Keep growing forward, Young Professionals

Are you 40 years old yet?

Are you already experiencing a great deal of success in your career?

Are you are wanting to make an even bigger impact in your industry and the Tri-Cities?

Then keep reading.

There are eight critical traits for displaying influence and three areas in which you can develop a professional growth plan to bolster your career.

When I’m on the hunt for a young leader who is on an “up and to the right” trajectory in their career, I look for the following traits. Do they describe you?

  • Are you quick to find practical solutions to long-standing problems?
  • Are you an inspirational influencer, who easily persuades others to take action?
  • Do you have the ability to catch a vision and be an early-adopter?
  • Are you consistently noticing and affirming when teammates are succeeding?
  • Do you have people skills that are magnetic, drawing people to you?
  • Does the rest of the team get better because of your helpful mentoring and servant-leadership?
  • Do you show courage, emotional strength, stick-to-it-iveness, and a willingness to take responsibility and take action?
  • Do you receive feedback well, and then do something about it?

Be known for these traits and not only will your current employer consider you “upwardly mobile,” but Tri-City community leaders (chambers, nonprofits) will start asking you to participate in their initiatives.

When crafting your professional development plan for the next six to 12 months, consider categorizing your actions like a three-legged stool.

On-the-job training

Look for opportunities to shadow high performers at your organization. Experience what they experience and ask for a debrief session to ask deep questions and share your perspective.

Ask if you can lead a portion of the meetings you attend. Get briefed from your leader on what the agenda item’s outcome is and bring your own special flair to facilitating it. This could also look like you bringing a leadership tip of the week, asking an icebreaker question, or leading a quick team-building activity on a company value.

When a team problem arises, ask your leader if you can lead a task force to solve it. Gather the team, establish the purpose, brainstorm solutions and suggest actions that will benefit the organization.  You also could volunteer to champion a section of your company’s strategic plan.

When you notice areas on the team that are not working as smoothly as they could be, respectfully bring three solutions to your leader when elevating the issue.

Volunteer to be your leader’s delegate at a meeting that they cannot attend.

Lead an after-action review after a major milestone is achieved by the team. Ask the team what went well to continue doing, and what could be taken to the next level.

Continuing education

Get familiar with the employee handbook. I know this sounds dull, but read it with “leadership eyes” to evaluate if the organization is doing what it says it’s doing.

Become versed in the history of your organization, and the vision forward. When you are passionate about what you do, it’s contagious.

Spend time understanding the company budget. You might not be a “numbers person” but it’s important to connect company goals with the dollars.

Dive deep into professional development resources. Consume a weekly diet of books (audio and paper), podcasts, TED talks and industry magazines. Leaders are readers.

Attend local seminars on topics that grow you, especially if it’s a skill that you need to strengthen. Find a way to teach what you learn to others on the team.

Request permission to attend your industry’s annual conference. At a conference, you learn trends and best practices, make contacts, sample trade show resources and play with new ideas to bring back to your organization.

Join a local leadership development program like Leadership Tri-Cities, Leader Launcher, or a mastermind group to mingle with other emerging leaders.

Attend networking events and set up one-to-ones to interview leaders in the community that you admire.

Mentoring and coaching

Ask for regular one-to-ones with your supervisor and take preparation for them seriously. Ask for more specific feedback, positive and negative. Make it “safe” for your leader to offer it to you because it truly is a gift. Share your wins, goal updates and struggles, and comment on what you are observing – to show you are thinking big-picture.

Humbly ask to be mentored by someone within your organization or industry, someone with a heart for developing others. Then meet with them regularly, prepared with questions to ask for your development. And show incredible gratitude for their investment in you.

Consider hiring (or getting your leader to fund) an external certified coach, someone not emotionally tied to your job, an objective sounding board who is for your success. Set a coaching agreement of the core competencies that you want to work on together.

Think about your ongoing career development as a relay-race runner who is ready to receive the baton from the generation above you. You must train for opportunities, stay in your lane and get up to the speed of the passer. Then grab the baton firmly and run hard so that everyone benefits from your efforts. Celebrate your wins and have fun in the career development race.

Paul D. Casey lives in the Tri-Cities and is the owner of Growing Forward Services, which aims to equip and coach leaders and teams to spark breakthrough success. Casey has authored five books and hosts for emerging leaders each month. Online at

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