Q&A: Four Steps to Career and Job Advancement

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“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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7 Steps to Successfully Ask for a Job Promotion

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“You were hired because you met expectations; you will be promoted if you can exceed them.”

~ Saji Ijiyemi ~

Denise has been a team leader for an IT company for the past year. Now she wants to move up.

“I had my eye on the manager’s position.  I knew he was thinking about relocating to be near his sick dad,” Denise said. “I wanted that job, but I wanted to make sure I knew how to ask for the job promotion the right way.

Denise stepped back a little so she’d have the greatest chance of success.

1. Evaluate Yourself: “I stopped to evaluate how well I was doing as a team leader,” Denise said.  She looked at her past reviews to see if she’d made the improvements suggested and met the company goals for her. Had she given value to the company?

2. Observe the Job You Want:  Then she started looking more carefully at the manager’s job.  What exactly did he do? “I saw he had much more responsibility moving the project to completion,” Denise said.  “I started looking at all the factors that led to this—how he scheduled meetings, how he interacted with the team leaders. I looked at the paperwork he processed and the hours he kept.”

3. Act the Part:  “Then, to the best I could, I tried on the job,” Denise said.  “I put in the hours he did.  I tried to connect with my team and motivate them in an effective way to help our numbers improve.”  To her best ability—without stepping on anyone’s toes—Denise acted the part of the manager.  She volunteered to take on some of his responsibilities.

4. Prepare your Benefits:  Now Denise needed to prepare her presentation.  She gathered the data that showed her value to the company.  She listed the successes of her team.  She got feedback on her performance from peers, subordinates, and bosses. “If I was going to ask for the job promotion, I needed to be prepared,” Denise said.

“I went one step further,” Denise said. “I wanted to be sure I asked for a competitive pay rate, if I got the job. So I researched Salary.com to see the range of salary I might expect.”

5. Set up the meeting: Denise didn’t want to just walk into her boss to discuss the promotion.  She asked for a meeting.  She wanted his undivided attention.  She knew he was grumpy before his second cup of coffee, so she tried to schedule it later in the morning. “I told him I wanted to discuss my performance and benefit to the company,” Denise said.

6. Sell Yourself:  You are not there to beg for a promotion.  Your job is to convince your boss, the company will get so much value for you they will want to offer you the job promotion.

Have your facts and figures lined up.  “I have a hard time tooting my own horn,” Denise said. “So I really tried to have everything laid out visually so the work would speak for itself.”

7. Back-up Plan:  For Denise, her plan worked and she got the promotion. But she had a back-up plan. “I decided if they said no, I’d ask what I needed to do to be qualified for that promotion or another one,” Denise said. “What was holding me back, and what skills or abilities did I need to have so the next time I came and asked, I’d be successful.”

Like Denise, once you know how to ask for a job promotion, you can start taking the steps to that next job.  Be confident your skills and abilities match the job you want.  Then go in and ask for that promotion.

Call to Action:  If you want that new promotion, but need a coach to walk you through these steps to insure you’re totally qualified, contact Joel.

Talkback: Have you asked for a job promotion?  What things helped you the most?

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Fast-track Your Career Advancement with the
Aid of Your Company’s Succession Planning Model

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“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.”

~ Abraham Maslow ~

Client Sylvia Asks: I want to get promoted.  I even see the job I’d like to get.  But I don’t know how to position myself so that I’ll be the natural choice for that promotion.

Coach Joel Answers:  Sylvia, almost every company has a succession planning model in place.  They identify the skills needed for each job.  Then they look at potential employees and evaluate them based on those essential skills.

When you understand how the succession planning model works, you can take advantage of that knowledge to help groom yourself for the next level.

1. Understand the demands of the job you want.  You can look at the job and recognize some of the skills and competencies needed.  Write them down.  Look at what the current job holder has to do.

List his duties. What kinds of responsibilities does the job have?  Next list the skills needed to do the job. Will you need great communication skills?  Good decision making skills?  Will you need to build a team, work in customer care, arbitrate, or give directions?

You do not have to create this list all by yourself.  Likely the company already has a list in their succession planning materials.  Discuss this with your supervisor or with HR to see what qualities they require in this job.  You might do this at your annual review or you can request a time to talk to your boss about your aspirations.

2. Evaluate where you are now and where you need to be.  Make a list of your skills and qualifications.  Review your past jobs and look at the qualities you exhibited there.

Now match them to the list of skills needed for your ideal job.  Where do you match up?  Where do you come short?

Again, you will likely want to review this with your boss. You may be surprised to find that she does not see in you all the qualifications you see in yourself.  She may also recognize competencies in you that you have not considered.

As you share with her your goals, see if you can get buy-in from her to support you in your aspirations for this job. It may be that she will add you to the organization’s succession planning model for that next position.

Even if that does not formally happen, you can still take the organization’s succession planning information to plot your own succession goals.

3. Obtain the needed competencies and skill sets.  Now that you have the two lists, work to make them match.  Fill in the gaps to make you the ideal candidate for the job.

You’re a step ahead because your boss knows your goals.  You can study, get coaching, and join professional organizations on your own.  But you’ll need assistance from your organization to cross train, find a mentor, or be placed on committees, teams, and task forces that will give you the skills you need.

By following the same plan the company does as they look at succession planning you model your career growth on this information as well. When your skills match their own standards for your dream job, you will become the natural choice to step into that position.

To define your personal succession plan and claim your next step up, contact Joel.

Talkback: Have you discussed your next step with your boss?  How has the idea of succession planning helped you focus on the skills you must first acquire?

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Should You Risk Asking for A Title Promotion?

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“The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job. Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.”

~ Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? ~

Jeremy’s company went through a period of downsizing.  His boss, an Executive Marketing Director, left and was not replaced.  Jeremy picked up a lot of the slack and assumed many of his responsibilities.

“It was nice to have that added measure of control,” Jeremy said. “But I was working harder for the same pay.  And my job title was still just Marketing Director.”

Jeremy wanted to ask for a raise, but he doubted the company would agree. What else could he do?  “I knew there was some risk in rocking the boat at all.  But I really wanted to position myself for that raise when things improved,” Jeremy said.

He decided to take it in steps.  He planned his strategy to first ask for a title promotion. Then after he’d worked for 6-12 months in the job with the more accurate description, he figured he could ask for wages that reflected the improved title.

1. Evaluation. Jeremy first charted all the work he was doing.  He wrote down a daily log of everything he was doing and was expected to do.  He checked with his peers and his boss to see if they knew of skills, talents, and extra factors he brought to the job.  He verified the specific duties he accomplished.

2. Comparison. Next Jeremy compared what he was really doing to his current job description.  “I saw that I really had taken on more responsibilities,” Jeremy said. “My job now included meeting with top management, coordinating with the sales team, and at times having the final say on marketing directions.  Frankly, I was surprised at how much more I was doing and how different my work was from my old job description.”

3. Update. Jeremy compiled a detailed written report comparing his current job requirements and the existing job description.  He highlighted the increased responsibilities.  Then he went one step further and wrote up a new job description that identified his current job and gave it a new title.

4. Research. Next Jeremy went to HR.  “I wanted to check with them and see what the process was to ask for a title promotion,” he said. “Did the company have a policy for changing an employee’s job title to reflect their increased work load?”

“In my company, it was an informal thing.  If the boss approved it, HR was fine with it.” The new description and title would just need to be filed with them and absorbed into their succession planning model.

5. Request.  Jeremy presented his request to his boss.  He scheduled an appointment and went in armed with his report. “It was a bit tricky.  I had to reassure the boss that I was not asking for a raise.  I was just asking for a title promotion.  When he understood that, he was much more willing to hear me out.”

Jeremy’s boss actually appreciated the work Jeremy had done writing up a new job description and title. He agreed Jeremy was doing the work and deserved the recognition that a more accurate title presented to the company and to his role in the overall organization.

Jeremy found the rewards far outweighed the risks of asking for a title promotion.  He also appreciated the way his new title presented his qualifications to his network and to future employers.  And he was pleased to call himself a Lead Marketing Director.

If you are doing more job than your title would suggest do you want to ask for a title promotion?  Talk to Joel and let him help strategize the best way to present it.

Talkback:  Do you need to ask for a title promotion?  What’s holding you back?

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Stuck in a rut at work? How to Escape From Desperation Swamp

Stuck in a rut at work? Here’s how to escape from desperation swamp

“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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