Are you one of those many people I’m talking with today who feel your career has stalled? You believe you are doing a good job. In fact, your manager has told you so. Everyone seems to be happy with what you are doing, but you are missing out on all the promotions and opportunities that have presented themselves. You are frustrated, bewildered and often even find yourself struggling to contain anger. One part of you wonders what else you need to do to move on and up. The other part, you reveal to me, is that you fear you will be stuck where you are for the rest of your working life!
You need to get your head around the “new normal” of the current workplace environment.
• Organisations are much flatter. Many of the rungs of the career ladder, that gave you a clear path to the top, are now missing and/or no longer exist. The climb is far more difficult. There are just not the same number of leadership positions as there were before and what are there are strongly contested by more people.
• Long term employment and jobs for life have disappeared. The best your organisation can offer you is long term employability, that while you work with them they will ensure that you are given training and professional development that will make you very employable anywhere else should you leave their organisation for whatever reason. You have to plan your own career today, know where you want to go and what skills you need to develop to get there.
• There is a different toolbox of skills needed to be successful in this “new normal” workplace. These are unlikely to be the skills you learnt at university and maybe not the ones your organisation is presently providing for you as professional development. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need another academic qualification to break through. Many times that won’t make any difference. What are needed to move you on and up are the highly sought after soft leadership skills.
Skills You Need To Break The Nexus.
Be Pro-active, Not Reactive.
When something happens you don’t like, don’t get stuck in it, blaming and criticising everyone else for what has happened, endlessly reacting to it. It takes you nowhere and does nothing to change or improve what is happening. Instead be pro-active. It’s happened so now let’s look at what you can do to move on. Be solution focused, a glass half full person, a “can do” person. This skill, this attitude, is a career maker!
Be Emotionally Intelligent.
When something happens you don’t like, many emotions are triggered. They can spill out all over the place in an uncontrolled way, or you can manage to express them in an intelligent and constructive way to impact the outcome you want. You can also respond to the emotions of others in a non-reactive way that brings them to common ground and resolution. People who can manage their own emotions and those of their colleagues in a calm and professional way are highly sought after.
You need to be able to manage up, that is, manage your manager to achieve your goals and develop your career in this organisation. If you understand what your manager is wanting in his/her employees, what qualities are valued, what skills are required and you endeavour to meet those, you will be more highly valued. If you understand your manager’s goals and motivations and are able to align yours with his/hers so creating a mutually supportive relationship, you will be viewed more advantageously when opportunities present.
Build Connections and Relationships.
While you need to drive your career development, you will not arrive where you want to be on your own. You need other people to help you. You need to build connections and relationships with people who can support your career growth, point you in the direction of new opportunities, coach or mentor you. These need to be people within your organisation, outside it, in your professional or industry sector and outside it as well.
Become Clear About Your “Why”.
If you only talk about ‘”what” you do, you are probably part of a big crowd, all of whom are doing the same thing. What makes you stand out from the crowd is “why” you do what you do. Your “why” is what motivates you? What drives you? What makes you want to get up in the morning? If you know your “why”, the how then is easy.
How To Use These Skills To Create Your Own Opportunities.
Seize the Opportunity to Move Laterally.
If you are missing out on the opportunities to go up, seize the opportunities to go sideways. This is about being pro-active. You may have dismissed this as a negative career move, but lateral moves can be valuable because you are gaining knowledge and experience of another part of the organisation. This allows you to see the bigger picture.
In fact, it can be a career enhancing move to express an interest in working in another part of your organisation. If you discuss with your manager your desire to stay with the organisation, but realise there is a great advantage in learning more about the organisation, and asking for the “opportunity” (note the use of that word!) to gain experience in another department. You may not get an increase in salary, or a change of title, rank or status, but it can be seen as a “promotion” in the sense I use it above.
You can make it a career enhancing move by the way you manage your manager in this discussion. If you demonstrate your commitment, ambition and drive, you will impress.
When you make that lateral move, continue to stay in touch with your former manager and colleagues. Build new and meaningful relationships with people in your new department. These are the people who have the power to influence your career advancement. While time is at a premium, this is a high priority.
What often happens, however, when people don’t get the opportunities they apply for, is that they disengage – sulk, in other words – bad mouth the manager who made the decision and the organisation. What they are in fact doing, which they don’t realise, is confirming to that manager and the organisation that the right decision was made in not appointing them to that leadership position. They are demonstrating by their reaction that they are not a leader. Sadly they are also destroying any chance they will offered a leadership position at any future time. Anyone can lead when everything is going well. It’s when things are not going well – which in these unpredictable and uncertain times is a lot of the time – that real leadership emerges. These are the types of leaders needed for today.
Be a leader, act like a leader, even if you don’t have the role or the title. You will imprint yourself in the consciousness of those who have the power to give you the next leadership role.