Before You Grow

Career are defined by growth, but growth isn’t step one in building a great career. If you focus on trying to grow before you develop a skill an organization need, you are unlikely to succeed.

We’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating–many professionals hurt their career by focusing on growth too soon.

I’m not saying don’t grow at all–getting organization to see your skills, even in its earliest form, will help you better understand what your organization want. But focusing too heavily on growth before you’ve built some skills organizations love leads to the leaky bucket problem. You can get users to come in the door, but they don’t stay, and likely won’t return.

If you first make sure your kills are loved, it will be much easier to grow. Managers will be easier to impress, and they’ll tell others about what you have. Your managers essentially become a free marketing and sales force for you. Your chances of building a giant career are much higher when you have a skill that spreads by word of mouth.

If your skill isn’t loved, you might get early progress, but growth will get hard later on. You’ll have to rely on inorganic means like PR to maintain your growth, and this gets very hard to sustain. And the larger you grow, the harder it becomes to course correct. Once your career is a big moving battleship, it becomes really hard to be nimble and quickly make the aggressive changes you need; your range of options becomes limited.

So, if you’re already growing a career around a mediocre skill, fix it now. Don’t try to avoid the problem by raising PR for growth– the problems will still be there, with higher expectations.

And if you’re just starting out, take the time to build a career your managers love, no matter how long it takes. When they actively recommend you to other manager, you’re in the right place.