As an emerging talent, you are well educated, you want to make a difference in the world, and you landed a job in a great organization. You are ready to make an impact. And, you want to be on the fast track to promotion. But, you are not progressing in line with your expectations.
A large portion of your day is consumed with mundane tasks, executing business processes that you did not create. You attend too many meetings set up by other people. There isn’t enough time in the day and it is often difficult to get the data you need to do your job. You are very interested in your own development and there is not enough focus on this in your organization. Can you relate to any of these common challenges?
Here are Seven Tips to take control, expand your influence and boost your career progression.
Tip #1: Take Control of Your Own Time
Are you reactive or proactive? Where do you start each week or day? In e-mail? How many meetings have you agreed to attend? Where is work activity coming from and is it all necessary? Sometimes you need to be a “maverick” in your own organization and be prepared to make the tough choices, those that enable you to focus on prioritized business and career goals. Make a habit of creating a “To Do” list. Be clear on your plan and create outcomes for your top 2-3 daily priorities.
Tip #2: Network, Network, Network to Contribute and Grow
Who controls the information flow in your organization? Who are your primary customers? What functional players interact with your business area? Get to know these people and understand their challenges. Be aware that people at the lower levels in the organizational hierarchy often have the best access to information. Now, here is the most important step! Ask how you can help them? You need to be seen as someone who respects people at all levels and is willing to do things to help others. When you need help you will be in a much stronger position to get it.
Also, when you network think “external”. Get involved in something that is important to you. Understand and internalize the mission of your profession or organization. Support campus recruiting. Get involved in a trade, community or professional organization. This will help you gain fresh perspectives and give you excellent leadership development opportunities.
Tip #3: You Must Add Value
One of the biggest mistakes a young professional will make is to confuse being busy with adding value. It is critical to get involved in business problems, challenging your own mindset and the mindset of others. Find problems you can help solve, be curious, ask open ended questions.
The most successful people find ways of taking leadership roles on a small number of important initiatives that add value beyond the basic responsibilities of their job. Execute work that aligns with what you like to do, where you can develop and showcase your strengths and skills. Don’t forget to leverage your networks!
Tip #4: Stretch Yourself beyond your Comfort Zone
If you feel unchallenged, you are not doing enough. As an emerging leader, stretching beyond your comfort zone is critical to growth. Apply a new skill, hold a tough conversation, speak up in a meeting, agree to make a presentation, take on a challenging project, or stand up for something you believe in. All growth happens beyond the boundary of your comfort zone. Make it a habit.
Also, be one of the small percentage of people who has a meaningful development plan. One that focuses on a few challenging objectives, with specific, time based action plans. Check progress and take action every day!
Tip #5: When it comes to Judging People – Take the High Road!
I believe that a large portion of disengagement and poor career progression comes from within. For example, if you go to lunch with a colleague and spend the time complaining about a co-worker, a supervisor, or someone else in your life, you are probably talking to the wrong person.
Too much energy consumed in judging others can land you in a “judgement hole”, where you become a victim to your own thoughts and reactions. In workshops, I encourage participants to try one day where they consciously give themselves a break from all complaining and judgement of others. A typical post experience response is an explosion in energy and a feeling of being liberated. Ask yourself: How can I learn from how I feel? What am I prepared to do? What are you not prepared to do? Focus on empowerment and personal accountability!
Top #6: Put Yourself in the Right Mindset for Promotion
People who get promoted are usually doing the job at the next level before being offered a promotion. It is critical to look at positions above you in the organization. Who is doing a good job and what are they doing to deserve your rating? What can you learn? If you were to decide now to operate at the next level or even the level above that, what would you be doing? Then, intentionally, start to behave in a manner consistent with those expectations. You don’t necessarily need to ask permission of others, but you must give yourself permission. It’s a choice! Just try to be yourself and do the very best you can do and you will be fine.
Tip #7 Find and Leverage a Sponsor
I have observed that having a sponsor is a catalyst to promotion. A sponsor is someone who believes in you and is prepared to go to bat for you. Let’s be clear here, it starts with building relationships, adding value, and demonstrating the willingness to perform and grow. You may have a supervisor or a leader higher up in the organization who will support you. It is critical to nurture that relationship, ask for help, get advice. Also, be prepared to coach your sponsor on his/her business challenges. A sponsorship relationship can last a full career and can help you advance in your career.