It’s hard to think about your career with all the news about layoffs, bad economy, and volatile stock market. However, this time of turbulent is in fact a great time to position yourself for career advancement. Since I spent my career in a Fortune 500 company, ideas listed below may be less relevant for those who work in a smaller company.
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I think this one goes without saying and if you can’t get this one right, other ideas below will not help you. If your manager is not good with giving feedback, schedule some one-on-one time with him to go over your performance — remember, it’s his opinion that matters. I believe that if you want to position yourself for career advancement, you have to perform within the top 20% of your peer group.
If you haven’t thought about where you want to be a year, three years, or five years from now, then think about it. The way I see it you have about 40 years to get to where you ultimately wanted to end up. Each job is a stepping-stone that takes you one step closer to your goal. If you spend on average 2 years in each job, you have about 20 chances to get it right. If you spend too much time in a job, you’ll have to figure out short cuts or you may never get there. It’s important to know where you are and where you want to go. In your career plan, each job should help you build skills and experience to necessary to get to the next job.
A good way to put together a plan is to ask people that are already in the position you are working toward. Ask if they could share the steps they took to get to where they are today.
Next, look at your strengths and weaknesses along with gaps in your skills and experience. Write them down and figure out how you are going accentuate your strengths, improve your weaknesses, and close the skills and experience gaps. This list becomes your developmental action plan, and all you have to do is just keep working your plan until you complete all the tasks.
Remember, you don’t have to do this all by yourself. Reach out to your manager and others within your organization for help. Also, there are external clubs, associations, and groups that you can join to help you improve various skills.
If you haven’t done it already, get your manager involved. Let him know that you have a desire to advance your career, share your career plan, and your developmental action plan. When you get your manager involved, you open up more opportunities for development. For example, he may give you more managerial responsibilities to help you learn essential skills, or get you involved in management meetings to help develop you. A good manager will be more than happy to help you grow and achieve your career goal.
It’s one thing to be an excellent employee; it’s another to go above and beyond. A great way to help your career is to volunteer for special projects; especially the ones that help you meet people outside of your core workgroup and develop skills identified in your developmental action plan. Moreover, don’t limit yourself to the confine of your company. You could also participate in relevant professional and industry associations to get the necessary skills and experience.
Networking occurs at many levels and in many forms. There is no right way or wrong way to network. The goal is to get your name and good reputation out there. You want other people to think about you when there’s an opportunity or a need. In my opinion, there are four levels of networking (from worst to best):
You should always remember that networking is a two way street. You must give before you take, so be sure to act as eyes and ears for people in your network. If you help enough people advance their careers, yours is bound to move in the right direction as well.
A lot of people with disagree with me on this one, but I think it’s important for you to start grooming your replacement the minute your start in your new position. Remember that you want each job to be a stepping-stone and not a final resting place. You want to be able to move into a position, do really well, and take your next step. If you are hard to replace, it will also be tough for you to move forward without burning bridges. Always give yourself the ability to leave any job gracefully.
I know it’s tough out there and career advancement may be the last thing on your mind. However, you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t at least try to position yourself for the best possible outcome.