Updated: Dec 16, 2021
At this point, you might be on to something. You've seen friends make the leap and they are loving it. They got promoted and moved into an exciting new role. You're feeling energy in your free time to read and learn more. When you have more questions than answers, it's time to validate!
Following the steps below, you will:
Create reasons to believe for HMs and promo cycle
Unlock new Mentors and connections for your next interview
Substantiate skills and book learning from your Certification
Demonstrate company values to your current (& future) managers
Validate your proposed career shift - before you spend more time!
You should consider Projects when you begin to:
Discover your field of interest or target team
Realize you need to cultivate visibility and Mentors
Attend Events and see where these careers lead (hint: it looks good!)
Don't have all the skills, and consider Certification
Start with a self-assessment of core role versus projects. Your core role is the main expectation in your job description, annual review and performance goals. It's the thing you and your team do every day, all the time. If you don't have measurable performance goals or do not know the annual review criteria, ask mentors you trust to guide you to this information. You can't make an effective growth plan without this.
What are projects?
Projects are initiatives on top of your core role. You might volunteer or be assigned to solve, explore and deliver some outcome with your name (or your manager's name) at the top. Take an inventory of the current projects sitting with you. Which are most valuable for your visibility and skills development? Can you close out or reassign lower priority projects? You need to 'own the heck' out of your top priority projects: ensure visibility and results flow to stakeholders.
The most beneficial project is a real business deliverable. It can be in your current role, as a freelancer, or volunteering with an organization you care about. It can even be a personal passion project, as long as you document your journey and portfolio results.
You need to 'own the heck' out of your top priority projects: ensure visibility and results flow to stakeholders.
It is critical that YOU deliver a recognizable business outcome using new skills. I would challenge you to create a specific, measurable impact. [Example 1 below].
Hiring managers (and promo stakeholders) must recognize this business outcome, how you got there, and the skills it took to deliver it. Having an actual project to talk about creates a flexible springboard during your coffee chats and interviews. Successful projects create compelling stories and STAR examples for your next promotion and interview.
At this point, you might think this sounds risky or even reckless. After all, this goes beyond the core job you've been doing for years. Your new skill set isn't fully baked yet.
You should push for opportunities and take initiative. Research relevant office hours and show up to them. Join a lunch or networking session and speak with the team afterward. Look out for pilot programs to help learners like you deliver something new for their team (see example below). If there are concrete blockers to delivering what you want at work, look at volunteering outside of work. Spin up a side hustle, or create a passion project on your own.
1) identify the #1 relevant Certification for your next big thing. Progress that book learning in parallel with your real-life project.
2) Nurture your learning path with 1-2 critical Mentors for insight, encouragement.
3) Seek office hours, shadowing and recommended Trainings outside your current department.
If this sounds interesting, you're probably wondering how to start. Identify opportunities connected to the skills you want to use in your future job. Listen to thought leaders and identify which pain points and solution benefits apply right away. Learn how to communicate these new ideas in your own words by sparring with a mentor or fellow learner. You can then create a compelling pitch for why you should join the project team.
After creating the business case and building a bridge to the project team, request the resources and time to deliver. Propose a time-bound delivery plan aligned with your direct manager and the project owner for full transparency (& credit). Define clear milestones and an exit plan for when you will hand over results to a permanent owner. Take care to delegate everything else - as a volunteer, new unrelated tasks will fly your way.
Define clear milestones and an exit plan.
Avoid scope creep beyond what delivers quick wins and visibility - otherwise your core role will suffer. Remember, you still need to exceed expectations in your core role while you stretch! :)
Envision yourself at the end result. See smiles and nods from your key stakeholders as you present measurable results. Imagine your satisfaction as you thank colleagues & managers for their generous support and encouragement. The path to your new role will be substantiated by delivering a well-scoped project that highlights your new skills and domain expertise, all while delivering measurable results for your current department. You will create reasons to believe for your new hiring manager, while progressing in your current role and promo trajectory.
This is Part II of a five-part series on the 5 Pillars Framework. To hear more, tune in to our new podcast, Your Next Big Thing wherever you listen. You can get in touch and jump on a call to talk with me 1:1 about your objective.
My Project story:
I'm working in ecommerce, and begin exploring business segments with faster growth and higher earning potential that are near-adjacent
My department has existing, funded projects I can volunteer for
I meet with project owners to investigate which of these projects could benefit from Cloud services (delivered faster, cheaper, better)
I join one project team with the optimal mix of need, impact, and safety to fail
Delivery: I enable our team to deliver higher quality results to customers one quarter ahead of schedule.
Action: Specifically, I identified a high quality big data store in experimental access from headquarters for global business teams. I apply and gain permissions before the pilot ends. I provision secure, compliant access in our data science team's development environment.
Result: I advise the business leader on the value and impact, broadcast results, and ensure my own manager looks like an innovator for the work I've done.