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Your career path – focus forward.

Article contributed by Penny Izlakar with the WIL Alberta Chapter

Have you ever thought of what your career path looks like? What would you tell your younger self about that journey? Can you see how each experience shaped your career map thus far? Can you explain that journey, and does it demonstrate strategic thinking or fluke opportunities?

My map, while squiggly concerning industries, the roles have been strategic in getting me to my current position. I mapped out where I needed to go for the experience, but it was not until my current company that I identified paths and growth that I did not know I wanted or needed. So purposeful early on and openness to possibility later once I was ready to let others help shape my path.

Consider the following tips to help you focus forward on your own career journey.

Tip 1 – Map your journey thus far.

Consider the shape of your map. Is it straight or squiggly? Were there pauses or loops (rotations)?

  1. Map out your journey on paper or your favourite mapping tool (PowerPoint, Visio or other).

  2. Add decisions, circumstances, and outcomes to each destination on your map.

Why, you ask? Explaining your journey in your own words and how it shaped who you are is very powerful for yourself and those you share it with.

Now let’s take that map and focus forward.

Tip 2 – Look at what you might be missing from your journey thus far that needs attention.

We all have a few missing links, but they don’t need to be big or audacious; they can be a challenge or course/certification you want to take to move your career forward.

In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned my IDP (Individual Development Plan) and how I typically talk to leaders in groups I’m unfamiliar with to determine what experience, education, and certifications I may need if interested in a role in their area. Not only does this give me insight into what I might be missing, but also what is important to them. Talk about invaluable insights by getting uncomfortable and asking for an informational chat.

Once I’ve had those chats, I go back to my career journey map, dotted line possible growth areas, and set goals to help me get the experience or education so I’m ready for my next potential move. An example from my career journey at my current company, a couple of senior leaders told me that I needed to get an MBA to move up. Why, you ask, well to gain strategic and critical thinking skills and more business acumen. So, I tapped into my inner self-doubt, applied for the company subsidy program, found a program I liked and in 2017 I gave it a shot. I worked my butt off while working full time (thankfully, my family supported my insanity) and am proud to say I did what I set out to do. I graduated with an MBA in 2019. Now getting an MBA set me up for the second example I needed to progress higher in my company.

Tip 3 – Rotations, Rotations, Rotations.

At my current company, they highly encourage rotations to provide you with exposure to other areas of the organization. While they may be pre-determined for you, in my case, some were my own investigation and asking to do rotations. Remember, you own your career, so it is not always necessary to wait for others to make career decisions for you. Those informational conversions I suggested in Tip 1 apply here – you know what you might be missing, so ask and put the goal as part of your annual development plan.

In all my previous companies, I never once considered rotations. However, my current company helped me buy into the rotation concept, and I see my career journey continuing down the same path. Thus, rotations become necessary if you stay at an organization long-term. So, what does my rotation journey look like thus far:

  • I started in Law as a Corporate Records Manager, then reorganized to Technology & Information Services (TIS).

  • Took on a larger team, TIS Governance & Compliance, on top of Records Management and began working on M&As (a passion from a previous company).

  • I was rotated into Cybersecurity to run the Governance, Risk and Compliance Team to lead an assurance initiative.

  • I was rotated into Infrastructure Services to learn backend IT and how governance can impact operationally focused teams and lead a process optimization practice.

  • Reorganized into Infrastructure & Cloud, where I took on a chief of staff-like position focused on talent management, talent acquisition, and financial management on top of governance, compliance, and process optimization.

  • Most recently, promoted to Director with the added responsibility of overseeing infrastructure strategy and portfolio delivery.

Is my career journey done? No, my journey still has so much runway through rotations and potential promotions in the future. So I will continue to map out my squiggly line career, update my IDP, feed my growth mindset, challenge myself and find new groups and teams to investigate.

Now your turn. What does your career map look like? Squiggly, straight, focused? Spend some time mapping out your past so you can focus forward.

Great reads:

  • Career Leap

  • Squiggly Line Career

Leader. Efficiency Finder. Mentor. Leadership Advocate. Penny Izlakar

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