Career growth requires you to already have grown
Have you ever been told “to do this role, you need to have been doing it for some time”? In other words, to be a leader you need to have been a leader. Sounds like a catch 22 or chicken & egg? The good news is that you can achieve your goal but that requires you to grow before you step into that role. If you want to step into a leadership role, you need to be a leader already.
My experience suggests that most professionals with a career aim that they are committed to have already been what they aim. What stopping them is the different equation they have. For example, some hold that “leadership = having a leadership job title” as opposed to where in the past you exhibited leadership traits. Reflecting on your career from this viewpoint can help you clarify your vision and move to embody that vision when engaging with your network (e.g. colleagues, managers and new potential employers).
Here is a simple iterative framework you can use to help your growth ambitions.
1. Reflection: The main question here is “who are you?” Most people have a CV that they brush off from time to time which lists all they have done. That may have worked before but if you are aiming for growth, you must look at your life (not just career) and identify who you are as opposed to what you have done. What you have achieved contributed to who you are as a professional. For example, “I managed a project successfully” vs “I am a change leader”. Instead of describing what you did in the past with the language you used in the past, you elevate your view as who you have become because of those experiences.
2. Vision: Here you focus on your purpose and your passion. Some of you may have jumped out of your seat with excitement or just rolled your eyes hearing about the 2 Ps. In simple words, focus on what is important to you! This could be to provide a better life for your family. It could be to grow as a professional. Or it may be to change the world. We all have a purpose and it will go beyond our individual selves and there is fire burning inside to live up to that purpose. You may just not let that flame grow.
3. Embodiment: Are you aligned to your vision? Or simply put do you buy that narrative you created so far? Can you stand in a group of friends or strangers and state who you are? Or would your shoulders drop down, your chest collapse or you feel like a fraud? If so, it simply means you have not fully embodied the new vision. Fear not! It comes with practice and persistence. Perhaps more reflection on your life and discussion with a friendly colleague or a coach can help.
4. Engagement: Now is the time to fully engage with the new vision and the market around you. Can you write a brief paragraph about you? Can you post that on your LinkedIn profile? Or write a letter/email to a prospect/colleague? You need not necessarily jump all in. Perhaps you want to iterate and slowly engage with them and hear what they say.
Iterate these steps and remember each time through this you will be a different person. Reflect on changes in language, body posture and emotions. Ask a close friend, a colleague, a trusted advisor to give you their perspective. Sometimes they may tell you something about you outside your work that can help you see yourself differently.