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Don’t be afraid to declare your career aspirations

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Finding a route to success in the workplace can be a difficult process. The working world is becoming ever more complex and competitive; it's easy to be left behind, or lose momentum as you move forward in your career. In such an environment, how can you get ahead?

As a first step, consider changing your frame of reference. I have long considered myself "Charyl Galpin Inc." Doing so has increased my sense of control over my own career and had me taking a business approach to proactively managing it.

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It effectively means taking responsibility for your own career development and progression, and not waiting for or hoping your employer or someone else will do it. In this sense, you are essentially creating and managing your own "brand" – a definition of your working self and your aspirations for others to see.

Set your goals

This is a constant process that has you evaluating, on a regular basis, what your personal, professional and financial goals are and assessing your satisfaction in each of these areas. If any area is out of alignment, you need to take action. And that also means taking the emotion out of the current circumstances and making a business decision.

Be clear about your aspirations

The next step is making sure everyone who might play a role in your career knows what your career aspirations are. This includes your manager, mentors, sponsors and Human Resources partners. I believe as an employee it is my right to declare what it is I want to achieve. As a leader, it is my obligation to help people understand what is possible.

Be a partner with your employer

Partnership is an important element of career progression between yourself and your employer to make your brand a success. We all hope to be in situations where company leaders see it as an obligation to ensure that their employees move forward. But even in such a positive environment, no one will know and no one will be able to help you unless you openly declare your aspirations.

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You may well have aspirations that aren't aligned with the company where you are working, or that even may be beyond you. Good leaders are honest and transparent – they ensure you know whether you are on the right track or not. They can help you, either through training, recommending further education or suggesting career alternatives you may not have considered.

I've seen talented people in situations with leaders who are ready and willing to help, who have seen their careers stall because they had not shared their aspirations. For many, as soon as they did, good things happened.

Be more than your job title

Finally, your efforts to improve your own brand must not be limited to your workplace. The more you can put on your résumé, the better consideration you will get for other roles. If you simply "exist" at your workplace, you aren't differentiating yourself.

Fundamental to this kind of personal development is the broadening of your horizons. Opportunities to accomplish this exist outside work. Volunteering for boards and committees, or giving your time to a not-for-profit organization, will give you a chance to show your talents in a different area, learn new skills and expand your network of contacts.

While you get the chance to practice your skills outside the typical work environment and meet new people, the organizations themselves gain the benefit of something they value strongly – your business skills. It's particularly helpful for someone looking for a way to add more value as they await their next career move – it's an opportunity to remain sharp and engaged.

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I've come across so many people whose success in business has followed their efforts to manage their personal brands. I have no doubt that this represents an important way forward in developing a career.

Thirty-five years later, I am still managing my own career the same way.

Charyl Galpin is co-chief executive of BMO Nesbitt Burns (@BMO).

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