The ultimate framework for rapid career growth
This career strategy turbocharged my career in record time.
Hello, I’m Felix! Welcome to this week’s ADPList’s Newsletter; 🔒 subscriber-only edition 🔒weekly advice column. Each week, we tackle design, building products, and accelerating careers. We’re looking for sponsors! If you’re interested in sponsoring our newsletter, let’s chat.
I have people who come to me and ask, “How do you grow your career if you’re not getting the growth from your work, but you’re not quite ready to leave?”
Telling someone that they should just find a new job is not always the best answer for many reasons. They could actually still be learning a lot, just not in every facet that they need to be, and they could still have all the great things like a nice commute, benefits, a team they love, great pay, etc. The reality is that finding a new job is probably one of the more extreme options.
When people ask about career growth, they are referring to moving from a junior to a senior position or how they can grow their skills to be able to join a company that they want. Essentially, they feel like they are at a plateau in their career.
I got promoted to a full-time Design Lead in the 5th year of my career. So I must’ve done some things right, or at least I hope. Here are learnings inspired by Srini Raghavan, VP of Microsoft.
We’re going to explore the master strategies below.
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Q: How I Turbocharged My Career in Record Time
What struck me about writing today’s article is how other people know that I can do the work or even better. What is the difference between me and the person I’m interviewing? How would someone know?
Is there a formula for fast growth? Conventional wisdom is that you attend an elite college or even a top MBA program and go to FAANG companies, know the right people, be politically savvy at your workplace, ask for promotions, and ride your way to the top jobs.
Is that the formula though?
My biggest learnings; tldr
Don’t wait to be promoted to do your best work
Never let a crisis go to waste
Don’t just give what’s expected. Amaze them
Redefine your ROI - Return on Interaction
Make a bold career move
Practice pragmatic optimism
Find Mentors and Mentor others
If you have any additional insights, stories, or feedback to share, don’t hesitate to DM me. Otherwise, let’s dive into the strategies.
Rule 1: Don’t wait to be promoted to do your best work
How you do anything is how you’ll do everything.
First, make sure you get your core role right. Do the absolute best in your current role — push the envelope, strive for excellence, and don’t wait for your next job to do your best work. Refuse to accept “good enough” or mediocrity.
By "pushing the envelope," you're encouraged to challenge the status quo, innovate, and go beyond what's typically expected in your role. This means finding more efficient ways to complete tasks, coming up with creative solutions to problems, or taking on additional responsibilities that showcase your capabilities.
You should take a proactive, ambitious approach to one's current role, viewing it not just as a stepping stone to something better but as an opportunity in itself to excel, make a significant impact, and demonstrate your full potential.
Rule 2: Never let a crisis go to waste
Crises are a common occurrence in the world of product building.
Every day, designers/PMs may face various challenges, whether it's falling short of goals, encountering delays in product development, dealing with customer issues, navigating team or organizational difficulties, or grappling with financial constraints.
It's natural to initially react with panic and fear.
However, crises also present a unique opportunity for reevaluation and innovation. As a designer/PM, you can use these challenging moments to explore solutions and approaches you might not have considered before. Embracing these situations with determination, desire, and resilience can turn a crisis into a valuable learning experience, benefiting both your team and the overall project.
The larger the crisis, the higher the stakes, but also the potential for significant rewards. Be wary though of overextending this point as an underhand tool.
Rule 3: Don’t just give what’s expected. Amaze them
It’s easier to just do what’s asked of you and what’s expected, but that’s just the bare minimum to gain entry. To be honest, most times it’s not enough.
To truly excel, aim to differentiate yourself. Embrace unique thinking and approaches, take initiative, exceed expectations, and add extra value to every project, task, interaction, and relationship. This leads us to our next point
Rule 4: ROI redefined — Return on Interaction
The most common definition of ROI is Return on Investment on a business or financial investment.
However, I have a different perspective on ROI, especially relevant in our field: 'Return on Interaction.' This concept applies to every conversation, meeting, or interaction you engage in.
The goal is to make each of these encounters meaningful and beneficial for the other person involved. Make sure that anyone interacting with you gains substantial value from the experience. As a designer/PM, this approach can lead to numerous benefits. You might aid someone in solving a problem, gain new insights or knowledge yourself, and most importantly, create a memorable impact. In a profession where understanding user needs and effective communication are crucial, maximizing the 'Return on Interaction' can foster better relationships, enhance collaboration, and lead to more successful and user-centric design outcomes.
Rule 5: Compassion is **really** underrated
If you want to inspire people and not shut them down, practice compassion.
It’s not a sign of weakness. It means pausing, being a spectator to your own thoughts, especially when getting emotional, putting yourself in the other person’s position, listening to understand (vs. listening to reply), and setting them to be successful. Managing compassionately is not just a better way to build a team; it’s a better way to build a product and company.
Jeff Weiner in Wharton Undergraduate commencement speech shares “By virtue of my role at LinkedIn, I get the chance to speak with students and interns starting their careers, just like you. One of the questions I’m most frequently asked is what advice would I give my 22-year-old self? The advice I would give my 22-year old self is to be compassionate.”
Rule 6: Make a bold career move
Career pivots seldom take a predictable path. They zig, they zag. If you want to get on the fast track that can catapult your career, make a bold career move. Build something from scratch, hand-craft it, and learn from it. Launch a product from nothing, build a new team, geography. Raise your hand for any opportunity, especially if you are starting out. Seek out projects no one wants, and take on a huge mess.
Don’t wait to be ready, for you will never be.
Rule 7: Practice pragmatic optimism
Optimism is contagious, powerful, and a force multiplier. Optimism opens up possibilities for trying & learning things that have never been tried before. Ed Catmull in his book Creativity, Inc.
“If we make room for it instead of shunning it, the unknown can bring inspiration and originality.”
This means viewing challenges and uncharted territories not as obstacles but as opportunities to innovate and learn. Optimism encourages a culture where taking risks and venturing into new areas is not just accepted but celebrated.
Rule 8: Find mentors and mentor others
You may be the smartest person in the room, team, and your project; however, there are times when everyone needs advice and help in tackling challenges, or problem or simply need a sounding board. There’s nothing better than having a mentor or a network of mentors. A great mentor or a group of mentors can help you build connections to opportunities you never knew existed or can provide a good reference.
Adam Grant is famous for having a challenge network, a group of people that you trust to push you to get better. He says “They tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear but need to hear.”
On the flip side, mentoring others — young or old, on a regular basis is a powerful way to accelerate learning, develop leadership skills, and help you focus & be a better listener. Reverse mentoring can be a powerful tool as well when younger employees pair up with executive team members to mentor them on issues and topics of technological and cultural relevance.
📈 Statistics: ADPList Mentors have mentored over 100 million minutes, and our recent survey tells us more than 80% of Mentors have benefited either in career recognition or skills, and leadership growth. Interesting!
There’s no formula to rocket launch your career. Sometimes it’s about trying several things and most importantly learning from them and constantly improving yourself.
That’s all! Hope this helps you get the promotion. Have a fulfilling and productive week! 🙏
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