A positive career trajectory is the dream of every staff member. So what does a positive career trajectory entail? Why is it important? How does one ensure progression in their career? We explain.
What is a positive career trajectory?
A positive career trajectory can also be referred to as career progression. A positive career trajectory entails moving forward or progressing on a chosen career path. Many folks may think a positive career trajectory is all about getting promoted at their place of work.
Instead, a positive career trajectory means getting a pay raise from another group of folks. Is this all career progression is about?
A positive direction in one’s career trajectory goes beyond higher pay and a promotion at work. It encompasses many forms, one of which is getting more responsibilities within your current workplace position. It can also include moving or expanding to a different department or industry, embracing new challenges, and enhancing your skills through training programs.
Kinds of career trajectory
- Vertical trajectory
- Horizontal trajectory
Vertical career trajectory
As the name suggests, this form of trajectory reflects upward growth in one’s career. A vertical career trajectory may entail a promotion at work or a bigger pay cheque. Many employees perceive the vertical career trajectory as the perfect career trajectory. However, moving vertically in one’s career is not feasible in every phase of professional growth or every career.
You may get the promotion you’ve always been dreaming of with little or no space for growth. This results in career stagnancy; because you can end up in a position for several years. While there may be no vertical movement in your career, you can take advantage of your position to be a mentor to others.
The vertical trajectory doesn’t always mean going upwards; it can also entail moving downwards. For example, you may choose to get demoted at your place of employment or get a smaller pay cheque to sign up for training opportunities. You may not know this, but some seemingly bad job changes may provide benefits to help you achieve your career goals.
Horizontal career trajectory
This entails linear mobility; it can involve working in a certain role for a long while or moving laterally in your career. Unless you lack a career goal or vision, a horizontal trajectory in your career can positively impact your personal and professional development.
Staying in a specific role for a long period can allow you to acquire new skills. With these new skills, you can adapt to a new role. What seemed like stagnancy in your career or a stalemate can be a turning point in your career. You are now suitably qualified for job positions that can help you ascend the ladder and attain your career goals.
Why is a positive career trajectory important?
Making progress in one’s career is essential to either the employee or the employer. Career progression is essential to the employee because they gain a sense of fulfilment or accomplishment in their career.
On the other hand, career progression is essential to the employer because it means a higher staff retention rate. In addition, taking on new challenges at work makes the employee more engaged with their job.
The tell-tale signs of a positive trajectory in your career indicate you can adjust to the changes attached to a promotion or an inter-department transfer. It demonstrates your employer’s trust in you to take on more responsibilities or adjust to increased workload.
The most important thing about a positive direction on your career path isn’t incentives such as a pay raise or a promotion. What matters is your ability to continue learning because this is key to developing professionally.
Contrary to popular belief, a promotion isn’t the primary motivation for staff retention but the development of an employee in their current position. The latter does a better job of making your staff an invaluable asset to your organisation.
How can I ensure a positive trajectory in my career?
Setting career goals
Having specific goals in mind makes it easier to progress in one’s career. Several organisations advise their staff to pen down plans for their career development. Employees should have short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans.
Where do you see yourself five to ten years from now? To answer this, you’ll need to acknowledge the skills capable of helping you get there and the skills which need improvement.
Not all organisations motivate their staff to set career goals. However, every employee interested in career growth ought to set goals for themselves. Instead of setting lofty goals, we recommend starting with readily feasible goals. This can be effective in helping you achieve smaller milestones on your career path and setting you on course for a bigger goal.
It doesn’t matter if your career plans are not structured as your organisation’s career development templates; it doesn’t have to be. The point is devoting time to your career progression, what can help you achieve it and why you should achieve it is an effective way to set your career goals and achieve them.
You can use tools such as Draftable to write out your career plans.
Always be on the lookout for available career development opportunities.
Once you’re done drafting your career goals, you need to put your ears on the ground for available opportunities. Check out for vacancies available in your organisation and beyond.
Knowing the career opportunities available can help you decide if remaining in your present position is favourable to a positive career trajectory. If not, you’ll need to consider casting your lot outside your organisation.
There are instances when you’ll spot a favourable opportunity, but you lack some of the skills needed for the job. In this scenario, looking at the job description can help you draft a list of the relevant skills you can work on.
For instance, if the opportunity you spot requires someone experienced in team supervision, you can enrol in a professional leadership course. Alternatively, you can get involved in a team project and get practical lessons from your team leader.
Lacking a certain skill shouldn’t deter you. On the contrary, the ability to learn new skills and develop the existing ones is a trait that can benefit you over time. It also shows your current or prospective employer you’re willing to grow from your current level.
Make the most out of development and training programs
Several companies have active training and development programs, and they encourage their staff to take advantage of them. Making the most out of these opportunities is key to further learning and staff development. It’s also an effective way to close gaps in knowledge within the organisation.
You can browse through your organisation’s intranet or ask staff from HR about available training opportunities to sign up for.
There are also scenarios where these opportunities or programs are offered to you. We recommend you avoid turning them down unless there’s an important reason to back it up. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll learn new things. You’ll find yourself better positioned for a promotion in the best-case scenario.
If you have to, you can take time off and leave if it will help you maximise these training opportunities.
Regularly meet with your line manager
Your line manager is one of the best people to discuss your career advancement. Part of their job entails supporting you, so why not make the most out of it? Moreover, since you work closely with your line manager, they are best positioned to know your skillset and what you can handle.
Also, they have probably been in the same position as you or at least a similar position. This puts them on track to help you develop or grow professionally.
So, if you haven’t been booking meetings with your line manager, we suggest you begin now. You can have these meetings monthly, bi-weekly, or even weekly. Through these meetings, you can monitor your career progress.
Regularly booking these meetings will also help you feel more comfortable discussing what you want to achieve in your organisation. You can identify what areas of your career need improvement and the subjects negatively impacting your efforts.
Keep track of your achievements
This is an effective way to ensure a positive career trajectory. No matter how small, acknowledging every win is crucial to boosting your morale. Your win can be completing a training program, getting positive feedback from a project you executed, or an event presentation. You can create a list of your wins to keep track of them and save them somewhere. As you achieve more wins and milestones, make new entries on your list of achievements throughout your career.
Aside from serving as a career memoir or a source of personal motivation, your list of achievements can prove useful. For example, this list can serve you well in performance appraisals or reviews.
It can also be a valuable negotiation tool when discussing your promotion at work or a raise in pay. With a list of achievements in detail, it will be hard for your employer to ignore how much of an asset you are to the organisation.
On the other hand, your vision of career advancement could lie beyond the borders of your current place of employment. In this case, this list can be of immense value when filling out an application or drafting a cover letter. An application as relevant as this is sure to pass the screening process of a CV parser.
Step out of your comfort zone
Taking on new challenges outside your field of specialty is a good way to ensure a positive career trajectory. Stepping out of your comfort zone typically entails doing things you haven’t done before. For instance, if you’re always silent during meetings because of low confidence, you can try getting involved in the next meeting.
You can offer to help out with something, regardless of whether you’re good at it. You can also provide a solution to a problem at work or volunteer to supervise a project. At first, stepping out of your comfort zone can be nerve-wracking. However, it gets easier with time. The more you step out of your comfort zone, the more people will notice you.
This is a proven method to ensure a positive career trajectory. Networking with people in your industry can open you up to opportunities to key into. Search for people who have a similar career path as you or people currently working in positions you want to reach. You can also implement this strategy online on professional social communities such as LinkedIn.
Having a list of job positions or departments to explore within your industry effectively ensures a positive career trajectory.
The highlights of this article include:
- Setting career goals
- Always be on the lookout for available career development opportunities
- Make the most out of development training programs
- Regularly meet with your line manager
- Keep track of your achievements
- Step out of your comfort zone
- Strategic networking
About the Author
Lori Wade is a journalist and content writer from Louisville. Lori creates news and informative articles about HR, recruiting, and employee productivity. You can find her on LinkedIn.