Some people know early on what they hope their long-term career path will look like, or even the culminating role or accomplishment they aim to achieve. Others will find their path as they go or even explore multiple different paths while searching for the work that inspires, fulfills, or compensates them. There are many ways to move through your career. Some individuals might be focused on ascending through a particular promotion track, others might take lateral moves through different functions or departments, and some might find the role that will carry them throughout their career and stick with it. Whether you are looking to climb that career mountain, happy at the plateau, or seeking to find a role to build a home around, figuring out if your expectations are likely to be met by a particular role is beneficial.
Here are some questions to consider that might lead you to prioritize the career path available in your next role:
Are you intentionally looking for career advancement?
Is now the right time for you to focus on work?
Does the role you take next need to confer value or signal specific skills or achievements to others?
Is there a clear direction within your chosen discipline that requires or allows for a particular progression and/or timeline?
Are you confident in the industry and/or company—that it has staying power, relevancy and prominence now, and over the next ten years?
Is this the function you want to focus on long-term—will this role and the skills you develop serve as stepping stones to ongoing career opportunities?
Is the ability to advance through roles in this company connected to career milestones you have identified and are working toward?
Is having opportunities to learn and grow in your next role important to you?
Questions about career path or promotion opportunities come up frequently with candidates during the interview process. It makes sense in many regards. Candidates want to find out about future roles, growth, and rewards, as well as if the roles will provide the title, prestige, and learning they want in their career. To be able to effectively understand the potential career path at a particular organization, you’ll need to evaluate it from various angles.
The average tenure at companies has decreased relative to prior generations. It also takes time, often multiple years, to develop the skills and operational familiarity that will result in a promotion. With that frame of reference, there’s a good chance you won’t be at the company to take them up on their career path progressions. Instead, you’ll probably take new positions elsewhere to optimize your trajectory and total rewards. And, you’ll make those moves on your own timeline, for the reasons and opportunities that matter most to you.
In reality, there may not be enough information for an interviewer to talk about career paths during the hiring process. Unless you’re stepping into a role on a team where there is history and evidence of growth, advancement and acceleration for others, they may not have a clear perspective on what’s next for someone like you. If you’re joining a large team, where many people fulfill the same position and have for years, there is a better chance your interviewers can more accurately tell you what the potential pathways look like as well as what factors contribute to making those moves possible. If you are the first person to have this role, one of a small cohort, or if you are stepping into a new team, an interviewer can give you an answer, but you won’t be able to know if it’ll be true. If there is not an established process in place, are they giving you credible information or generic indicators to move the conversation along? It’s hard to tell.
Additionally, it is unclear if your potential will equate to high performance. During the interview process, the company is assessing if they believe you have the potential to succeed. Can you effectively fulfill the responsibilities? Do you have the capabilities and skills? Will you approach the work with engagement, passion, and performance that differentiates you relative to peers?
And finally, it is also uncertain if you will like “it” (the job, the team, the city, the work, etc.) enough or care long enough to perform, stay, and succeed in progressive roles to get that desired promotion, or if you’ll even want it when it’s offered. The grass is always greener…
There are fields in which a clear career trajectory still exists, but there are many more where the thing to focus on in a new role is whether the skills you learn are applicable to a wide number of future opportunities. Careers, jobs, companies, and industries are changing fast, and one of the best things you can do for your career “path” is to treat it flexibly. The most important factor in having a long-term career path is deciding that the job you are interviewing for is the job you want and then succeeding throughout the interview process so that you get the job. This book is one of the tools that will help ensure you pursue and have access to the career path, whatever that might be, that best suits your aspirations and goals.
Why a company exists, the problems the team is focused on solving, and the steps they’ll take to get there represent aspects of the company’s mission and goals. A company’s mission is its reason for existing. Some companies treat their mission statements like inspirational quotes about changing lives, or the world. Others are more straightforward: to provide a product or service that people need. The work that the team does, as well as the goals the business is focused on, is tied to that purpose, that reason for being. The mission, and the underlying goals and values that the company has will drive decision making, influence team structure and role design, and help shape the culture. In mission-driven organizations, the pull to participate and make a difference is a leading factor why people choose to work there and the resulting camaraderie and commitment can create a unique environment.
To determine whether or not a company’s mission and goals will rise to the top of your priority list, consider the following:
Are you purpose-driven when it comes to your career?
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