It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day duties of your job, but it’s important to step back every once in a while and look at the bigger picture of your career. Are you happy? Is your career developing according to your plan?

While your boss and mentors can provide support, it is ultimately up to you to answer these questions and create your own action plan for getting where you want to go.

As you decide where you’d like to take your career, it’s often helpful to think through what you enjoy in both your personal and professional life. Maybe you’ve always liked numbers, creating processes or helping people. Whatever makes you happy, think about how you can leverage those interests and skills inside your professional career. If you struggle with this assessment of yourself, consider taking a personality test online to best gauge your true interests.

Armed with this information, you can begin working to take control of your career’s direction. Below, we’ve outlined five of the most important strategies for effectively managing your own career development.

Set and communicate clear goals
The most important part of getting what you want is actually knowing what you want. Once you’ve decided on a clear path, identify and discuss goals with your manager and mentors—this will provide meaningful dialogue during your reviews. As you work to define these goals, use the following questions as your guide:

  • What level of responsibility do you want to have?
  • What projects would you like to lead?
  • What type of company do you want to work for?
  • What problem(s) do you care about solving?
  • Is work/life balance important to you?
  • What kind of people do you enjoy working with?

Create an open feedback loop
Timely, high-quality feedback, whether it’s positive or negative, will provide you with better understanding of where your talents create the most value. The ability to listen to honest feedback and adjust accordingly will go a long way towards increasing your value as an employee. Furthermore, this feedback should help inform the career path you create for yourself, even if that means refining your original goals.

Embrace new challenges
You should always be working to proactively identify projects that help to advance your career. When a new opportunity arises and that opportunity fits your overall career plan, raise your hand and go after it! To generate the most meaningful impact for you and your company, be sure to understand the overall strategic vision of the organization and then determine how your career objectives can help the company achieve that goal.

Create a portfolio of your accomplishments
Portfolios aren’t just for artists. Regardless of your industry, a work portfolio can be a great asset to career advancement. As a collection of your best work, your portfolio will tell a story beyond a resume or cover letter. It w also showcases your passion and commitment to your profession. BrandYourself offers some very helpful tips on what you may want to include in your own career portfolio.

Network
Networking is an essential part of professional development and a valuable skill that will serve you throughout your entire career. A strong network enables you to discover new jobs, different industries and helpful advice, all of which may open your eyes to new possibilities for your career. Keep an open mind—opportunities to network are all around you.

Ready to take the next step in your career? Visit the JumpStart job board to browse more than more than 100 open positions with entrepreneurial-minded companies in various fields all across Northeast Ohio.

Dave Thomas
Through his work at JumpStart, Dave connects great talent with exciting opportunities inside of growing startups and scaleups.