By Ally MacDonald

MIT Sloan Management Review, April 24, 2019.

These five strategies offer practical steps for motivated employees looking to stay ahead of the pack.

Whether you are a long-tenured leader, a new manager, or an individual contributor with rising responsibilities, it’s always valuable to take stock of your career path and make investments for the future.


These five strategies, sourced from research articles published by MIT Sloan Management Review, offer practical steps for motivated employees looking to stay ahead of the pack. 

Assemble Your Support Team

In today’s complex business environment, managers and leaders need an array of advisers, mentors, and role models to provide critical information and support at defining moments in their careers. Just as an organization could not exist with a single-member board, the notion that one mentor could fit all of your developmental needs is similarly flawed. In “Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisers,” the authors identify six types of personal advisers who together provide a broad combination of experience and career support.

Invest Your Time Wisely

Making the right decision about which projects and partnerships to enter into seems like it should be easy. But it often isn’t. Being smart about where you devote your resources — your personal time, energy, and finances, as well as those of your organization — means being smart about not just time management but about choice management. That means being proactive and disciplined about asking why you think a project is a good fit. It also means paying attention to your inner skeptic.

Determine Volatility Ahead

The dreaded “d-word” — disruption — can often feel buzzy, but industry volatility is a real threat for many workers. To stay ahead of developments that may disrupt your professional life, you must make two evidence-based diagnoses: How volatile is your industry? And what explains the volatility? The answers will equip you to preemptively disrupt your own career. 

As the authors of the article “What to Do When Industry Disruption Threatens Your Career” write:

“Whether you decide to make a modest shift within your own company or within your industry — or to switch industries altogether — will depend on what your diagnosis uncovers, your own career goals, and what options are realistic for you. The only naive approach is to assume that industry volatility is just something for the company to worry about and not a concern for you as a sole actor.”

Don’t Let Job ‘Fit’ Sway You 

In her article, “Rationalizing Yourself Out of a Promotion,” Darden professor Morela Hernandez describes a common scenario for women of feeling like they don’t “fit” a promotional opportunity and consequently rationalizing themselves out of applying for it. This process of negatively evaluating such opportunities is due to a process called job crafting. While job crafting has many positive applications, individuals and managers, especially women who are navigating promotions and career changes, should be especially aware of negative self-evaluation — and hiring managers and organizations should be careful of the signals they might be communicating to potential applicants.

Hone Your 21st Century Survival Skills

As MIT SMR editor in chief Paul Michelman asks, “What does it take to keep pace in today’s environment, one in which we are expected to pivot repeatedly toward new ways of working?” Michelman outlines three personality traits crucial for success in today’s fast-paced digital environment: will, skill, and velocity. Future success and career transformation may come in part from honing these skills and demonstrating your own flexible talents, nerve, and personal speed as a competitive asset.

Ally MacDonald is senior associate editor, digital, at MIT Sloan Management Review.