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How do you create growth opportunities for yourself at work?

Do you feel like your company, industry or personality aren’t giving you room to grow? Don’t feel sorry as you watch yourself stagnate. Instead, take the initiative and use the tips below to get ahead.

Here’s how you can break out of these career ruts and emerge a winner.

Situation #1: When you’re vying with others for the same job

If you find yourself competing with a colleague for the same spot, there’s no point in letting tension build up till you turn into frenemies. Deal with the awkwardness by casually chatting with the colleague – “Hey, I heard you applied for this lateral move; I did too. I know both of us will do a great job.” When it comes to making a case to the management on why you’re the best choice for the new role, remember that scheming to make yourself look good is sure to backfire. Focus on continuing to do a good job and let your skills make your case. Make sure that you handle every assignment adroitly, and focus on showcasing soft skills as much your hard ones. But, despite it all, if you are passed over, maintain your dignity. Tomorrow’s another day.

Don’t try and sabotage anyone’s career to get ahead. Undermining others loses you major points, especially if you’re applying for a leadership role.

Situation #2: When the company isn’t growing

If you want to grow in the same job, you can’t afford to be complacent. The key to career development lies in investing in professional training. Joyce Russell writes in The Washington Post, “With today’s complex business environment, learning is not just a nice thing to do – it is essential for staying on top of things.” So make time in your busy schedule for additional learning – thanks to technology, it’s possible to learn anytime and anywhere now. Be pro-active and aim to do more than what’s demanded of you. Staying on top of things in your domain and industry ensures that you’re better placed to move and adapt to new roles.

Do Use the commute to listen to a podcast, devote a couple of lunch hours every week to learning or find time during the weekend.

Situation #3: When your industry isn’t growing

If you want to develop yourself, it’s essential to find the opportunity. Apart from working on yourself,  – attend professional meets and talk to people from different companies. Work on building your personal brand – for this, it’s important to work to your strengths. This may be a good time to consider a reinvention – either in the same industry or a switch to another one that has interested you for long.

Do Sign up for a project outside of your work area; it will give you new skills, let you look at the big picture and lead to more connections.

Situation #4: When your skills aren’t up to mark

It’s difficult to thrive in any workplace if your skills don’t tick off on the required boxes. Most of us know the skills that we have and those that we are lacking, but a formal inventory will help list down “pros” and “cons”. Do a bit of sleuthing to know what skills will help advance your career. There’s no short cut to skilling up – you’ll need to take classes or pursue certifications. Do some research to see what skills will boost your job prospects. The mix of skills needed – hard skills such as sales, data analysis and social media, and soft skills like communication, creativity, confidence and patience – differ based on industry and job type. Take one class at a time to upgrade yourself. It may make sense to sign up for a long-term online course if you’re sorely lacking in some aspects.

Do Seek out extra courses, but also take recommendations from your boss on what books, journals and audio programs s/he recommends.

Situation #5: When you have personality issues

No matter which stage of your career you’re in – job seeker, manager, middle management or entrepreneur – building and cultivating relationships is at the heart of your job. This essentially means that your personality has a huge impact on your career and growth. Research has shown that the five-factor personality model can be used to rate almost every person. The five factors here are openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion/introversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. Do a reality check – ask friends, colleagues and even your boss what they think your biggest flaw is and work on it. It may not be easy to change your basic nature, but it’s possible to quell negative complaining or sarcastic comments.
Do Listen to yourself, hear what you are saying and pay complete attention to how you say it.

Once you focus on the problem at hand and begin a professional development process, you are sure break down the barriers that stand in the way of your career growth. Andy Warhol had the right idea: “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

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