Great workers don’t always make great managers. That shouldn’t come as a big surprise to most people, yet the idea that career advancement means moving up the corporate hierarchy is still widely held, even if only subconsciously. In many cases, this is due to a lack of clear alternatives. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options out there.
Here are five tips for expanding your career without stepping into a management role.
- Talk to your boss
The most important thing you can do to advance your career without taking on a management position is talk with your boss about your career goals and potential opportunities within the company.
“Employees should always discuss their career goals with their boss to make sure the assignments they’re working on align with their objectives,” says Kelly Workman, vice president of staffing firm OfficeTeam. “By talking with your manager or HR representative, you may also learn of interesting opportunities within the company that allow you to grow professionally without necessarily taking on a management role.”
Of course you don’t have to wait for the boss to find a new direction for your career. If there’s a part of the business you’re interested in becoming involved with, offer your assistance.
“Look for ways to go beyond your current role by volunteering for assignments that challenge your abilities and impact the company’s bottom line,” Workman says. “You might also consider offering to help local nonprofits on projects that align with your professional goals.”
- Join a committee
Just because you don’t want to move up the traditional business hierarchy doesn’t mean you can’t take on additional responsibilities within the company. Committees and similar internal groups offer a way for long-tenured employees to influence the company’s direction – without a necessary change in title.
“Most companies have standing committees that address challenges or opportunities that exist across the organization,” says Jené Kapela, president and founder of Kapela Leadership Solutions, a consulting firm specialising in leadership training and organizational effectiveness. “Joining one of these committees is a great way to meet other people in the organization and showcase your abilities. It also helps you market yourself outside of your immediate work group.”
- Take classes
You may not want to move into a management role, but that doesn’t mean you can allow your skills to stagnate. Jobs that aren’t regularly overhauled by a new technology or strategy are few and far between, which means that even if you’re comfortable with your current position, you’ll have to keep learning and improving.
“Always keep up to date on the skills necessary for success in your field or industry,” Workman says. “Taking courses or pursuing a certification can help you continue to move your career forward.”
Most people visualise career advancement as a vertical climb, but moving or growing laterally is just as valid a career move. Take a look at aspects of the business outside of your immediate team or department that interest you and look for ways your skills and experience could be useful. You can also take classes or seek internal training to help make your skills more compatible with other functions within your company.
“This can be a valuable tool to expand an individual contributor’s skill set without adding supervisory responsibility,” says Amber Hunter, the director of employee performance for A Plus Benefits, Inc. “Consider cross-training opportunities that will complement the individual’s current role. Also, looking for special projects that allow for an individual to work with a different group of people can expand the person’s network as well as his or her skill set, with an end in sight.”
Above all, it’s crucial that you remain active and engaged at work. Don’t use “I don’t want to be the boss” as an excuse to get complacent.