If you’re eager to further your career, the following 6 pointers will provide active steps you can follow to try and ensure your career ambitions are met.
Whilst a lot of our content focuses on helping you to secure a new job, often a person’s dream career move could lie much closer to home – within the company you already serve.
So what things can you do to maximise the chances of it being you rather than a colleague who’s put forward for the next promotion or moved into that fast-growing new department?
Advancing Your Career in 6 Easy Steps
Fundamentally, career progression within a company usually comes down to getting yourself noticed (by the right people) and ensuring those people appreciate the value you bring to the company and the untapped potential you still have to offer. So here are 6 things you can do to get yourself noticed within your company and to ensure the value you bring to the business is fully appreciated:
1. Put yourself forward for high-profile projects – within most companies critical projects will be initiated each quarter. The key characteristics of such projects are that they are looking to address what the business could become. How could business be done differently, how could processes be streamlined, what new technologies (eg. social media) could the business be looking to harness. Essentially what decisions does the CEO need to take today to ensure that the business is well positioned for success tomorrow?
Usually such projects require employees to take on the workload of the project in addition to their regular day job (or in some cases you might be seconded to the project for a few months). So there’s an internal selection decision about who should work on the project – and that’s a decision you can influence by proactively seeking to be involved. Such projects will usually report back to senior management and so gain visibility for you and your contributions that you would not ordinarily have in your regular day job. Hence the pivotal role this strategy can play in furthering your career (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this played out in real life).
2. Actively seek out a mentor – ask yourself this: who within your company is senior enough to influence your career trajectory and does the type of work you would like to be doing? It’s these people whose radar you really want to be registering on! Whether you have a formal mentoring programme within your company or not, approach someone in such a position to be your mentor. This could be as little as going for a monthly coffee to get yourself onto their radar and tap into their wisdom. The key thing is you want them to know you, respect you and come to see the potential in you. Then when there are projects in the pipeline or promotions up for grabs, you’re more likely to be someone who comes to mind. Mentoring is one easy way to get face time with those whose opinions you’d most like to influence.
3. Have a laser-sharp focus on your business impact – a situation was recounted to me of a CEO touring their business to meet staff. Everyone he met he asked “so do you help us sell advertising or win more readers?”. Fundamentally, these were the two things that drove success within the business – and so he wanted everyone to be focused on what it was they did each day that contributed to one or other of these objectives.
How does this translate to your current employer? What are the main things that drive success in your business – and in what way do you contribute to these? What decisions do you take each day that could free you up to be spending more time doing the things that have the greatest business impact? Take those decisions – and make sure your increased contribution to the business’s objectives does not go unnoticed.
4. Be proactive and utterly dependable – stop for a minute to consider the roles and responsibilities of your immediate superiors. What are their pain points and how might you seek to alleviate their pain? Maybe they have an excessive workload. Maybe they are short of people they can trust to delegate tasks to. Maybe they need to free up their time to focus on new initiatives they have been charged with implementing.
Whatever their pain points are, if you can help to address these then your standing with your immediate superiors will get an immediate boost. However, try not to make yourself indispensable to your superiors, as this actually makes it harder for you to gain career advancement when opportunities arise within the business. But try to position yourself as someone who is proactive within the department – and utterly dependable. The latter point is particularly key. Your value to the business grows enormously once your superiors believe they can hand tasks off to you, confident that those tasks will be delivered on as professionally as if they’d fulfilled the tasks themselves.
5. Exceed expectations – be more aggressive in managing the expectations of those you report to…. and exceeding expectations wherever possible. Exceeding expectations needs no further explanation, but managing expectations is just as important. We talked above about positioning yourself as being utterly dependable in delivering on tasks. At the point at which tasks are being assigned and project timeframes being drawn up, it’s essential that you are vocal about any issues there may be in delivering on the assignment to time (and budget). Issues flagged up at this stage reflect positively on you and your business knowledge. Issues flagged up only when the project is about to miss a deadline reflect badly on you and undermine your managers’ belief that you can be relied upon to deliver to time and budget.
6. Commit to being enthusiastic – all of the above will help accelerate your career progression over the course of the next 1-2 years. But don’t do all these things without addressing the simplest of steps too – being enthusiastic and a source of positivity in your team. Make sure you’re the person talking enthusiastically about all that can be achieved in the business. Be the person who picks out all the positives in the working week and who heaps praise on co-workers. These are the individuals who others will warm to – and whose enthusiasm will prove infectious with superiors. Too many people who aspire to promotion are actively talking the team down, focusing on the hurdles that will be so hard to overcome, feeding on negativity and talking about what cannot be achieved. Assess honestly whether you’re someone who might be perceived as such and make a conscious effort to change.
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