12 Ways to Stay Ahead and Get Ahead in your Career
Your ability to market yourself in a competitive job environment and stand out will help advance your career further than anything else. Thankfully in today’s abundant world there are so many ways to stay ahead in your career if you use the tools available to your advantage.
Here are the 12 keys to stay ahead in your career and keep getting promoted on a regular basis.
Identify your key result areas — This is the first step in getting ahead in your career. Unless you know with crystal clear clarity what you are hired for there is no way you can get ahead in your career. Have a frank discussion with your boss, get agreement on what key result areas you need to concentrate and have clearly laid out objectives with timelines to showcase progress. Once this is established it is your responsibility to keep your boss updated on the progress you have made. This type of transparency shows clearly how serious you are to get ahead in your career.
Be Visible — You have to visible to your boss and others within the organization. Some of the ways you can be visible are to have a compelling blog which gets distributed throughout the organization, taking certifications in your area of expertise which are recognized industry wide, and have training sessions for others where you share everything you have learned. Being active in social media is also great to advance your career as long as you are using it to advance your profession by writing and sharing insightful articles.
You are the CEO of your career — It is your responsibility to take complete charge of your career. This means you are in charge of understanding what your boss needs, you need to be clear on where you want to be in your career in the next five years, you need to read all the books there, read the blogs and listen to podcasts. Keep thinking every day on how you can move yourself forward and keep taking those steps on a daily basis. This concept was introduced by Andy Grove of Intel when he said every individual is responsible for their career in his wonderful book “Only the Paranoid Survive.”
Develop an area of expertise — This means you have to be excellent in your chosen area of expertise. There is no short cut to get ahead in your career. There maybe people who play politics and get ahead but these are few and far between. The only way to stay on the fast track is to be so good in what you do that people have no choice but to promote you. Keep improving every day, learn something new in your field every day, read a blog in your chosen area of expertise every day, and find mentors who can help you. Deliberate practice is the key to life-long employment. However recent research sighted in books like Range and How to win shows that if you are a generalist you have a better chance of success. So if you are excellent in sales but can also handle delivery then you will achieve greater success than someone who is good only in sales.
Network within and outside the organization — It has been well established that you can get ahead in your career faster through weak ties than anyone else. Weak ties are people whom you don’t know well but are acquaintances that help you when there is an open opportunity. You never know who can help you so it is imperative that you keep in touch with the top experts in your industry, follow their blogs, connect with them on LinkedIn and keep them posted whenever you create something that maybe useful to them. Your contacts are what will get you far ahead in your career more than anything else.
Be committed to your company — Yes people are not going to retire with a gold watch within the same company. There is a lot of talk that you don’t need to be loyal to your company. In my opinion this is flawed thinking as only when you are totally committed to your company and your boss you can achieve the battle field promotions you are looking for. Only when you are totally committed will you give your best and only if you give your best every day over a long period of time can you be ready for a promotion.
Focus on revenue — In your current job you may not be directly responsible for revenue. However remember if the company has to promote you then it is imperative for you to show the company that by promoting you they will be able to get additional revenue which also satisfies the bottom line. Keep your antennas up when you talk with your customers and any time they need something not available immediately bring it to the attention of your superiors and generate the necessary solutions. When you present proactive solutions to solve customer problems or improve revenue for the company you separate yourself from the crowd and stand out.
Never bring your personal problems to your work — Yes with the social media available 24*7 there is no clear demarcation between your official and personal lives. However remember you are responsible for anything you post online. Never criticize your boss or company ever period. Even if you leave the company never speak ill of the company you were in. Remember it puts you in bad light if you keep complaining. If you have personal problems keep it to yourself because once you share the problems it can be used against you even if something minor goes wrong. Be thoughtful about what parts of your personal life you want to broadcast to the world. It is more important to be promoted than to be colorful.
Be dependable — Your ability to be dependable will be the key to your progress. Make sure that when you commit something to be done you do it. If you can’t meet the deadline immediately let the key stakeholders know. You have to set clear expectations and boundaries and when you do that there is a greater amount of respect for you. Be sure to always under promise and over deliver. You can never go wrong if you do that.
Ask for what you want — You can never get ahead in your career if you have the fear of asking for what you want. Sometimes you might be doing a great job but if you don’t communicate your achievements and make a strong case to move to the next level you will not be promoted. Before asking be mentally prepared to be rejected and once you are mentally prepared for a negative event it becomes easier to ask. If you want a raise again you have to ask for it. There are no promotions that are handed without asking for it confidently. Practice the art of asking regularly and you will become better at it eventually. Of course this presumes that you are doing a great job and that is the primary requirement before you ask for anything.
Be a team player — It is very important to function and navigate well in a team environment. Your technical skills are the entry price to enter the arena but once you are in the arena it is your ability to persuade and work with other members of the team that will get you far ahead in your career. Never take credit for someone else’s work, always be quick to give credit away and stay firmly behind team decisions. Your ability to get along with others will help you get ahead and is one of the most sought after skills by employers. Being a team player is your ticket to the next seats in your wonderful career journey.
Be flexible — Finally you need to be flexible in your career. What maybe working for you at this time may not work in 5 years. It is also important to develop diverse skills so you can move around multiple jobs within your career or organization. Flexibility and ability to stay nimble is one of the keys to career success in the 21st Century. Always be on the look out for new opportunities. Take calculated risks and keep learning something new every day.
If you follow these steps your career will be on the fast track and you will get the promotions you are looking for.
The views expressed here are my own and do not represent my organization.