Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management


Five tips for career growth

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward.” If you’re moving backward, who’s fault is it? Who is responsible? We all know the answer to this.

The people whose careers seem to grow the fastest follow similar patterns of behavior. They understand competition exists, they recognize the steps they need to take to succeed, and they understand who is responsible. They take charge of their career and accept full responsibility for their growth.

The following five actions will help accelerate your career growth:

  1. Improve skills and knowledge: Instead of hunkering down in your current state, take specific actions to improve your skills. Look for opportunities for training. Read books. Read blogs. Make an effort to learn new skills and practice them as much as you can in your current job. Remember these words from Eric Hoffer: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”
  2. Develop trust: People naturally want to surround themselves with people they trust. Developing trust takes time and consistent effort. Trust goes two ways: you need to behave in such a way that people will trust you will do what you say. And equally important, you need to trust others.
  3. Help others: One of the keys to growth is helping others. When you make the effort to assist someone else to become better at what they do, you become better yourself.
  4. Believe in yourself: As your skills increase, you gain more experience and a clearer understanding your significance to your organization. Believing in yourself, your skills, and your ability to succeed — without becoming arrogant — is a good thing. And never forget the people who have helped you along the way.
  5. Work yourself out of the job: This one may not make sense on its face, but the idea is to work effectively and close the loop on what you are doing. Think in terms of projects: plan what you are going to do, work at it and when it’s finished move on to the next project. Work effectively and make it so that anyone could step in and take over. As you do that you will automatically make yourself more valuable to your company, and they will have no choice but to promote you or find something more challenging for you to do.

One of the Harvard Business Review management tips states it very clearly: “Responsibility for your professional development lies squarely on your shoulders.” Go out and make it happen.

The Product Management Perspective: Career growth is important to every product manager I know. The role lends itself to working with many people in different parts of the company and with customers and others external to the organization. Practicing the five actions listed above will increase your value to your company and accelerate your career growth. And when you work yourself out of the product management position, perhaps you’ll find yourself in an executive’s chair.