Are you missing career opportunities?

Are you missing career opportunities?

A senior position for which you qualify opens up in your department. Do you apply for it?

A potential mentor is going to be attending a networking event. Do you make sure to be present, too?

Your current job involves doing a lot of cutting edge work—so much, in fact, that it’s actually an entirely different position. Do you propose creating a new role to your employer?

If you’ve answered, “Yes!” to any of these question, then you’re doing a good job of recognizing and taking advantage of career opportunities. But if none of them sound like something you’d do, then you need to ask yourself if you’re missing career opportunities. And the unfortunate truth is, you probably are—and that’s not conducive to advancing your career.

Reasons people miss career opportunities

There can be a number of reasons you’re missing career opportunities. First, when you’re working full-time, it can easily happen that you have your hands full with your daily responsibilities. So unless an opportunity is glaringly obvious, you’re likely to miss it. Second, as Hallie Crawford points out in her U.S. News Money article “4 Ways to Create Your Next Career Opportunity,” opportunities are frequently disguised as hard work. Third, especially when it comes to creating a new position, both you and your employer might be overly focused on the job description, not your actual duties. And fourth, opportunities don’t always arise from inside the workplace.

Don’t miss out again

So how can you recognize and take advantage of career opportunities without compromising your daily performance? The following tips can help:

  1. Keep a professional journal. Use it to track projects, accomplishments, side projects, new duties and skills, and the volume and quality of your work. Include your performance assessments and regularly benchmark your current performance against your past functioning. This will enable you to assess how you’re progressing in your role so you can pinpoint when you’re ready to take on more responsibility. You can either use it to ask your supervisor for a promotion, or, if that’s not an option with your current employer, to move on.
  2. Recognize the “hidden” opportunities. That end-of-year report everybody dreads and nobody wants to write? Tending to the company’s booth at a national trade fair? Writing an article for a trade magazine? The nervous intern who needs a confident mentor to guide him through the first weeks in the office? Considering that you’re unlikely to be the only aspirational employee in your department, it’s oftentimes the willingness and ability to go above and beyond that opens doors. If you’re upbeat and have a can-do attitude, your supervisor is more likely to notice you and appreciate your hard work. And that often means that when an interesting opportunity comes along, you’ll be first in line.
  3. Evaluate your job duties and if appropriate, suggest a new role. With rapidly advancing technology, a global marketplace, and the increased role of online collaboration and social media, employees in a number of fields find themselves performing duties that are vastly different from their original job descriptions. For example, a content producer might wind up spending the bulk of her hours interacting with followers online in order to advance customer engagement. In situations like these, both you and your employer are likely to benefit from recognizing the distinction and creating a new role with the tools and time necessary for you to do a good job.
  4. Look outside of the workplace. It can’t be emphasized enough, but networking is still one of the best ways to create opportunities. You’ll hear about open positions and interesting projects. It’s also smart to look for a mentor and/or sponsor. Either one can be beneficial to your career, but as Sylvia Ann Hewlett states in her Harvard Business Review article “Constructing Your Career Castle,” a mentor advises you on your career development—and a sponsor actively promotes you because he or she is a stakeholder in your professional success.

To consistently advance your career, be aware of the opportunities you have, and if they’re conducive to your end goal, don’t hesitate to take full advantage of them!