Elevating your career takes time, patience, and a solid approach. You might feel that promotions are timing and luck. And as one of the luckiest people alive, I can tell you that I have never “lucked” into a promotion. Timing has been a factor, but timing was only a factor as in, it was time for me to be promoted because of all of the work and prep I did to get there.
I’ve found that the work and prep to get that promotion have fallen into one of three major buckets. The first is to actively manage your career. The second is that I have open ears and eyes. And finally, prove yourself both flexible and invaluable. While some view this as a trap, there is a chance when you are invaluable, bad managers will pigeonhole you into your current job. On the flip side, when you’re doing everything else, getting away from that bad manager will be pretty easy because you’ll be in demand.
Manage Your Career
1. Set & communicate clear goals
The key to getting what you want is knowing what you want. Set clear, manageable goals for you professionally. And maintain those goals as your personal and professional landscape changes.
2. Find a mentor
A good mentor will help you solve some of the challenges and roadblocks you face. The best mentors will help you figure out next steps that work for you and help guide you over hurdles that sit squarely in your blind spot.
3. Get all kinds of feedback
Talk with your manager and your mentor. Get feedback on your communication style, your work, how you handle challenges and so on. Be open to positive and negative feedback and work diligently to iron out the negatives and boost the positives.
4. Manage work samples
We’re in the show me age. When there is an opportunity to elevate in your career, you should have your work samples at the ready. I advocate storing your favorite projects either on your computer in a special folder or in the cloud, check out DropBox, CredHive, Google Drive, or Box.
Open ears/Open eyes
5. Be a student of your industry
Open those eyes and start reading everything you can about your industry and your field. Study everything there is to know about your company and their competitors. Know the company goals and unique selling points inside and out. Study the customers. Know what they want. Become an expert in these things and be able to speak eloquently about.
6. Be curious
Listen to the people around you. Ask a few questions and let people talk about their jobs, their team, their company and their passions. You will learn a lot about people with a few simple questions and big, open ears.
7. Always be listening for opportunities
Opportunities internally and externally will present themselves. Never say “no” to a conversation about opportunity. You will learn a lot about what you want professionally and will probably be better equipped for that promotion if you understand where you can add value at your company or another one. In addition to job opportunities, always be listening for internal project or growth opportunities.
8. Make a grab
When you see new opportunities to stretch and grow, go for it. Make the grab, do a little extra when it’s required to get ahead. It is not aggressive to reach for a new opportunity. It is helpful, useful and valuable. People who progress make grabs.
9. Network internally
To avoid being pigeonholed when you are invaluable, you must network internally. Get to know people in other divisions, other offices and on other teams. Use the above mentioned curiousity to learn everything you can about their team and what matters to them. Learn about what is great about their team and what they love about their job and also what they would change. And then, if you see people who can help others, connect them.
10. Do what you say
The people who get the most out of their careers always do what they say they will. They are consistent and reliable. The promise and then deliver, or even better, over-deliver. When you do what you say you are going to do, you build trust. People like promoting or hiring people they can trust. Always do what you say and follow through.