4 Ways to Take Charge of Your Career Growth

To help with your career growth, you must proactively let your manager know what you'd like for your next opportunity.
••• laflor / Getty Images

When you think about , do you also think about that coworker who doesn't work as hard as you, who's not quite as intelligent as you, but who keeps getting promoted—and you don't? Is she the boss's niece? Does she have dirt on the VP of sales? Is the head of human resources her die-hard fan? Or is she just attacking her career from a different perspective?

She might have some inside connection, but it's more likely that she's just personally , while you're waiting for someone else to show you the way.

It's logical to when you've earned one. It's also logical to expect that the HR department has that should include planned promotions at all levels—including yours. But if you want to experience career growth, you need to .

Speak Up When an Opportunity Arises

Employees would like to think that decisions are made based on merit, but , and they often make assumptions. For instance, the manager may think, “Jane probably doesn't want that senior trainer position because it requires lots of travel and she has little kids at home.”

Now, this assumption could , but that doesn't mean that subtle discrimination doesn't happen. So speak up. When an opportunity arises that you're interested in, say something to your manager and express your interest.

Keep in mind that you probably have skills and interests that . She won't know about them either if you don't tell her. If you have an interest in a new area or in managing people, let her know. Otherwise, she may pass you up for an employee who does speak up.

Speak Up Before an Opportunity Arises

Sometimes a colleague gets promoted or you never even knew existed—a job you would have applied for if you'd known about it. How can you get these hidden jobs? By speaking up sooner rather than later.

This doesn't mean that you need to bombard your boss with information on how you'd like to proceed with your career, but it does mean letting her know the paths you're interested in. Your annual review is a great time to talk about these things.

As you're , talk about what you want to do and ask for assignments that will help you achieve this. If you want to manage people, tell your boss and ask her to make you the team leader on a project. If you want to move from tax accounting to auditing, ask if you can work with any special projects or cross-functional teams.

Find Out What Training You Need and Pursue It

People often talk about the , and this is one of the reasons. Find a coworker who currently has the position you're targeting and ask, “What do I need to do to end up where you are?” Listen and do those things. Some of that training may include work experience, and some may come from classroom learning.

For instance, some jobs favor people with MBAs. If you want that type of job, you'd better go back to school. If you want to become a high school principal, your bachelor's degree in math education probably won't cut it.  one day, you might want to , a master's degree in HR, or an MBA.

don't require formal certifications or degrees, so spending your time on them is great academically but won't necessarily help your career. That's why you should ask the people who are doing the jobs that you think you'd like.

No One Cares About Your Career as Much as You Do

Your boss is focused on her own career and hitting her performance goals. Your HR department is focused on legal compliance and filling the top spots. You? Focus your attention on your own career growth.

You need to speak up and act accordingly. Don't ever sit back and wait for someone else to notice that you'd . Volunteer for challenges. Things like serving on special projects and cross-functional teams open you up to new possibilities.

Also, remember to of reporting. Always work hard and be pleasant to coworkers. If you have an interest in moving to a new department, with the department head.

Ultimately, your career growth is your responsibility, so take charge!