I am guilty of not owning my career growth in my early career. I was always dependent on my leads and managers for guiding me in my career by setting up my goals and I waited for the year-end feedback meetings.
This was the biggest mistake I did in my career. I should have taken charge of my career rather than waiting for their actions.
So, what I have now started doing and I advise everyone else too?
1) Set some goals for yourself
Every company has yearly goals set up for every individual which are aligned towards the company growth. As an individual, we should set some goals for ourself. It could be learning a new skill or getting some certificate or building a side project.
Make sure that your manager is aware of it.
2) Set up one-on-one with your manager
Waiting a whole year to get feedback is the worst process. Nothing can be as important as the 1:1 with your manager to avoid the surprise at the year-end review meeting.
If your manager is not taking the lead, feel free to setup 1:1 for 15 or 30 mins weekly or monthly. Talk about your achievements, struggles, project you are working on, etc in these 1:1.
This will help you to stay in touch with your manager for the whole year. At the yearly review, your manager knew very well what you did the whole year. So, no surprise for him/her or for you.
I know we hate documentation but when it comes to the career growth document your each and every important achievement.
If you have got appreciation emails, messages, certificates, talks, or any activity related to your career keep collecting them and document them.
This will help at the year-end review as well as whenever you feel you haven't achieved anything you can just refer back to see how far you have come. It will definitely cheer you up.
4) Learn new skill
One of the mistakes I did in my early career was only doing what the company or my job is asking me to do even if it involved old-technologies and tools.
We know very well working on old tech and tools won't help us in our career and our company once the project is over we will label us as "working on outdated technologies".
We should not wait for the company and project to get us into new technology or tool. We should we aware of what is latest in the industry and start learning by ourselves, build something on that. You can add this to your goals and show them to your manager at 1:1.
This will keep you motivated as well as your manager can see your efforts.
5) Constructive Feedbacks
I have worked with the managers and leads when I was at early career who just used to give feedback like - "Did good but need to work harder" or "Didn't perform up to the mark".
I did the mistake of not asking detail and constructive feedback but now I always ask detailed feedback such as:
1) What I did well?
2) How can I take it to the next level?
3) Is there any other way I could have done this job?
4) Was I did everything as expected?
5) What I didn't well?
6) How I can improve my performance?
7) What you felt was not required?
This helps me to understand what I needs to improve and my expert areas.
Always owe your own career growth. The above steps could be intimidating but remember you are not doing anything wrong. You are only improving the communication between you and leads/managers.