Taking Initiative to Advance Your Career

Author By Steve Brechter
taking initiative

Now that January is upon us, many of us are ripe for action. We’re more focused than ever to advance our business aviation career.

Whether this is true this month (or any day on the calendar), there are several ways to tackle career advancement effectively.

But do you fear that you’ve hit a career plateau?

If so, you should ask yourself: “Am I truly ready for that next step?If your answer is “Probably not,” then what’s your action plan to prepare yourself so that you are?

And, furthermore, what exactly is that next step in your career?

These are the kinds of questions we should be posing to ourselves, if we honestly want to move ahead. If you’re contemplating taking initiative to advance your career, read on.

Growing Pains are Welcome

There are several answers to these very weighty questions. And if simply asking them makes you feel uncomfortable, then you might find the answers even more unsettling.

But you must press on. That unsettled feeling is a built-in signal that you are starting to grow again.

The overarching guidance we offer at Gray Stone Advisors is that people should always follow their passion. That Flight Level 350 strategy never fails.

We have already commented extensively about this in prior blogs, so we will assume that you’ve already clearly identified what gives you the most satisfaction in your professional pursuits. If not, we can help you do so.

Taking Initiative to Advance Your Career

Think of your career as climbing a set of stairs. Some of the staircases available to you are taller than others, with treads that are solid and wide, while other staircases have treads that are a little shaky and narrow.

If you choose the wrong staircase, it could be a difficult climb and end up leading to nowhere.  So, how do you pick the proper staircase and reduce some of the risks of advancing your career?

One approach is to work with your business aviation leader, coach or mentor to identify the next logical steps in your career.

What does the role description require for that next position? What are the particular skills, competencies and experiences that are required to be successful?

Once you have a solid, pragmatic picture of what’s necessary, then you and your leader, coach or mentor(s) can define exactly what you will need to progress from where you are now to where you want to be next.

It just might be that your next career step is going to be that all-important one.

Making the Transition

For illustration purposes, let’s say that you’re transitioning from being a maintenance crew chief to the director of maintenance.

One of the skills required is knowing how to prepare the maintenance department’s budget for the coming year. If you don’t happen to have that skill, now’s the time to get out of your comfort zone!

To gain some experience in financial planning and budgeting, you should volunteer to help the department’s business manager gather all of the details needed to create the budget.

In the process, you’ll gain valuable expertise. And, you’ll demonstrate that you’re the kind of professional who’s willing to do what it takes to move ahead.

Your role may consist of identifying all of the assumptions that must be considered before budgeted expenditures can be quantified, but your key objective will be to learn the process and become familiar with the language of accounting and financial planning.

Remember that, in this environment, you are gaining valuable skills without assuming the final responsibility for the outcomes. And, most importantly, you can decide if the career step is one that you’ll enjoy. Or, maybe you’ll explore another path.

One Step at a Time

As a second example, let’s assume that you’re leading one of your department’s functional areas. (That is, Maintenance, Flight Operations or Scheduling & Dispatch). And, let’s say that you’ve done so successfully for a considerable period of time.

But now you’re thinking about preparing yourself for the department’s general manager (GM) or aviation director role.

Once again, you have the advantage of working closely with your leader, coach or mentor. So what’s so different about the GM’s role and yours? Almost everything!

Take it one step at a time.

Engage those same steps I referenced above. Identify the skills and experiences that are essential to success as a GM. You will likely discover that you need development in several areas.

But remember, this isn’t a bad thing! Simply pick a couple to hone in on. Let’s say two of the areas that you identify as your weak spots are giving executive-level presentations and public speaking.

When it comes to public speaking, ask yourself how you can best develop this talent. You might have to think a little bit outside the box and consider using external or extracurricular training sources.

Organizations that specialize in public speaking, such as Toastmasters International or Dale Carnegie, have local chapters all over the world that you can join to expand your skills.

And regarding executive-level presentations, your organization might have a department—such as marketing or internal communications—that specializes in creating media presentations for your firm’s executive leadership team. Work with your leader, coach or mentor to design an internship and/or job-shadowing program. Use key members of these teams to help you learn those unique skills.

The Bottom Line

Your growth and future success are largely dependent upon the strength of your personal initiative.

You will have to invest extra effort, time and possibly your own financial resources. That way, you can develop the skills and gain the requisite experiences needed to prepare you for stepping up the right staircase.

By taking on special projects and initiatives and becoming involved in career development activities beyond your immediate area of influence, you’re demonstrating your personal initiative. This is the key element for career advancement.

Onward and upward! Your journey is just beginning.