Career centers tend to be organizationally flat. Typically, as a career services professional, you will start out as a career adviser or an assistant director, and then you are promoted to associate director, and then director. Maybe later you can become a dean of some kind…but mostly you will be doing the same thing, at the same level, for a long time. This is especially true if you’d like to stay in the same city or state.
For some career development professionals, this is fine (in fact, it is wonderful), as their goals are to “be on the ground” helping students, and not to climb the organizational ladder to the top. Other career professionals value growth in title and responsibility, and may become a frustrated with the pace in which opportunities for promotion arise. So…what is a solution for those of us who love what we do, but are itching for more?
Promote yourself! And after you give yourself a promotion…well…you’ll have to promote it! I’m talking two kinds of promotion. Promotion number one is finding ways to give yourself more responsibility, methods to grow your skills, and opportunities to engage with other professionals—within or outside of your current organization. Promotion number two is, through these new opportunities, sharing the ideas, knowledge, and accomplishments you gain.
Let’s step through it.
Promotion Number One
Give yourself a (pretend) promotion and congratulate yourself—you deserve it! Please control yourself from rolling your eyes, as I know this sounds silly—just hear me out. Think about what you want to learn, and with whom you’d like to connect. Is your self-promotion just for learning or do you want to get paid as well? Many of us have developed incredible writing, editing, and presentation skills from what we do every day. After you’ve given this some thought, write a job description with specific responsibilities, goals, outcomes, populations you’d like to help, desired extra income, etc.
Most of us have secret dreams of becoming writers, professional speakers, or going into private practice—now is your chance to begin working toward those dreams. It is time to move from just thinking about it to creating a plan, with actionable steps, to make it happen! For example, I’ve always wanted to write a book that combines humorous life stories (think David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day) with career development guidance (think Richard Bolles, What Color is Your Parachute?). I gave myself a self-promotion to “writer/blogger/assistant director of career development” and I activated my plan. This included starting my own blog, reaching out to NACE to see if I could blog for them, and began doing informational interviews with writers (outside and inside of the career biz) to learn. My self-promotion is not only pushing me toward learning and growing skills, but it keeps me motivated in the work I do day-to-day.
Promotion Number Two
As you are learning and having new experiences, share it with others. I don’t mean throwing yourself a party or being a braggart, I’m talking about sharing your ideas and work thoughtfully and strategically through social media (e.g., LinkedIn posts, tweets), conferences (e.g., presenting on your passion project), or other avenues.
I talk with students all the time about creating an advisory board for themselves— connecting with professionals they trust, respect, and admire, and connecting (and staying in touch) with them to share their work, get feedback, gain exposure to various fields/industries, and seek advice. You should have an advisory board too!
As you continue to grow and create meaningful work, and share it with others, you open yourself to opportunities you may have never considered. For example, through writing for the NACE blog, I’ve had career advisers from all over the country reach out to me about how to best work with international students—one adviser even asked me to be on a panel at a national conference.
Career adviser, promote thyself!