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Own Your Career Path: 5 Strategies for Professional Growth

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By Dr. Randy Pogue, CEO 

Whether you've landed your first "real" job fresh out of college or have been in the workforce for a handful of years, it makes sense to put your nose to the grindstone and get the job done to the best of your ability. Nothing wrong with that. It's what you were hired to do.

But where are you headed?

If you're not deliberate about your next move, your career may stagnate or your managers will dictate "where you go from here" – a scenario that could land you in a position you're not passionate about or ideally suited for.

Armed with a master's degree and Ph.D. in physical chemistry, my career began in research and development with The Dow Chemical Company. It's a position I thoroughly enjoyed and I could have made a career of it.

But I kept my eyes open for opportunities and ventured out of my comfort zone, first becoming a Six Sigma Black Belt and then taking a position in supply chain management. These roles broadened my skillset and put me in a position to take a role as Vice President of Shared Services for AmSty after Dow and Chevron Phillips Chemical Company formed the joint venture. Four years ago, I was honored to be named president and CEO of AmSty.

While I didn't set out with clear strategies to propel my career forward, I now look back and can define five distinct approaches that were critically important in the development of my professional future. Consider these as you ponder your next move:

1. Assess Your Strengths
Ask supervisors, managers, even colleagues about your strengths and weaknesses. Their insight may help you determine the jobs you're best suited for – and those you're not.

2. Network
I'm referring to internal networking as priority one. Don't be shy. Talk to colleagues, supervisors, managers – learn as much as you can about other positions. Some may pique your interest and prompt you to change course.

3. Take Calculated Risks
Be willing to try something new – get out of your comfort zone. If an opportunity both scares and excites you, that's a good sign it's worth pursuing. You never know where it might lead.

4. Speak Up
If you're intrigued by another position in your area of expertise – or outside of it – speak up. Let your manager(s) know you're interested in possibly taking advantage of new opportunities.

5. Find Good Mentors
Whichever path you choose, find trusted and talented mentors who can help guide you along the way – serving as sounding boards and providing words of wisdom to help you achieve your goals.

Simply put, if you want a fulfilling career that puts your talents to good use and helps you grow professionally and personally, you must be your own advocate. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you or having someone else determine your fate, employ the above strategies to truly take charge of your career. You are your best advocate.

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