“To find a career to which you are adapted by nature, and then to work hard at it, is about as near to a formula for success and happiness as the world provides. One of the fortunate aspects of this formula is that, granted the right career has been found, the hard work takes care of itself. Then hard work is not hard work at all.”
~ Mark Sullivan ~
Client Christopher Asks: I’ve been at my job for about three years now. I thought I’d just be happy in this position. I mean, I like my job and all. But I’m finding it’s getting a pretty boring. I realize I’d like a more of a challenge. But I have no idea how to figure out this career advancement process. What does it take to get a more fulfilling job? How do I even start?
Coach Joel Answers: Good question, Christopher. To help you get started on your search for career and job advancement, you need to make some decisions. These choices will help you find your direction and open the path to a better job.
1. What is your career goal? I know that might be hard to answer, as you thought you had it solved. But now, take a moment and look at what gives you satisfaction.
- Which parts of your job to you enjoy most?
- As you look around you, which jobs to other people have that you think you would enjoy doing?
- Are there salary goals you have?
- Are there certain kinds of responsibilities and actions you enjoy doing?
All of these are clues to what your career goal might be.
2. What skills will you need? After you choose a career goal, Christopher, you need to understand the skills, education, and training necessary to advance to that job. The bureau of Labor Statistics offers an Occupational Outlook Handbook that lists thousands of jobs and the criteria for them.
One additional benefit is that it predicts whether the need for that specialty will be increasing or decreasing in the coming years. As you think about your career goal and the training necessary to help you advance, this can be a good source for you.
3. Where can you find the training? Once you’ve chosen the career you want, and you know the skills you need, where will you get them? Consider looking for them exactly where you are.
- Your company may offer the training you need. It might be through mentoring or other traditional or non-structured learning at work. Especially if you’re looking to advance in your company, this is a best first choice. You’ll learn the skills most desired by your organization.
- College classes or degrees may be preferred if you are looking to move a great deal higher in your company.
- Coaching is a valuable option to hone in on skills – analytical thinking, problem solving, decision making, team building, and other skills essential for success.
4. How can you promote your job advancement? Once you know where you want to go with your career and job advancement, you need to take steps to make it happen. Assess how much help you might get from your current employer. Ask for feedback on your current job, and let them know what your goals are. They may help you work into that job. If not, hone your skills, develop your talents, and search for a job in another market.
Christopher, many people want to move ahead in their career and just aren’t sure how to get started. If you follow this plan, you can soon feel comfortable that your career and job advancement is on track to success.
For more information about how to advance your career with personalized and individualized coaching, contact Joel.
Talkback: What steps have you taken to advance your career? How did you start out?
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“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
~ Henry David Thoreau ~
Client Kevin Asks: I am so stuck in my present job—it feels like walking through quicksand. I know what the next step is, the promotion to the job I want but I’m so busy doing what the current job demands that I have no time to even plan a strategy for moving ahead. How can I get out of this swamp?
Coach Joel Answers: Unfortunately, many companies easily overlook the people who labor in silence, who do what it takes to get the job done, but never manage to get ahead. If you really want your paycheck and your job title to match your capabilities and the amount of work you do, you need to focus on creating visibility—and you need to be happy while you’re doing it. Appearances count for a lot, and you need to love the job you have while planning your next move. Here are three important steps you can take right now.
- Love the one you’re with
- Divide and conquer
- Create a new model
1. Love the one you’re with. I see you stressing out a lot because you don’t have the band-width or energy to do everything that’s on your plate right now. Before you can move ahead, you need to enjoy being where you are. Start having fun at it. A few things you can start doing today:
- Ask for positive feedback. Don’t wait for your annual review. Look at your current projects and ask your team members or your boss for some positive input. Focus only on what’s going well.
- Start the day on a high note. When you look at your current projects or to-do list, pick the most enjoyable item and start there. It will change the tone of your whole day by creating energy and enthusiasm.
- List your accomplishments. Once a week, write down everything you’ve accomplished—from small things to big projects. You’ll be amazed at what you’re getting done.
2. Divide and conquer. Even though you’re doing a great job now, what got you here won’t get you there. First, lay out all your current projects and responsibilities. Ask yourself what HAS to get done to continue your success at a base line level so you don’t create any red flags. You might have 1/3 that has to get done, 1/3 that relates to the job you want to have (visible stuff) and the other 1/3 is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less time on. This will create more time and energy for new activities. Here’s the key to making delegation work: keep your name on key projects so you are getting some of the credit while not actually doing the work.
3. Create a new model. You need to show continuously visible productivity, or put plainly, work on the things that everyone sees. Make sure you understand your boss’s priorities and make them your priorities. Volunteer for high profile projects or new company initiatives. Speak up in meetings. Be enthusiastic and make sure everyone knows you’re happy to be part of the team. Call attention to your successes while sharing plenty of credit with those around you.
Keep your eye on the prize. You already know what your next career move looks like. Keep focusing on that. Ask yourself each day, “What did I do today that fits my new model? How did I move closer to my next dream job? Before long, you’ll be exactly where you want and deserve to be.
If you’re struggling to break out of the pack and move to the next level, email Joel today for more strategies you can use to move to the next level.
Talkback: Are you stuck in the quicksand? Do you have some success strategies that have helped you break free? Share your experience here.
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“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
While it’s hard to walk into a new job, sometimes the most difficult jobs to take are in-company promotions. You have the advantage, of course, of being familiar with the company and its policies. You know the work and the people. But… you need to transition from peer to boss.
In a job in a new company, you can more easily step into that leadership role, but you must get to know the people, the policies, the company and the workload. How can you step into this new management job and be successful regardless of the new circumstances?
Here are seven steps to help—whether it’s a new job or an in-house promotion.
1. Talk to your boss. You want to clearly understand your role. What does he or she expect of you in this new position? What are your added responsibilities? You might ask the boss how he has dealt with a similar transition. How did he relate to his former peers? Don’t just talk at the start of the new job. Keep in frequent contact with your boss asking for feedback on your performance on a regular basis. That way, you can make sure you don’t stray far from his or her goals without correction.
2. Remember why you were promoted. Sometimes, when we’ve been working with talented successful professionals, we wonder why we were chosen over them. There’s always a reason. Make a list of your skills and talents. Look at the projects you’ve accomplished and the value you’ve brought to the company. You are ready and capable of taking this step. Own it.
3. Read up. Your new management job may call for new skills. Certainly you will need to step up your leadership qualities. Read books on management and leadership. Schedule your time to include learning leadership skills for your new role.
4. Consider coaching or finding a mentor. When you are in a new job, you’re uncomfortable. There’s so much to learn. At times like this, an experienced voice can be invaluable. If there is someone you admire within the company, take him or her to lunch and ask for advice. Most people are generous when they know you’re interested in learning. If there are no mentors at hand, you may want to hire an experienced coach to streamline your progress.
5. Choose leadership. When you are interacting with former peers, it’s easy to slip back into old ways. Even in new situations there are times where you can to choose to be a leader or choose to minimize yourself. Be aware of those times. Be conscious of them. Then make the decision to lead.
6. Give yourself time. When you’re new to your job, you can’t expect to be perfect right away. Not any more than a young basketball player can have the same skill sets as a Michael Jordan. You can, however, practice like he practices and value what he values. As a new manager deliberately make choices to lead.
7. Adapt management attributes. Make a list of all the qualities a great manager has. Perhaps you’ll list organization, follow through, listening, authority, decisiveness, or integrity. Each day write one of these qualities in a place you’ll see it throughout the day. Make each action, decision, email or interaction deliberately considering this quality. Own the quality for the day. As you do this each day, these attributes will become yours.
Whether you are promoted from within or hired from outside, these seven steps can assure you fill that new management job successfully… and set yourself up so you can advance again.
If you have questions about your new job, email Joel.
Talkback: What have been some of the difficulties you’ve faced in a new management job? What tips can you give others to successfully overcome new leadership challenges?
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“The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.”
~ Thomas Huxley ~
Becoming a leader, like many challenges people set for themselves, is not always a clear-cut process. Much of it depends on decisions made beforehand, such as what sort of leadership position a person wants or how high up the corporate ladder she wishes to travel.
Preparing ahead of time and focusing on developing the skills and traits needed for advancement can improve the chances of success.
Different Skills for Different Leaders
“Leader” is a catch-all term that can describe many different people. No one is likely to mistake the role of an assistant manager of a large department with the role of a chief executive officer. Yet both are leaders who must have specific skill sets in order to accomplish their jobs.
An August 2012 report from the leadership solutions company PDI Ninth House highlighted the traits needed for various leadership positions. For example, the survey found that those who lead a business unit scored high in “competitiveness” but low in “being considerate.” Chief executives, on the other hand, scored high in “consideration of others” and lower on “having an intimidating demeanor to others.”
In general, those at the top of an organization need to do better at listening and considering the opinions of others, rather than always taking charge.
The study found characteristics common among all leaders:
- Influence over others: Leaders are, by definition, the sort of people that others want to follow. A leader often has the ideas and strategies that win over others to the point where they will be willing to help bring those ideas and strategies to fruition.
- High energy levels: A person who brings a high level of energy will often be the person who gets noticed for promotion – and that person also will need increased energy levels to handle the increased time on the job each promotion requires.
- A take-charge approach: Delegating tasks and putting ideas into motion are the hallmarks of good leadership.
The same study from PDI also found that certain traits should be left behind. Those include:
- Passive aggressiveness: A direct approach is the right approach. Going along with ideas just to go along can often lead to resentment that will manifest itself in other ways.
- Micro-management: Those who want to move up the leadership ladder should focus on managing outcomes, not worrying about managing every step of every project.
- Manipulation: Transparency is the best approach for successful leaders, not trying to get people to do things through an indirect or hidden method.
- Attention to detail: Although this is an important attribute for leaders on the lower rungs, it’s a trait that should disappear as someone moves up the ladder and begins to focus more on long-term strategy rather than the inner workings of each project.
Concentrate on Overall Performance, Not Just Promotion
When trying to lose weight, it’s better to concentrate on overall health rather than just the number. Likewise, in trying to move up the corporate ladder, it’s better to focus on developing the skills needed for leadership rather than focusing on one specific job path.
Those wishing to advance should observe what others did to earn promotion – what approach did they take that worked so well? What about those individuals at the next level up in the management chain? What sort of work did they accomplish to get there?
Another beneficial approach is to be open about targeted goals. A person who is honest with his boss about where he would like to be – and is willing to ask the boss what sort of goals he needs to accomplish to get there – is a person who often will succeed.
Examples of Leadership Skills in Action
In 2009 and 2010, safety concerns led to Toyota recalling millions of vehicles. As stories about the recall flooded the Internet and airwaves, Toyota decided to address the issue head-on, including by having its chief executive officer, James Lentz, participate in a live interview on the social media site Digg. None of the questions were edited or censored, leading to the sort of transparency that builds trust.
In a similar case where transparency helped a company, the chief executive officer of the online real estate company Redfin started a blog to discuss problems the firm was having with traditional real estate agents. On his blog, CEO Glenn Kelman even took potshots at himself and his own company.
Kelman later told the magazine Wired that the transparency of his blog led to increased business for Redfin.
Leadership also can be demonstrated in the form of compassion; Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz offers a prime example.
After three employees were killed during a 1997 robbery at a Starbucks in Washington, D.C., Schultz ended a vacation early and flew to the nation’s capital, where he spent a week with the victims’ family and friends.
Learning from the examples of these corporate leaders—as well as setting a goal and then pursuing it with a purpose—can help a person attain his or her leadership goals.
“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
~ Andy Warhol ~
There are some exciting changes underway at the Career Advancement Blog, and to celebrate, we’re giving you the chance to win a copy of Joel Garfinkle’s career coaching book, Getting Ahead.
But first, let’s talk about the changes.
Starting Thursday, July 26, we’ll be publishing two weekly columns: Q&A with Joel on Mondays and Real Leaders, Real Stories on Thursdays.
Everyone likes a good story, and we know you’ve got some good ones to tell. Here’s your chance to share your leadership story with other leaders. Let us know if you’d like to be featured in our Real Leaders, Real Stories column, and we’ll make it happen. You can write it yourself or one of our writers can help you put your story into words.
The stories in this column will have something to do with leadership or career advancement and will include action items or tips to help other leaders learn from your experiences. Click here to submit your story idea.
Q&A with Joel is just what it sounds like—a chance for you to ask career and leadership questions and get answers from an experienced executive coach. Ask your questions in the comment section of the latest Q&A with Joel column, and each week, Joel will select one question to answer in his next column. To get things started, can comment with a question on this post, and Joel will use one of those questions for his first Q&A.
Win a Copy of Getting Ahead!
As part of our blog re-launch, we are giving away a copy of Joel’s latest book, Getting Ahead. The giveaway starts at 12:01 am EST on 7/23/12 and ends at 12:01 am EST on 7/30/12. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.
Are you ready to propel your career to the next level? Don’t wait to see if you won the book: Contact Joel Garfinkle for career and executive coaching today!
Talkback: Do you have a question for Joel’s Q&A column? Leave it in the comment section below, and your question could be featured in the very first Q&A with Joel next Monday!