take charge career pinIf you’re too valuable to your boss, you may be missing out on opportunities for advancement that you don’t even know about.

That’s exactly what happened to me, early on in my career.

How I Missed Out on a Promotion

I was working for a national planning firm and, at the time, I was helping a field vice president run his office. I was good at it. So good that the field vice president’s boss took notice of my talents and wanted to offer me my own office to run.

It would have been a huge a promotion, a large pay increase, and a big jump in responsibility.

The problem? I never even heard about the opportunity. When the big boss mentioned it to the vice president I was working for, he claimed I was too valuable to lose. So, I never heard about the offer (until years later when it was a moot point) and I lost out on what would have been the biggest career advancement opportunity of my young career.

Looking back, I realize I’m partly responsible for the way things played out. I hadn’t adequately taken control of my own career and so I didn’t know what all of my advancement opportunities were.

How to Change Your Career for the Better

Think there are opportunities you may be missing out on? Check out these four simple steps to taking charge of your career. (Note: these steps are simple but they aren’t easy.)

Develop a game plan for your career. Don’t trust your manager to tell you what’s best for you. Instead, know where you want your career to go and follow your own path.

Build connections outside your immediate business unit. It’s important to have good working relationships within your first circle of influence but it’s equally important to be building relationships with colleagues in lateral positions, with your boss’s boss, and with people in leadership positions from other business units. These relationships can help you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on within your company and stay abreast of career advancement opportunities.

Find mentors. Read about why you really need a mentor. Your immediate boss can be a mentor, but it’s equally important to seek out mentors from other business units. You’ll expose yourself to new ideas and see the business from a different perspective. More important, mentors also love to hire or recommend their mentees when new opportunities arise. Also, it also never hurts to have another manager in your court if you have a boss (like mine) who is trying to keep you pigeon-holed in your current position.

Know what’s going in your industry. It’s comfortable to stay put, but your current employer isn’t the only source for career advancement. It’s worth knowing the other players in your field, have a handle on where your industry is going, and be connected well enough to know when competitor positions become available. You owe it to yourself to know what else is out there.

Sometimes I think back to that moment and wonder where I’d be today had I known about that long ago advancement opportunity. Fortunately for me, I later started my own business and took fate into my own hands. Your career is yours. You should be the one who’s guiding it.