How To Advance Your Career At a Small Company

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Being a part of a small company isn’t for everyone. Even with the dream team, a small company has many unpredictable variables that can deter people from staying. Now may a great time to be taking risks with a growing company that you believe in, but you always have to be realistic with yourself about what you’re doing, what you want to be doing and what you should be doing for your future. Whether it’s a matter of figuring out how to grow with the company or when to move on, do the following to help make your decisions:

Don’t Just Show Initiative, Take It  

Smaller organizations don’t always have structured career paths for their employees, so it’s likely you’ll be responsible for not only meeting your performance goals, but for helping your supervisor to define them, as well.

Take advantage of this and be proactive about your role. Don’t wait for management to assign you additional responsibilities. Instead, look around for areas in the organization that need improvement and create solutions. This process will identify areas of opportunity that are beyond your current functional area (some of which may be perfectly suited to your skill set!).

Make it Easy for Them to See What You’re Doing

Once you’ve identified potential areas for growth or projects you can take on, create a career plan with a measurable set of objectives to discuss with your supervisor on a regular basis (and make revisions as your role develops). When you’re forging into new territory, documenting the metrics by which your success will be measured is a favor to both yourself and your boss.

But accomplishing your goals is only half of the battle. Remember, The Powers That Be (TPTB) at your company cannot reward what they cannot see, and from my experience, they sometimes need visual aids. If you want your growth to stay on the agenda, you’ll need to reinforce your efforts by giving them the right information at the right time.

The lesson here is this: Set goals, communicate your achievements, and demonstrate how they translate into dollars. Executives understand this language. 

Find a Mentor

There is no better guide to a destination than one who’s already traveled the road. If your company has a formal mentoring program, get involved. If it doesn’t, look around for someone who’s been there for awhile, and who has accomplished the type of growth you’re looking for. A mentor can see what you can’t—whether it’s an opportunity for improvement, an obstacle within the organization, or the often unspoken expectations of management.

Be Realistic

It’s easy get frustrated when your career doesn’t develop as quickly as you’d hoped. The truth is, no matter how hard you work, or how much you bring to the table, your organization might not be big or profitable enough to justify a promotion.

If this is the case for you, try not to focus too much on the official promotion. There is more to career development than a change in title and a bigger office. Growth can also be tracked with changes in your pay, responsibilities, and influence. For instance, you may become eligible for an annual bonus, or your salary increases may be more substantial. Or, you may find that you’re included in discussions regarding strategy and process more so than before. At a small company, having greater influence over its product or services can be more meaningful for your career long-term than a change to the title on your business card.

If All Else Fails

Ultimately, you may find that your personal goals and the company’s available opportunities just don’t align. If this is the case, it may be time to consider moving on. But whether you decide to stay in your current role or seek out another, there is no downside to making the effort to become a more valuable, effective team member.

Blaze that trail. It may not get you to where you expected, but it will get you somewhere better.

(via The Daily Muse | image via Media Novak)