Just before the end of 2020, our Vice President of Operations, Aashish Amin, gave a PeakUniversity presentation on Career Development. We caught up with him afterward to pick his brain on how you should approach and incorporate Career Development into your day-to-day work.
Q: From a high-level perspective, what is Career Development?
A: It’s the process of self-development where an individual works to improve themselves with the goal of wanting something specific out of their career. It can be more money, a certain title, a specific job, or a promotion. For others, it can be just to maintain the role they are in. Quite literally, it’s the development of your career to achieve whatever goal you have set out for yourself.
Q: In regards to Career Development, what was the best piece of advice you’ve received throughout your career?
A: There are two. The first one is to be humble. You may find yourself in a role that isn’t where you necessarily want to be. But through showcasing your hard work and talent, if you can demonstrate that you have more to offer, other opportunities will present themselves. And, you’ll be making your boss’s life easier, which is always a good thing. The second piece of advice, “dress” for the job you want. While this is a fairly common piece of advice, I still find it valuable. “Dressing for the job you want” really means you should perform at the level of the role you are aiming for. Career advancement should not be based on years of experience or time in a role but on actual performance.
Q: What can an employee do to develop their career on a day-to-day basis?
A: First, always know what their goals are. Second, always ensure that they are working to achieve those goals–seek feedback and opportunities, and implement them to always be improving. There is one example from my career that speaks directly to this, a former boss would often ask me with a sly smile on his face, “is this your best work?” Initially, this bothered me, but eventually, I realized that he asked this to push me to produce my best work.
Q: What do you think is the toughest thing about Career Development?
A: Two things–being honest about your performance and weaknesses, and having an open conversation with your boss about your career aspirations. First, one must know where they stand and what they need to develop in order to meet their goals. Second, it’s the employee that owns the conversation with their boss. As a boss, it can be a difficult conversation to hear that an employee wants something more or different in their career. But it’s probably harder as an employee to have that conversation. Because you may be telling your boss, “Hey, I like you. But I don’t want to work for you, I want to go do something different.” Sometimes bosses find really good people and are reluctant to nurture their growth because it could mean that the employee leaves them. It’s an unfortunate reality that there are bosses like that. And that’s why I’m using the word ‘boss’ specifically. There is a huge difference between a boss and a leader. While a boss may be hesitant to facilitate Career Development, a leader will say, “Hey, great, thank you for sharing. Let me see how we can help achieve your career aspirations.” It’s a leader’s job to initiate that conversation and to be open to supporting the employee’s goals. And it’s an employee’s job to begin that conversation, provide a framework for their career aspirations, and do the hard work to showcase their development.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception when thinking about Career Development?
A: A lot of people think that time spent in a role equates to earning a promotion. That’s not the case. It’s easy to think to yourself, “Oh, I’ve been doing this for a while, so if my boss leaves, I should just take over.” It’s not that simple. There may be other employees within the organization who may have a shorter tenure but have demonstrated stronger skills and more fervent ambition. More likely than not, that employee will earn the promotion. Regardless of your time spent with a company, if you become complacent and take your eye off the ball, your Career Development is likely to stagnate. That’s probably the biggest misconception. I had a boss who was a VP running a 100 plus person organization. He also was consistently thinking of ways he could grow his knowledge of other areas. It wasn’t just about his domain and his responsibilities. From learning other parts of the business, he knew he could be a more effective leader and a more valuable asset to both the company and his employees. One more thing that I think people overlook when it comes to Career Development is their personal brand. Consider to yourself, what do your colleagues think or say about you when you are not in a room or a meeting? In essence, this is your brand.
Q: How can an employee improve and refine their personal brand?
A: The first step is to identify your personal brand and determine if it’s what you want it to be. I think that starts with having open and honest conversations with your boss and your peers to understand how you’re perceived today and is that the perception you want?. If there are perceptions you’re not happy with, then that takes a commitment of work to change. You must figure out how to improve and how to make that change and be driven to consistently represent yourself differently. Your brand is not defined by just showing up every day. To refine your brand, you must receive input, take it to heart, and use it as the basis for making a consistently demonstrated change. We have all had that coworker who was a pain to work with, for whatever reason. They show up late, don’t contribute their fair share, and so on. The point is, you probably already have someone in mind. What does that say about their brand? Don’t be that colleague. While it’s important to emulate the behaviors and work ethics of peers or leaders you respect, it’s also vital to learn from people you find hard to work with to avoid practicing the same habits that will negatively affect your brand.
Q: How can managers and leaders foster Career Development among their employees?
A: As a leader, I think it is essential to know what your people want out of their careers. Some will want higher titles, others wish for different opportunities, and even others just want to be great employees with limited growth or responsibility. There are ways to be an effective leader and foster the achievement of your team’s goals. An effective leader provides people with the tools and opportunities to do more and broaden their horizons. However, there’s a very fine line here too. If your aspirations are title, stature, and advancement, yet you clock in at nine and you’re out at five, you don’t participate in meetings, you do just enough work to get by, there’s a disconnect there. Even if I, as a leader, know that that’s your aspiration, I’m probably not going to put a lot of effort into your Career Development because you are not putting in any concerted effort of your own. When employees demonstrate ownership in their development and consistent effort to improve, those are the ones that leaders are willing to help the most.
Meet the Presenter:
Aashish Amin oversees the PeakActivity Marketing and Sales Operations teams. Hailing from the Midwest, Aashish moved to South Florida to escape the cold winters, eventually beginning his career with Office Depot that spanned 15-plus years working in multiple business units. Aashish brings a unique perspective in bridging the various operational needs of an organization. As a leader, he values creative, solution-centric thinking and is looked to as a trustworthy advisor who goes above and beyond to ensure successful end-results.
PeakUniversity is a series of peer-to-peer, TedTalk-style presentations given by passionate subject matter experts to expand knowledge and generate interest in the subject matter of each session.