Do you feel stuck on the career ladder? Do you feel you are going nowhere fast?
You are ambitious. You want your career to move on and up. You want fullfilment and challenge in your work. You want your existing skills acknowledged and rewarded. You also want to enhance and expand them by being given new opportunities and promotions. Yet it is not happening.
You are not alone because as many have realised the traditional career ladder no longer exists. There’s no longer fixed rungs you can step up one by one to reach the top. Organisations are much flatter also and it can be years before you can move to the next rung – if there is one. There isn’t advancement by seniority anymore either. Neither is there necessarily advancement because of your excellent technical skills.
So what do you do? Do you go back to university and get some more qualifications? Do you move to another organisation? Do you change careers?
Sometimes none of those are possible and you have to stay where you are, so how do you stay where you are and stay engaged, empowered, productive and grow your career in such an environment?
Focusing on your soft skills will make all the difference. Learning how to develop and enhance them in this challenging new environment will give you the professional edge. They will help you move on and up.
Create Your Own Opportunities – Be The Leader You Aspire To Be – Stand Out From The Crowd.
- Believe in yourself because if you don’t you can’t expect anyone else to. Act then in a believable way.
- Discover your strengths and talents and learn how to use them to achieve what you want to achieve. Discover also what challenges you -your weaknesses. Take ownership of them and decide what you will do about them.
- Create a plan for your career development because if you don’t you’ll find yourself fitting into someone else’s plan that is unlikely to take you where you want to go.
- Be prepared to be flexible with your plan, however, because you are working in changing times which may require you to move in another direction. For example, you may need to move sideways for a while in order to go up later, or you may be presented with unexpected opportunities too good to ignore.
- Get yourself a mentor who has been where you want to go and work with that mentor to fine tune your plan. Your mentor is someone who walks beside you and guides you through every new experience you face on the way so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel at every turn. As well, your mentor is also someone who can open up opportunities for you and introduce you to people who can support your career, people you otherwise would not have access to.
- Align your goals with those of your organisation. Don’t just know your job, but know and be in tune with the pulse of your organisation and professional or industry sector also. Understand the trends and be flexible enough to embrace them and change with them. All organisations need people with different skills sets at different stages of their development.
- Learn to manage up, that means learn to manage those above you, whether it is your direct manager, the CEO, the departmental head, or a member of the Board. This is about building a relationship of trust with them and then working with them to achieve mutual goals. They are all people who have considerable power to influence your career for better or worse. They are human and if they like and respect you, they will do everything they can for you.
- Develop your profile, reputation and platform in your area of expertise so you become a fitting “ambassador” for the organisation. People who don’t fit the culture and image of the organisation won’t be placed in positions to lead it. You won’t be given opportunities to grow and develop in the organisation.
- Learn to be an assertive not aggressive professional, an authoritative not authoritarian one. Many get these confused, not knowing the difference. Leadership demands assertiveness and the decisiveness that goes with it. It also needs someone with an authoritative presence who inspires respect and evokes commitment.
- Develop a resilient attitude that sees you able to bounce back from adversity. This is essential in these changing times where we can no longer be certain anything will go the way we want or expect it to.
- Be emotionally intelligent in the way you handle your own emotions. Be able to identify and name them; know what triggers them and recognise their impact on others. Be able to also recognise others emotions and be able to be non-reactive to their reactivity. If you have highly developed emotional intelligence like this you will be highly sought after for leadership.
- Manage your energy as well as your time. This is about being committed to health and well-being, and work life balance.
- Make the building of significant connections and relationships a priority both internally within your organisation and externally outside it. These are people who have the power and influence to help you reach the career goals you aspire to. Remember the quality of your relationships with your network determines your net-worth.
- Learn how to be strategic in your work because this adds another dimension to your skill set. Learn to identify problems, analyse them in a constructive way, articulate them to others clearly and precisely, develop a strategy for solving them, sell that to your team and lead them in the implementation of it. From a positive perspective can you do something similar with emerging trends? Be able to read them, analyse them, articulate clearly and precisely their likely impact on the organisation and its work, develop a strategic approach to them and lead a response team in acting on them.
That’s some agenda, but this is the big picture. Create some little pictures by prioritising these 14 keys to start moving on and up. You will probably find that some of them need a lot of attention, others are fairly well-developed and need only some fine-tuning. Set some goals and work on one goal at a time for a few months until you feel it is part of your professional identity, then move on to another.