Popular wisdom says that when it comes to growing your career, timing is everything. You’ve heard it before: “Be in the right place, at the right time.” But how do you own your timing and use it to progress along your chosen career path? How do you take steps to respond when opportunities present themselves, but also create the conditions for those opportunities in the first place?
There are three ways to think about timing when you’re seeking career growth.
Think Proactively About Your Growth
Be ready. Part of having great timing is being ready for a promotion when the opportunity presents itself. Be sure you are constantly learning and developing in your current role. This is a figurative version of the old-fashioned advice “Dress for the job you want next.” Be ready for the next step in your career before you are in it. When you have the development and education for the next role, it will be easy for leaders to envision you there. In addition, proactively seeking to build your capabilities and obtain feedback sends a positive message about your gumption, your initiative and your commitment to being your best in order to make a contribution.
Think Holistically About Your Team
Perform with excellence. It’s important that you think not just about yourself, but about your team and the work you would be leaving behind when you take the next step. If you seek to jump too soon after landing the role you’re currently in, you’ll be perceived as self-serving, which is never a good thing for your credibility. Depending on the role, excelling in it will take at least a year or two, so balance your career urgency with the need to demonstrate your capabilities and fully contribute in your current position.
Don’t leave your team in a lurch. Consider your team’s work cycle, and don’t leave your colleagues without adequate resources, backup plans or even someone else who can take on the role you may be vacating. You need to balance your needs with the needs of the team, so think ahead.
Dig in. Of course experience is the best teacher, so take advantage of the time you have with your current team to dig in, learn and contribute knowing that every bit of experience you gain sets you up for success in your next role.
Think Broadly About Your Company
Beat the budgeting cycle. In positioning yourself for a promotion, think broadly about your company’s cycles. The right time to ask for a promotion isn’t just after the budget has been locked down for the next year. Be sure to make your request at the front end of the company’s financial process so your leader can consider you in the coming year’s investments.
Leverage a downturn. Most companies go through some ups and downs. Never underestimate how a downturn can help you position yourself for career growth. When your company is tightening its belt, the timing is perfect to explore how you can contribute in new ways (read: grow your career). How can you add value to another department that is short-handed due to layoffs? How can you expand the definition of your current role in order to fill a gap after a downsizing? How can you take on a project that connects you with new people and demonstrates your capabilities in different ways? Never miss the opportunities that can emerge in crisis.
Tap into a reorganization. Just as companies go through cycles of growth, the average company also goes through periods of reorganization. If you hear the reorganization drums beating, take the initiative to reach out, connect and let leaders know about your interests. Be sure that leaders are not just aware of what you do well today, but how you want to develop so they can envision you in a new scenario.
Align your needs and theirs. Balance your needs and urgency about growing your career with the needs of the company. You might be ready to take the next step, but is your company ready for you to do so? Opportunities will abound when you can articulate the match between your desires with the needs of the company. Take the long view and apply patience, knowing that a career is an investment and a journey. Be realistic while you relentlessly pursue your vision—and enjoy each career step along the way.
Be Ready To Stretch
Overall, be ready to stretch. If you’ve planted the right seeds and positioned yourself for growth, chances are that the knock on your door may come before you even think you’re ready. Keep learning and growing in your current role and be ready to expand your responsibilities. Trust yourself and have confidence to make the leap to what’s new. Before you know it, you’ll be in the right place at the right time to take on the next role (and the next) where you’re challenged, contributing and enjoying the journey.