Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hone Your Craft, Raise Your Hand

Last week I was talking with some folks at Pillar in Columbus, Ohio, and we were discussing career progression. The discussion evolved into how individuals could move up a career path, or be recognized as wanting more responsibilities.

John Huston, one of Pillar’s leaders, made the comment “Hone your craft, raise your hand.” That comment really struck home with me, so much so that I grabbed a 3x5 card on the table and scribbled the phrase down right in the middle of the ongoing discussion.

I love John’s phrasing because it concisely sums up one of the best ways you can advance along your career path: work hard, ask for more responsibility. I’ve always been a believer that hard work gets recognized in good organizations. [1] It’s not immediate recognition; sometimes it takes an extended effort to get to that point.

Honing your craft is critical both to you and the organization you work for. Honing your craft means you need to invest the time and energy in a focused, planned effort to improve your skills. That helps you get better at your job. Your improvement rolls up into your organization’s ability to better deliver value to whoever the customer or end users are.

Raising your hand isn’t always easy. First off, many of us (I’m looking hard in the mirror here) have problems letting our leaders know we’re ready for more responsibility. We may suffer from impostor syndrome, we may feel it’s arrogant, or we may just have a hard time speaking up. (I suffer from all three…)

Regardless, it’s something that everyone should strive to feel more confident about. Asking for more responsibility makes sure your leaders know you want to help the organization in one fashion or another&emdash;and that’s something they may have been too busy to notice.

My most favorite jobs have been opportunities that popped up after having worked hard at other roles: Director of QA at Telligent, Director of Engineering at Telerik, and a few other things further in my past. I didn’t plan for those advancements, I just worked hard at the role I was in and made it clear I was happy to take on other tasks as needed. That mindset worked out well for me and resulted in neat opportunities I’d never thought of.

Obviously my journey’s different than yours. Your mileage may vary. Insert other disclaimers here as necessary.

Point being, too often we forget that sometimes the best way to advance in one’s career is simply to focus on improving how we do our own work: Hone your craft. We also forget it’s good to let your leadership know you want more responsibility: Raise your hand.

Hone your craft, raise your hand. Solid words for moving your career along.

[1]Yes, yes, there are places and situations where it doesn’t. Remove yourself from those. You own your own path.

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