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Career development isn’t just about doing a great job (although mastering your craft is a solid way to build a career to the greatest of heights), it’s also about building, maintaining and developing your profile inside and external to an organization.
You can build your profile as I’ve just mentioned, by doing a great job and being recognized for it, but there are other boosters to your profile you can achieve as long as you’re prepared to be creative, choose something you love doing, and committing yourself to it. What I am talking about is choosing a niche cause that has wider implications than your core subject and has popular support, such as green issues and charity work (see my previous post on this).
For example, a popular concern of many people today is being ‘green’, particularly around power efficiency and consumption. Almost everyone employed in the business world will be aware of this. Newscasts talk about the rise of cost in fuel, renewable energy and dwindling oil reserves. In the IT world, green datacenters is emerging as a key business concern, so an opportunity to raise your profile would be to kick off an investigation into this, should your organization not be doing so. Some basic research into the issue and what the industry is doing about it will yield subject matter to discuss with senior managers.
In the Finance world, green issues influence the ethics of investment. So a study into the investment of renewable energy would yield opportunities to raise the awareness of your managers and possibly create initiatives to offer ethical investment products for savvy customers.
A campaign across your department would raise the awareness of the issue and could result in greater support. Perseverance is key. Sadly, most people tend to be agnostic about causes that don’t directly affect them. Don’t expect instant buy in. However, it will be a lot of fun seeing your colleagues minds open over time. See your campaign as a journey, starting as a tiny seed which will grow with your love and attention over time.
Whatever your cause, your passion for it will create intrigue in others. Demonstrating how the cause can create opportunities The burst of positive energy from you will be contagious will others. Positive action is a good marketing angle for your business so it’s likely to be seized for both external communication as well as internal marketing.
I’ve known a number of people who have experienced complete career changes by getting behind a cause and using the energy of their organization to support it. One powerful example is a friend of mine, originally an insurance actuary, who encouraged her organization to support cancer charities. She campaigned internally to increase awareness and to raise money by charity events, such as dinners and fun-days. At first it was hard-going, but perseverance paid off after a year when serious funds (over $200,000) were raised. Her company’s name was splashed over the press and she became the spokesperson on these issues. Revenue increased in her business. Her profile became so pervasive that she was offered a number of senior positions outside of the actuarial team, finally taking an executive role in marketing.
Your passion is powerful. Using it to further a cause that everyone can understand, relate to and eventually buy into is an effective way of achieving self-fulfilment and raising your profile. It’s a win-win.