. Analyze your path ahead. Based on your goal, identify things that you think are needed to be learned and/or developed to get there.  Something that may be helpful is talking with people in positions that you desire to grow into, and if those aren’t available start researching job descriptions online and identify what capabilities you need to build to meet those needs.
  3. Create an actionable development plan.  This is where many employees take a ‘sit and wait’ approach.  But in order to take ownership of your career, you need to create a development plan that is specific and actionable and builds up the capabilities you’ve identified.
    • Raise your hand at work and take on projects that will help you build skills.  This not only builds your skills but also shows your boss and company that you have a desire to grow and an appetite to take on development projects
    • Take advantage of all internal training your company offers
    • Obtain an advanced degree (MBA, etc.) if it makes sense in your field.
    • Seek outside training opportunities
    • Read career development books to continue to expand your knowledge

What worked for me?

In the first couple years of my career, I was taking a more wait and see approach to my career and counting on my boss for any development opportunities.  Don’t get me wrong here, I worked extremely hard and made sure that all the work I did was of excellent quality and was timely, etc. in addition to helping wherever additional help was needed.  However what I didn’t do was really take stock of where I wanted to go with my career and develop a plan to get there.

Once I realized that I really needed to create my own plan, I started paying much closer attention to roles in the organization that I wanted to grow into.  I started working on those skills that I saw were missing, asking to work on assignments or projects that would build skills I needed to reach the next level.  I took advantage of opportunities to present in front of larger groups as that was something my boss at the time handled regularly.  Once she saw I was capable, I started taking on more of the presenting that she had previously done.  These are the type of opportunities you need to gain exposure that is outsized compared to the role you currently have.

I also identified that most people that were in management and leadership roles, as well as job postings for roles that I identified as next step roles for me, they all had and/or required an MBA degree.  So I went back to school in the evenings for my MBA while working full time.  This was a tough time as I held a full-time day job as a Finance Manager for the company I worked for at the time.  This role, like many in Corporate Finance, can be very time demanding at key times of the month, quarter, and year.

The final piece to set yourself up for success

I addition to working on my development plan as I’ve described, a key aspect of owning my career and setting myself up for promotions to higher roles and higher pay was to identify key pain points for my boss or the organization.  Once I’d identified those, I’d come up with a plan to reduce the pain and if it made sense, I would implement it and then show my boss, or if needed I would present it to them before implementing.  What better way to endear yourself to your boss and the organization you work for than to reduce or eliminate the biggest pain points they experience.

Putting all these together has resulted in continued advancement opportunities for me, early and regular working with executive teams, and setting myself up as a leader in my company.  This means that I’ve reached a position in the company that I identified previously as having a desire to reach.  As a result of multiple promotions and continued advancement in my career, I’ve seen my impact on the organization grow and subsequently my income has grown significantly.

Make your plan today

This same level of success is attainable for you, just don’t wait for your boss to bring it to you on a platter.  You need to take ownership of your career to see the advancement and income you desire.  What are you going to do today to take ownership of your career and earn that higher income you want?

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Hi, I'm GP. A personal finance expert with a mission to help Entirely Money readers break free of money worries. Combining a finance-focused education background (B.S. in Finance and MBA with Finance focus) with over 15 years of personal and corporate finance experience to help you achieve your financial best life!