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Invest in Yourself So You Can Invest in Others’ Career Development

Invest in Yourself So You Can Invest in Others’ Career Development


By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

Over the years, I have come to believe that we may be viewing career development the wrong way. We are conditioned to strive for linear advancement and to believe that promotions are the only way to go.

However, it may be in some of our best interests to either seek a lateral move or assist someone else along the way. The road to success becomes simpler when you realize there is no one in your way.

Why Should We Focus on One Way of Determining and Defining Our Success?

What if we are to grow ourselves to pour into others? What if our greatest accomplishments come through the successes of those we nurture and groom? Maybe the purpose of learning is to absorb information like a sponge and sprinkle it out so others can grow and blossom.

A true Master is not the one with the most students, but one who creates the most Masters. A true leader is not the one with the most followers, but one who creates the most leaders. — Neil Donald Walsch

If your New Year’s resolution was to find another job, why not find one with a purpose? What about finding a job that will position you to be a source of knowledge for the new leaders coming up the ladder? Have you ever thought about how your career journey and the paths you have taken provided an indirect impact on someone else’s destiny?

Study Finds that Helping Others Benefits Your Career Development

Catalyst, a nonprofit organization to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion, conducted a study on high-potential men and women. These leaders received career mentoring and decided to help others in the pipeline realize their career goals. The study found that these individuals experienced benefits in their career growth by assisting potential future leaders.

When I was an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to mentor some young women. It was a pleasure sharing my mistakes as well as the new things I learned in my studies.

During my early career, I was faced with a great challenge. While embarking on the task, I had the opportunity to mentor individuals in the art of “being at the right place at the right time” and tell them that most experiences are not a coincidence. We should view those circumstances as opportunities for advancement.

A few years later, I had the chance to speak to one of my mentees from my undergraduate days. She told me how she met one of the mentees from my job at a big conference in Chicago, where both women were recognized for the positive influence they had in their designated fields. They shared stories of the time each of them had spent with me.

Hearing of this encounter gave me personal gratification and solidified my desire to develop future leaders. The time I invested in these individuals had produced something positive.

If you need more than personal satisfaction, consider these findings from the Catalyst report:

  • High potentials who were developing a protégé had $25,075 greater compensation growth from 2008 to 2010.
  • The study demonstrated that developing others is a significant predictor of career advancement.

It’s Important to Invest in the Future of Others

Pay it forward! Other findings from the Catalyst study that support why it is important to invest in others include:

  • 59% of employees who were mentored spent time developing other people.
  • 66% of high potentials with a sponsor gave back by developing others.
  • 64% of high potentials at the senior executive level chose to develop others, while only 30% of high potentials at the individual contributor level wanted to mentor others.
  • Women develop others more than men do – 65% of women compared to 56% of men.
  • Women develop other women more often than men do – 73% of women develop other women, whereas only 30% of men developed female talent.
  • Long work hours don’t stop women: 76% of women working more than 60 hours a week continued to find time to mentor others, whereas only 57% of men working those hours volunteered to assist in developing others.

You never know whose life you are going to touch. Part of your growth could be to reach back and pull someone else up. As you continue to learn different disciplines, remember to embrace the intersections of your career journey by making a difference in someone else’s life and career development.

By helping others, you learn something new about yourself from the experience. You could be the key to their breakthrough as you grow yourself. Make career development a win-win situation.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.