I like everything about my job except one thing—there’s no career path. I want to continue to progress in management but I can’t get a straight answer from either my manager or HR about my path, no matter how many times I ask. What should I do? — A.M., New York, NY
The idea of a proscribed career path is an outdated concept that comes from a time when careers were linear and people worked for very few companies during their career. Asking—or insisting—on a career path positions you as someone who is out of date and reactive.
Create your own path. What is it you need to learn in order to get to the next level? Look at your performance reviews. Identify areas where you’ve had issues in the past. Compare yourself to coworkers you admire and think about where you don’t measure up.
Once you identify your gaps, look for ways to close them. That’s when you approach your manager and bounce your thinking regarding your development needs off them. Ask for the resources to get additional training—or access to projects that will allow you to develop these new skills. If the resources aren’t available, invest in yourself.
You are the manager of your own career. Assume responsibility for your development and you’ll find that opportunities will present themselves. When management knows you’re actively engaged in improving your skills, you are a much more valued staffer and more likely to be considered for new positions/opportunities.