It is a given that in order to move ahead in your career, you should have education and experience in the job you are doing and that you should work hard on things that matter.
Beyond that, what can you do to position yourself to advance in your career? Here are a few of my thoughts. Although I didn’t make it to a C level spot, I was a department head and manger before I retired.
Get in on the ground floor of a new company.
The company from which I retired was started as a spin off of another (Kansas City Southern Railroad). The folks who moved to the spin off were positioned superbly to advance their careers, and many of them did – becoming officers and executives during the next couple of decades. Of course, not everyone who moved did well – only those throwing themselves into the new endeavor with energy, enthusiasm and intelligence succeeded so well. Still, without the new company, they may not have advanced so far or so fast.
Find the rising star area of the company and join it.
Not many of us have the opportunity to jump in on the ground floor of a to-be-successful company. But most of us realize that some areas of our company are growing faster and have more potential than others. Look around and find those areas that take on new business, come up with new products or concepts and generally have kind of a wild west feel to them – energetic, fast paced, exciting. These are the rising star areas of your company. Find out what skills and experience are needed and keep your ears to the ground to hear about opportunities to move.
Upgrade your education to ensure that you are qualified for these rising star positions. The popularity of online degree programs has made it possible to earn undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees completely through the internet, so you do not have to worry about missing work to attend classes. Once you sign up for an online program, you can complete the coursework on your own time, so that you are prepared for the next time that a position comes up in an area that is sure to grow in the near future.
Find a rising star boss and work for him.
During my career, I was lucky enough to be a department head of a department that was moved to such a manager – although we didn’t know it at the time! Our manager became our director, then our officer and finally our vice president. Along the way, I was privileged to learn from him, work with him on projects and develop a mentor/protege type relationship that helped my career along at several points.
So, watch the managers in your and in other areas. If you find one that seems to have a lot on the ball, from whom you think you can learn and with whom you can develop a working relationship – do it. It may just benefit your career.
Even if you can’t report directly to this person, you might be able to participate in company initiatives that cross organizational boundaries to allow you to work together on projects. Most organizations have mission statements and develop yearly goals – many of these result in projects needing volunteers leaders or participants.
Share and teach so you become known as an expert.
You could be the most technically adept employee in the company and still be passed over again and again for a promotion – if no one knows it.
Help your clients, your co-workers, and etc with their issues and you start to become known as a can-do type person who knows what you are doing. If you see the same questions or issues being raised over and over again, that is an opportunity for you to develop and present training – a help database, a class or a lunch seminar.
Be ready to jump on opportunities.
You have to be mentally ready to find and take new opportunities. If you are always asking yourself ‘What’s next’ or ‘How can I build on the experience I’m having now”? – you will be ready. Change can be scary, but change is what you need in order to advance your career. Just doing your current job well will not typically help you advance your career – it is the minimum expected performance.
What are your moves to advance your career?