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How to Advance When There Is No Career Ladder

Personal Growth
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Changing Company
Career Path

19 August, 2021

Sarah Al Souqi
Sarah Al Souqi

Product Manager at CNN

Sarah Al Souqi, Product Manager at CNN, shares her incredible journey on how she made a brave move and progressed as a product manager.

Problem

There will always be times where you will have the feeling 一 or at least I did 一 of not knowing your job direction. At one point, you will find yourself questioning: where am I heading towards? The problem here was that I struggled with imagining where I would go from here. I was mingling in my thoughts, thinking that so many other roles would have clear guidelines on how I could advance upwards, whereas, in product management, the path seemed less clear. There are so many different kinds of product managers, and there is no single path to success. Since I felt that I was stuck in a job with little progression, I considered some approaches.

Actions taken

The first step towards benefiting from this situation was to invest in myself. During the early years of my career, I proactively sought learning opportunities. Anything that would allow me to brush up on my knowledge or build a new set of skills, I would undoubtedly prioritize it. Not forgetting to mention that I did come across some business books and biographies, which was a great source of inspiration and information for me. Also, I attended conferences and webinars; those were undoubtedly worth it.

I subscribed to different newsletters and online courses, where I continue receiving daily updates on a specific topic. It helped build a structure, I also chose a platform to help me with this. I would block a certain amount of time from my calendar, making it a part of my daily routine to fulfil my learning goals. Sooner or later, it becomes a habit. Whether in the morning or even at the end of the day, I made sure that one slot was available for personal growth activities.

Luckily, I ended up finding a career coach for myself. One thing about having a career coach is to take them seriously. Their valuable feedback helped me understand myself better from a career and work perspective and focus on the right things that I need most to advance.

Another thing that helps in career development is the attitude to welcome change at work. I identified that with change, there is always an opportunity to learn. I derived this from my experience with more prominent companies; they are always in the run for a change. So, with that, I was always on the lookout for growth opportunities. Starting my career as an analyst, moving to product ownership and ending up in a product management role, I discovered that it begins by taking on new responsibilities.

I captured the lessons learned from my previous roles. For example, from a project management role, I made sure I built confidence on executing on projects; that was my expectation out of the role. In other words, I wanted to build that block of expertise in that area. Whereas in my role as an analyst, I understood the value of customer insights for making a product successful. You can always have a vision for yourself and a roadmap to follow, based on what each role would add to your experience.

Lessons learned

  • Just the way you have a vision for your product, you need to have one for yourself. Familiarize yourself with the different product management types, and mark the ones that interest you. From then on, you can create a roadmap for your career. * Note that your ambitions and personal priorities will dictate the velocity you are advancing in.
  • There are many great skills you can master; you need to do some work to prioritize a handful of skills that will serve you towards the mission you are working towards. Owning to that, you will find yourself growing quickly.
  • Sometimes, you might go above and beyond to do what is necessary for advancements yet you find no career opportunities or learning curves. That is when you will know that it is time for you to make a move. Be brave to move to another job or do something outside of your comfort zone.

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