How to Advance My Career – Beginning Now
Everyone wants to get promoted. Everyone wants the next big raise. Everyone wants to be viewed as a top notch employee. However, my experience has shown that everyone is not willing to put forth the effort that is required to accomplish the aforementioned tasks. In this article I discuss some of the employee characteristics that quality managers look for in individuals when considering them for advancement opportunities. Obviously, there are some basic foundational qualities that must be exhibited prior to the focus of this article, such as being organized, being on time and having an adequate level of job performance (to name a few), that I won’t go into at this time. I will make the assumption that you are functioning as a solid employee that is meeting all the requirements of your current position, but are now considering what you can do differently to move forward to the next level within your organization. It must also be stated that the enclosed list is merely that, one list. And this list is in no way exhaustive.
I could add many additional ideas to these ten and they would all have some level of positive impact on your goal of career advancement. However, my thought process is not to deliver a tome, but to simply provide what I consider to be some of the most important and impactful things that you can do today. If and when you implement these ten ideas and make them a part of your daily routine and regiment, when you make them part of your character, I suggest that not only will you see additional opportunities in your business, but you will also witness positive change in your personal life as well. Here with, are ten possible ways to “Advance Your Career – Beginning Now.”
1. Be a “go to” – “get it done” employee: Develop a reputation within your work unit of being the individual who always “gets it done” on time, within budget and with the desired results. Don’t make excuses about why things don’t get done. If you don’t make excuses, you won’t be tempted to rely on excuses. Nobody cares about all the storms you encountered, they simply want to know did you get the job done. Understand who the people are that you are going to need positive relationships with to get things done and then go and develop those relationships. There is nothing that management loves more when they are rolling out a new program or implementing a change, than knowing that they don’t have to worry about John or Jane. Why? Because we know that they are going to get it done and get it done right. You have the reputation of being a winner and everyone wants a winner on their team.
2. Focus on positive outcomes: This is a follow-up to #1 above. Too many times I have seen employees who erroneously believe that activity equals production. Don’t be deceived. Activity simply means work, and unfocused work is a waste of your time and energy. Focus on results and focus on the activities that produce those desired results. Don’t spend time running in circles for the sake of being able to say you were busy. No one cares. Be persistent in your focus. Don’t let others tell you that it’s alright that you didn’t get the results that were required – it’s not. There may be legitimate reasons why you didn’t get the results that you needed and you can learn from those situations. But do not fall asleep and begin to think that great effort justifies subpar results – they don’t. Stay focused on excellent outcomes and become completely satisfied with nothing less.
3. Focus on the positive and not the negative. Become a positive leader through change and adversity: There is one thing that organizations never have enough of – positive leadership. As a society, we have a natural tendency to spend more time on what is wrong versus what is right. Ten things might well be perfect and one thing a little askew and most people will spend the predominance of their time talking about the one thing that is wrong versus the ten things that are right. This lends itself to the “water cooler” experience and the “grapevine” phenomenon, where employees find the time to commiserate with each other about all that is wrong in their corporate world. The chatter increases significantly during organizational change and organizational adversity. Your ability to focus on the positive in the midst of adversity shows you as a strong leader. I am not saying that you should not acknowledge the reality of the situation. Life presents us with many challenging conditions. If you are unwilling to honestly recognize the difficulties that situations present, it will paint you as naïve at best and inconsiderate and uncaring at worst. Admit the challenges. Admit the adversity. Admit the difficulty that each situation offers, but don’t live there. Don’t sit down in the desert of your opportunity. Get up and move forward. Focus on the ten things that are right. Focus on the ten reasons why this can and will work. Focus on the ten reasons why this is going to make the situation better long term. Remember, that the only reason that adversity shows up is to mock your commitment to excellence. Keep your attention on the positive, not blindly, but yet boldly. You will prove yourself to your management team that you represent that rare employee that they are all looking for, a positive leader.
4. Display passion, dedication and an unambiguous intention: First, let others see your passion for your job. This is demonstrated not by having a giant grin painted on your face all the time like a clown, but much more so in your behavior. Enthusiasm is demonstrated in your preparedness for all areas of your job. Are you at meetings early? Are you willing to enthusiastically stay late or come in early to work on special projects (you don’t have to – you get to)? Are you willing to proactively help others? Secondly, dedication is shown in your loyalty to the organization, your perseverance during difficult times, your willingness to be there when needed, and your willingness to support the organization when you may not agree with or understand completely all of the actions you see them taking. Thirdly, make sure that your purpose for being there is clear to your manager and those you work around. Is it obvious that you are there to provide excellent results? Is everyone clear that you are following company direction and that you have a great desire to help the organization meet is short term and long term objectives? Is it obvious that you desire to move up the company ranks and that you are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure that happens?
5. Demonstrate continuous personal improvement: Personal improvement is your responsibility and your responsibility alone. The company may have an interest in your development, but ultimately this falls squarely and permanently at your feet. No matter who you are, and no matter what position you hold, you can always get better. I challenge you to set a goal of personal improvement whether on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Take a class, read another book, listen to a motivational CD, subscribe to an industry magazine – the list goes on. But whatever you do, don’t lie to yourself and believe that you have everything you need to continue to function at a high level and move forward in your organization. Don’t think that you don’t have to get better, that you have “arrived.” That mindset is a prescription for moving from being a “hero” to being a “has been”. Developing a mindset of continuous improvement will keep you sharp, it will let you know where you are vulnerable and allow you the opportunity to do something positive about it. Remember, the game is always changing and if you don’t want to lose your spot or be left behind, you need to continually improve your skill set and competencies.
6. Do more than is expected: Whatever your job requirements and whatever your functional area, make sure you do more than the minimum requirements of your position. Don’t look to just get by. In fact, I would suggest that you take a close look at the position that you would like to get promoted to, and begin to function in your current job, as best you can, as though you were already working in your next level position. Do it with enthusiasm and without any time table of expectation.
7. Understand the key focuses of the organization and make sure you are contributing to those areas as you carry out your job responsibilities: Different companies have different ideas about what is significant to their long term success. I have worked with companies who have had computer skills, positive leadership, decision making and innovation as significant to their long term success. Your organization is probably completely different and that’s fine. What is important is to find within these long term strategies the area that anyone who is an employee can contribute in. It is important for you to begin to verbalize these keys as part of your interaction with management, your peers and even the customer, if appropriate. It is vital that you begin to internalize these keys so that you can “talk the company talk”. Additionally and most importantly, you must move forward and begin to implement a personal strategy of demonstrating that you are able to have positive impact for the organization in these areas.
8. Share your professional goals with your supervisor: You might think this one goes without saying, but my experience has shown me that nothing important in business goes without saying. You’d be surprised at how many times in the life of a corporation an employee comes to a supervisor and asks why they weren’t considered for a particular promotion. The answer being that the supervisor was not aware that the employee would be willing to meet the requirements of the promotion. With that said, make sure that your supervisor knows that you want to move forward in the organization and what you are willing to do, to facilitate that move. Be clear. Are you willing to move? Are you willing to change functions? Which positions are you interested in and why? Are there positions that you don’t want to be considered for? These are discussions that you should not wait for your supervisor to originate. Be proactive, it’s your career.
9. Look for additional challenges: Network the organization and begin to understand where there might be opportunities for you to take on additional responsibility. This might mean a special project or a special committee. Always look to funnel these requests through your immediate supervisor if appropriate.
10. Take a lateral position in another area of the company: If you are in sales take a lateral position in marketing. No matter what functional area you are working in, consider taking a position in a different area of the company. This will accomplish several positive things. It will give you invaluable experience in a different area of the company that will give you a distinct advantage as you look to climb the ladder of success. It will expose you to a whole new set of managers, who will get to witness for themselves your positive attributes. Also, it will prove your commitment to the organization and your commitment to your personal continuous improvement.