Determining Your Career Path

Office Manager Assisting Employee With Problem

Tom Werner/Getty Images 

If you've been in a new sales job for several weeks or months, you may be reaching the career point when you begin to map out your career path. But determining your career path may not be as simple as asking your sales manager, consulting with your human resources department or taking a long, hard look at your organization chart.

Start With Your Long-Term Goals

While your next step might be (and should be) a small step up the corporate ladder, you'll serve yourself well by seeking to get a good understanding of your long-term career goals, both with your current employer and potentially with a new employer.

If, for example, you feel that you are interested in regional management positions for your current employer, talk to people who currently hold regional management positions and ask them what career paths they took. "Modeling" yourself after successful people is a fantastic shortcut to success. If someone who has earned the level of success that you desire is willing to offer advice or even to mentor you, you will be better able to make more empowering decisions and to avoid career mistakes.

Be Quick, But Don't Hurry

Legendary NCAA Basketball coach John Wooten was famous for telling his players to "be quick but not to hurry." What this means for your career is that you need to be quick to explore and take advantage of career-advancing opportunities but to not grow impatient and hurry into a position that doesn't fit with your career goals.

When it comes to professionals regrets, two things are commonly listed:

  1. Not taking advantage of opportunities when opportunities presented themselves
  2. Rushing into promotions that were known to be bad choices

The moral to the story is the more clear you are on what you really want in your career, the more likely you will be to recognize good opportunities and to avoid making bad career choices.

Establish a Time Frame

Every business in different and each will have their own unique time frame of when it is reasonable for their employees to climb their corporate ladder. While these time frames will certainly not be written in any employee manual, you'll be able to determine what time frames your employer usually follows for employee advancement.

If you determine that your career goals should find you moving to the next level position within 2 years of your start date but your employer doesn't usually promote people till they've been on the payroll for at least 3 years, you need to make some decisions. Either you'll need to consider altering your time frames or will need to consider looking for a promotion with a different employer.

Have a Sit Down with Management

Many people in sales management and senior leadership will complain that they are hard-pressed to accurately list their employees who are interested in advancement. If you don't let your supervisors know that you are interested in advancing your career, they may never know until they post a position and you apply for it. You would be doing your career a tremendous favor by making your career goals known by those who may ultimately determine whether or not you get promoted.

The last thing you want to do is to surprise your manager when you apply for a promotion.