The most important thing I’ve learned since graduating from college is that you have to OWN YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT! We often get wrapped up in the thought that our degrees will speak for themselves, or that our networking skills will help us talk our way into a job, and that a new suit will make a good first impression. While these ideas are very useful tips, you also have to take the time to develop your skills by yourself. I am a believer of dressing for success and looking the part when it comes to advancing in one’s career. However, recently, I have been given another tip: ACTING the part, embodying the competencies that are required in your desired career or job role.
I was at work one day when one of the managers announced that a new role within our department would soon be posted. One of our managers was leaving and her position needed to be replaced. I asked if they were looking for talent within our existing team to fill the role. I immediately heard a few chuckles and could feel the numerous mocking gazes being cast in my direction. The role that was announced was at least three times above the level of my current job. I knew I wasn’t qualified for the position; however, I planned on working towards getting it by “acting” the part.
I often joke with one of my senior managers that one day I will have her job. She always says “bring it on. I support you”. When I hear about different job openings, I often ask about the competencies that are needed for that particular position. I am in the process of switching careers completely so I have to find relevant experience through volunteering. Most of us want to advance in our career but often don’t know what skills or training are needed for that particular job.
I offer three steps to “acting the part” (a process that I am still learning myself):
- Identify the job or type of career you want to pursue and read the description, qualifications, and preferred qualifications.
- Speak with someone about the skills, qualities and other competencies that are needed to fulfill that role. Even if you do not plan to apply for the job, you can still speak with the contact person and ask for advice on how you can build your experience.
- Seek out opportunities to gain experience and develop the skills that you identified during your research. This step is important because it leads to valuable experience that you can speak about during interviews. Depending on your current circumstances, you can speak with your manager about developmental opportunities. If you cannot find these opportunities within your current company, you can always look for volunteer work or complete training in your own time.
Working in corporate America, no one gave me a road map to success. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I allowed myself to be open and explore different opportunities that I never imagined for myself and the journey has been well worth it. As you are pondering your next career move, ask questions, seek out opportunities, and act the part! At some point, you won’t even realize that YOU ARE THE PART!
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