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One of the most common questions I get from talents when profiling them for organizations is: “Are there opportunities for growth in that organization?”

It is increasingly becoming one of the most important sources of motivation for prospective employees when looking for a job, the singular most important being the paycheck of course! Candidates are constantly on the lookout for those opportunities that would successfully close their skills gaps and present opportunities to acquire new skills. During exit interviews, it is not uncommon to hear employees use ‘lack of growth opportunities’ as a major reason for leaving an organization.

When organizations are looking to hire, they usually look for talents with certain skill sets and competencies and the reasons are not far-fetched. The business of most organizations is to generate revenue, earn profits and keep the business viable. It is a ‘no-brainer’ that organizations would want to hire talents that are specifically equipped and gifted with the knowledge, skills and abilities to attain such critical business outcomes. But suffice it to say that no employee is a total package, in other words, the ‘perfect employee’ does not exist. Even if an employee ticks most of the desired boxes, as long as a business is growing and expanding, the employee must grow and upgrade his/her skills alongside.

So, whose responsibility is it to ensure growth in an organization?

Is it realistic for employees to put the onus, 100%, on the organization, knowing fully well that the organization is in the business to make money, and as such need ‘ready-made talents’ to achieve this objective? Is it also fair game for employers to desire a ‘perfect employee’ with little or no skills gap, knowing the current state of the educational system? Wouldn’t it be a case of ‘shortchanging’ oneself for an employer not to provide avenues for growth and upskilling, knowing that the more competent an employee is, the higher the productivity and performance?

I would think that it is fair game for both the employer and employee to take responsibility for growth and development in an organization. For the employer, it is a huge advantage to your brand, to be known as the ‘growth and learning organization’. It makes you an employer of choice, regardless of your size and also helps you attract and retain quality talent. It also decreases turnover rate, saving the organization a ton of resources, while also increasing high performance and productivity. Opportunities for growth are not just created by training, but also through an intentional/strategic system of mentoring and coaching, job shadowing, job rotation, networking opportunities, clearly defined career trajectory etc.

However, as an employee, it is more important to you that you take responsibility for your growth and development, regardless of the organization’s disposition towards that. According to Eric Nightingale, American motivational speaker and author, “Jobs are owned by the company but you own your career”. Essentially your career is in your hands and acquiring higher skills and competences should be your priority and your focus. The truth is that no one owes you a career and your career development & growth is entirely and solely your choice. To leave it in the hands of someone else is simply handing too much power over to someone else. Whether the company has growth opportunities or not, as soon as you decide to take on a job role, you must have a career plan. You need to determine what skills you have already for performing on the job, what additional skills you need to acquire, what competences you need to develop if the job role is to be expanded or if you are to take on additional responsibilities. You also need to aim to be better than when you came, to add more value than the previous employee in same role and to leave the organization, even more skilled and more competent than when you were hired.

What practical steps can you take to achieve this?

  • Develop a CEO mentality. Take a wider/broader view and approach to your job. Have a panoramic view of the entire business by becoming well-acquainted with other business units/departments, what they do, their methods and processes, how their business processes are linked and interwoven with your own job role, your unit and the organization as a whole. A ‘CEO mentality’ views the entire business as one and understands that each unit is linked to the other and can have implications for the ‘bottom-line’ of the business. This will definitely affect the way you work, improve your work ethic, give you knowledge about the entire business as well as an edge over your peers. It is disturbing to see employees who have no knowledge of the business apart from their own job role, who have no idea how other business units operate and as such cannot answer questions or proffer solutions to problems in the organization. Having a broader view and knowledge of the business in its entirety gives you the power to add value, over and beyond your job role and this is what commends you for promotion and increased responsibilities. The higher you go, the more you grow but you cannot get there by working in silos or with a narrow perspective.
  • Create and innovate. One of the most annoying statements an employee can make is, “it is not in my JD (Job Description)”. In other words, if it is not within your job scope, it will not be done or even attempted. Promotion or recognition comes when an employee goes above and beyond his job scope to create more value in the organization. The more you create, initiate and develop, the more competence you gain and all these skills end up in your CV, giving you enormous advantage over others. For example, as a HR executive, if you are hired into an organization that has no HR policy, Employee Manual etc. don’t wait to be told, create it. If you haven’t done it before, learn how to do it and develop it. You just got an opportunity to upskill and show leadership qualities by taking the initiative. It is important to note that it doesn’t matter whether the organization uses what you have created or not; it doesn’t take away your skill. You just gained an experience no one can take away from you.  
  • Have a personal T&D plan. It is important for you to create a personal training & development plan that will enhance your productivity, improve your competence and abilities, according to your desired career trajectory. For instance, if you have identified that you want to build a career in HR, identify the different levels of HR job roles like HR Generalist, HR Coordinator, HR Manager, HR Business Partner etc. and identify the key skills and qualifications required to function at these levels. Have a plan for acquiring these skills, set goals and timelines and go for it. How? Read. Network. Get a career mentor/coach. Get more qualifications. Use the resources in your organization to learn. Just don’t stay stagnant.
  • Self-awareness is key! Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and delegate your weaknesses. Seek help where your skill set is not strong so that you can focus on your areas of core competence. There is no need to try to prove that you can do everything when you can actually focus on mastering your key skills and strengths. Typically, and in an ideal situation, when an employer sees the personal efforts of an employee to add value and be the best on the job, there is usually tremendous support given towards that employee. You will be doing yourself a favor if you are can correctly ‘diagnose’ yourself, your competences, your abilities, your capacity, your areas of improvement, your areas of high performance and the goals you need to set in order to be the best version of you possible. These are things you do not wait for an organization to do for you. You do it for ‘you’ because you know it gives you leverage and advantage in your field.

“Find what you are good at, become excellent at it and pursue those opportunities where those skills are in high demand”

Eric Sinoway

Stay on top of your game in chosen career field. Keep up with the trends. What are the skills in demand? What are the goals you need to set and action plans to achieve them, long term or short term? It is ideal for an organization to provide opportunities for learning, growth and development and to ensure that one’s career trajectory is steadily moving upwards. However, your career is ultimately in your hands and no one can have better plans for you than ‘YOU’. 

Send me an email for Career Coaching, Mentoring or for a customized training & development plan:

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This article was first published on 27th September 2019


Soluchi Ogugua is a HR Business Partner with a strong passion and commitment to people and skills development. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and a Master’s Degree in Global Human Resource Management. She has garnered over 15 years of hands-on experience in leadership, coaching and mentoring, assisting individuals and organizations to achieve their development objectives.

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