What does career progression look like for a senior professional?

Published on: Feb 13, 2020

Career progression for senior professionals

If you’re a senior professional, the road ahead holds many exciting possibilities. The wealth of your skills and experience means that many new options are open to you. The trickiest part is deciding which path to take. Your final decision should be dependent on several factors, including your personal skillset, long-term goals and overall job satisfaction.

Here are five career paths for advancement as a senior professional:

1. Aim for senior leadership

Perhaps the most traditional course for those working at a higher level, as a senior manager most of your time will be spent coordinating, planning and overseeing the work of your team. A high degree of emotional intelligence is required in order to help others grow, develop and reach their goals. This career path will eventually evolve into leading other leaders, and will open the door to board level positions.

Moving into a senior management role can be challenging for those who enjoy executing projects themselves, especially if your knowledge and expertise is greater than that of your less experienced team members. If you are able to resist the temptation to micromanage and embrace your role as a mentor, however, leading a team can be a truly rewarding choice.

2. Pursue a senior non-management role

Though people management may be a popular career path, it isn’t for everyone. From dealing with the politics to organising interviews and conducting performance reviews, managing others can often be a steer away from the direction people want to see their careers moving in.

It may be that you would rather spend time developing your expertise in a field you are especially passionate about, in which case there are plenty of non-management routes to consider. Carving yourself a niche by establishing yourself as the ‘go-to specialist’ in your area and becoming an outstanding senior individual contributor will both make it easier for you to advance along a non-management route at your current organisation or, if this is not possible, move to a company that more readily offers this as a path.

3. Turn your hand to contract work

Becoming an independent contractor both allows you greater freedom and control over your working patterns and enables you to get hands on and involved in a number of different projects. At a senior level you could also explore interim leadership, helping provide guidance to organisations instigating a variety of different projects. This lifestyle presents plenty of upskilling opportunities and exposure to different working environments, industries and sectors.

Joining the contract workforce is no longer seen as simply a ‘stop-gap’ for senior professionals but a career choice all of its own, affording senior professionals flexibility, independence and the opportunity to meet new people and broaden their network of contacts.

4. Take on a consultancy role

In a similar vein to contract work, being subcontracted by a company to provide specialist knowledge would incentivise you to develop your abilities as far as possible in order to keep up with the competition and secure good working relationships with organisations.

Starting up your own consultancy is an exciting prospect, relying heavily on your networking and self-promotion skill. Whilst an absence of job security can make going solo a slightly more unpredictable path, the variety of assignments and exposure to a broad portfolio of industries provide excellent opportunities for self-development as well as the freedom to select assignments which you feel passionate about.

5. Set up your own company

It may be that working in the interests of another organisation, as a permanent member of staff or otherwise, may no longer drive or motivate you in the same way. In this event, setting up your own organisation remains perhaps the best recourse for deploying your hard-acquired skills and experience, allowing you full creative control over your strategic direction.

Arguably the choice with the highest risk, but potentially the greatest reward, setting up your own company will require initiative, resilience and dedication but offers you the opportunity to truly make a mark on your industry and apply the skills and knowledge you possess at the very highest level.