When I was on my first job following college graduation, I happened to read an article about learning curves. The author described the learning curve (in text and in graphic format) as resembling to some extent a “lazy S” – the letter S leaning to the right. When tackling a new job, process or idea, learning can be slow – like the fairly flat line at the bottom of the lazy S. Then one gets an insight into the whole concept and sees where he is heading. . (Picture a steep dotted line rising toward the top of the lazy S.). At that point learning speeds up, as represented by the steep curve of the lazy S. (One see the skeleton of the whole idea and is able to rapidly add meat to those bones.) Finally, when one has pretty well mastered the idea or process, learning slows down, this represented by the fairly flat curve at the top of the lazy S. At this point one’s potential for growth and potential to contribute wanes.
I quickly decided that I wanted to manage my career so as to follow a series of lazy S’s each one to the right and on top of the preceding one, with the ceiling of one curve to become the floor of the successive curve. And I managed to do pretty much what I had planned.
This meant when things were going well it would probably be time to move on and seek new challenges. This doesn’t have to mean leaving a company but rather (a) exploring new opportunities in the same company or (b) expanding the responsibilities of one’s current assignment. To do this latter, one does not have to wait for a promotion. An individual can expand his responsibilities on his own volition by exploring ways to improve the methods he was taught and by voluntarily assuming more responsibility – especially in areas not currently addressed.
Some words of caution: Moving unto someone else’s turf can cause resentment and in-fighting and be self defeating. Additionally, the proper attitude in expanding one responsibilities should be with the aims of contribution to the organization and personal growth. A quest for immediate and direct advancement may be too obvious as well as unproductive.