The New Art of Getting Ahead

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“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door ”

~ Milton Berle ~

 You’re good at your job – you have great reviews, get excellent results, and you’re well-liked. Maybe you’re fairly new to your career, or maybe you’ve spent years at the same job without a promotion. Either way, if you if you keep performing, your success will be rewarded…right?

Unfortunately, no. Talent and results alone will not see you succeed. That may seem like a harsh statement after all the hard work you’ve done, but time and again, studies have shown it to be true – good work alone is not enough. You will need to take control and guide your own career in order to attain the success you have worked so hard for.

So what are you going to do? You’ve already done everything in your job description to meet and exceed expectations, so what’s next? In the new art of getting ahead, you’ll need to expand your efforts, and manage the following.

1. Improve your image

First, take stock of your own true strengths and weaknesses, and then compare them to the perception of your skill level in your organization. Ask yourself:

  • Would I consider someone with my perceived skill to be ready to take on the next level challenges at work?
  • What are the gaps in my skills?
  • Am I missing out on opportunities to showcase my talents?
  • Considering my next desired move, what traits would I most like to highlight?

2. Increase your visibility

To get ahead, you have to get noticed. If your upbringing, culture or general personality means you’re someone who is uncomfortable with “tooting your own horn,” don’t despair. While you will have to graciously take credit for the work you’ve done, self-promotion is hardly the only tactic. Consider some of the following to help you make yourself more visible:

  • Identify an advocate who can speak on your behalf – with a senior partner, manager or trusted advisor working to raise your profile, you won’t have to be so aggressive in self-promotion.
  • Take on high-profile assignments – working on projects with a higher visibility will translate to higher visibility for you. Taking on those things your boss or executive deems important will help make sure that your added value is noticed.
  • Leverage opportunities to interact with leaders – seize those chances to rub elbows at meetings, on projects or at volunteer functions with the influential people at your meetings. Engage them in conversation, ask questions and talk to them about your successes.

3. Exert your influence

Finally, leadership requires influence to be successful. People follow leaders they believe in. Influential leaders can build connections across business units, within their teams, and with management above. People – above and below – need to see that you can inspire action and positive change. This is critical and far more potent than any attempt to lead through authority, title or power. Consider your strengths and weaknesses in the areas of:

  • Reputation – Consider your work history and where you’ll need to build more value to create a solid foundation.
  • Skill set – Examine your areas of expertise. Consider the tools you’ll need to succeed.
  • Executive presence – No matter what level you currently lead, when you have executive presence, people are attracted to you as a leader. There are always opportunities to practice that assured sense of self that draws people in.
  • Likeability – Does your leadership motivate others? Practice positive, mindful direction – success comes when others inspired by your presence and want to do their best work on your team.
  • Persuasion – It is a powerful tool to be able to sway others. Persuasive leaders know how to build consensus and see their point of view.

There’s no doubt that it takes a lot to get ahead. Beyond just hard work and solid results, you need the tools at hand to get noticed and attract others to your cause. Practicing these skills will put you in good stead to land that big project or promotion you’ve been seeking.

Want to learn more about getting ahead? Hire Joel Garfinkle to help you develop a step-by-step plan for career advancement.

Talkback: What techniques have you used to change your perception or increase your visibility? Comment below and share your successes in getting ahead.

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Career Advancement – 5 Key ways to Stand Out

The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence.”

~ Pearl Buck ~

Client Maria Asks: I’ve been with my company for six years now, and I’ve gone as far as I can go. It’s time to move to a bigger playing field. How can I really set myself apart from the crowd? I know I’m good at what I do, but how do I convey that without overselling myself or looking like an egomaniac?

Coach Joel Answers: You’re smart to be planning ahead in this situation, and you’re in the perfect spot for a career advancement move. There’s a lot you can do to prepare, but I think there are 5 key things that will really make you stand out and gain career advancement.

  • Become a master communicator
  • Make critical thinking a way of life
  • Make their goals your goals
  • Be someone special
  • Tell a good story

Here’s how each of these strategies will work to advance your career. These are not just things to do—they are who you are in the eyes of your next boss and the new job success you want to create.

1. Become a master communicator. Technical knowledge is important. But the #1 skill that employers are looking for today is communication–people who can write and speak impeccably. This means that every bit of written communication between you and any future employer needs to be letter-perfect. This includes emails and texts, not just your resume. It also applies to your profile on LinkedIn and other social media sites. Speaking well is equally important. If you tend to freeze up in presentations or stutter in group meetings, join Toastmasters or take a public speaking seminar.

2. Make critical thinking a way of life. Your future employer values people who can think on their feet. Problem-solving is important, but problem-avoidance is even better. Learn to think ahead about the potential outcomes of your strategies. Never underestimate the Law of Unintended Consequences—the possibility that your actions may produce unexpected results. Fire prevention beats firefighting every time.

3. Make their goals your goals. Working for a company you’re proud to be with is the best of all possible worlds. As you research potential employers, go after only those whose mission and vision you can totally support. Once you’re on the job, that same mindset applies to your boss’s personal goals. She wants to open two new sales territories? You can do that. He wants to be the premier provider of services in your industry? You want the same thing. Align your vision with theirs and you’re both winners.

4. Be someone special. Have a signature skill that enhances your brand, something that you are confident you can do better than almost anyone else. What principles did learn about excellence and winning that you’ll be using on the job? Did you overcome a major personal challenge to get where you are today? Now you can use that experience to meet any challenge your employer throws at you. Which leads us directly to #5:

5. Tell a good story. Every prospective employer has heard the laundry list of the qualities that make a good employee: teamwork, integrity, creativity, dedication. Instead of reciting the expected list, tell a story. Illustrate something you have done that shows your creativity. Talk about leading a team and the results you produced. Your next boss will remember the story, even if he or she forgets the words that started it.

Remember, none of this is done out of ego or overconfidence. Or in the immortal words of Dizzy Dean: “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.” And I’m sure you can do it!

Are you looking for the next big thing? Ready for a dramatic career advancement move? Email Joel today for his suggestions.

Talkback: Have you successfully changed jobs or careers recently? Share your success story here.

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Stand Out at Work – #1 Key for Advancement

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“Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.”

~ Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. ~

Jonathan is a valued member of his company – over the past few years, he has become a solid performer and a cheerleader for others his team. His colleagues know they can rely on him and his peers are always eager to have him on their next project. But Jonathan is feeling like the senior managers are never going to take notice of all his hard work. In our coaching sessions, Jonathan and I have worked on a plan to have him stand out and be noticed. Do you need a similar plan? Does this describe you?

You’ve put in your time, built your skillset, proven your value and become a solid, consistent and reliable member of the team. Your colleagues (and maybe your staff) look to you to for advice and leadership – in your group, your opinion matters. Now it’s time to take those next steps that will get you noticed by those above, and to learn how you can get ahead and succeed in your organization.

Consider the following three areas and build the skills you need to stand out and be seen:

1. Learn to Think Like Your Boss

Time spent with those senior to you is precious – learn to make the most of it by tailoring your message to align with their concerns. The information you convey to them in your minutes together should relevant to their interests and priorities whenever possible. Learn what matters to each senior person with which you interact – you will need to know specifically:

  • what they consider important
  • what initiatives they are currently championing, and
  • how they are measuring value and success.

The more relevant you and your messages seem to each person in upper management, the more likely you are to gain their support.

2. Become a strong speaker and presenter

Some people loathe speaking in front of a group; some revel in the spotlight. Wherever you fall on the scale, you will need to build your presenting skills, really hone your speaking style, and put your misgivings aside.

Giving great presentations will, not surprisingly, lead to being asked to present more often, which puts you front and centre with upper management more often. When you’re seen, you gain credibility along with familiarity, and higher ups start to see you as more of a peer.

Consider seeking out classes or coaching to build up your speaking and presenting skills and prepare you to confidently put your best ideas forward. In the meantime, consider these top tips for a great presentation:

  • Be concise – don’t ramble, and keep your speaking well within the time allotted. Limit the number of slides in your deck, and don’t jam them full of info. If you have to reduce the font below 30pt, it’s probably too much.
  • Don’t Um – whenever you feel tempted to say ‘um’ or ‘ah’, try taking a small breath in to compose yourself and your thoughts. It might feel strange, but the audience probably won’t notice and it will improve the confidence and credibility of your message.
  • Slow down and Make Eye Contact – resist the urge to speed through your presentation, as rushing implies discomfort, lack of experience and disbelief in the ideas being presented. Make eye contact with everyone in the room – not just the decision makers.

3. Align yourself with the Big Picture

Just like aligning with your bosses’ priorities, understanding how you fit within your company’s overall strategic picture is invaluable. When you fully grasp your organization’s values, goals and targets, you are better able to focus your energies on the areas that will really be noticed and rewarded by those above you. Demonstrating that you know what is important and that you are motivated to realizing the company’s strategy can make you seem more of “one of the team” with executives tasked with executing that overall strategy.

Want to hone your presence and presentation skills? Hire Joel Garfinkle to help you develop a step-by-step plan for standing out and getting noticed.

Talkback: What tips do you have for presenting and really connecting with your audience? Comment below and share your successes in getting noticed.

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Is Your Current Job Interfering
With the Job you REALLY Want?

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“I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.”

~ Jonas Salk ~

Client Leanne Asks: I’ve positioned myself well by creating a number of opportunities which can raise my visibility with my firms’ leaders. Now I’m stuck in the middle. I have to execute on all the new work, build and maintain my pipeline of new projects, and do my actual day job besides. My concern is that I don’t have the band-width or energy to do all these things at once. How do I optimize the time I spend on the high visibility items?

Coach Joel Answers: What got you here won’t get you there. Do the job you want, not the job you have. Here’s the way I see it: You put a lot of things out there that you could work on – projects that have high visibility and put you in the public eye as far as your superiors are concerned. You volunteered for a number of things, thinking only one or two would come through, but instead you ended up with three new assignments. Now what?

These are all projects that will help you in your career with the company because you are creating opportunities to interact with people in other departments and show them how talented and how great you are. Your new projects not only have visibility, they also add influence, impact and value to the firm.

Here’s what I would do: Create a three-column chart on your computer. Lay out all your responsibilities and ask yourself what HAS to get done. What do you need to be doing to continue your success at your current baseline level so you don’t throw up any red flags? You might have one third that has to get done on your current job, one third that relates to the job you want to have—that is your visibility stuff, and the last third is the stuff you might be able to get rid of, or put less importance on. This will equate to more time and energy for the things that count. Think about ways you can eliminate work or delegate to someone else.

And here’s the way to approach the delegation piece of it. Present it as a training process—you’re not only moving ahead in the company, you’re training someone else to follow in your footsteps and learn important pieces of your job, so nothing will be left undone when you move to the next level.

In order to keep moving up the ladder as you want to do, you must do three things simultaneously:

  1. You must understand what your superiors need and want, not just from you but for the future of the company. And you must understand where you fit into that plan.
  1. You must empower your subordinates. That’s where the training piece we talked about comes into play.
  1. You must build relationships with your peers. You’re all on the same team, and when you help other people win, you win too.

If you can do those three things, you’ll increase your visibility and reach the next level sooner than you think.

Are you stuck between the job you have and the job you want? Implement our three-part model this week to determine how you can create more high visibility assignments that will move you to the next level.

Talkback: Have you successfully moved to a higher level of your organization? What did you do to increase your visibility with your superiors? Share your experience here.

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How to Ask for and Get a Promotion
The Promotion Process Through Visibility

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“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.”

~ Margaret Cho ~

Rosie has been with her company for a little less than a year. Last month she had a very positive performance review with Jake, her immediate boss. During the review, Rosie told Jake that she felt she could handle a bigger workload, and Jake seemed to agree, but nothing happened.

Yesterday Rosie found out that Jan, a co-worker with the same job title she has, was promoted—and it’s been only a year since her last promotion. Rosie knows Jan earned it, but now she’s wondering how to ask for a similar opportunity to prove herself. Rosie wonders if she should have been more aggressive in her review with Jake and in following up afterward. Of course Jan’s promotion is unrelated to Rosie’s performance, but now Rosie wants to ask for larger-scale projects and more important work without seeming like she’s jealous or resentful of Jan.

If, like Rosie, you’re feeling stifled at work and would like to take on more responsibility and get promoted, Step One is to share your aspirations openly and specifically with your boss. Don’t be shy. Ask your boss exactly what you need to do to get promoted. The more clarity you have on the specific steps you should take, the easier it will be for you to take action and achieve your goals. Over the next three to six months, schedule time every two to four weeks to discuss your progress.
Here are some of the questions Rosie asked Jake:

  • How does the promotion process work?
  • What do I need to be doing over the next three to six months to get promoted?
  • What kind of data or information can I provide you to document my progress?
  • What larger-scale projects can I own right now?
  • Do I need to increase my visibility with other decision-makers to improve my chances for promotion?

When it comes to visibility with other company leaders, especially C-level managers, Jake had some specific suggestions for Rosie. In addition to taking on larger scale projects, Jake suggested Rosie look for projects outside her own specific area, particularly projects that were being neglected or that no one wanted to do. Completing an “orphaned” project successfully is a great way to gain visibility. Jake also suggested that Rosie look for one or more advocates, either inside or outside the company who would be willing to speak up on her behalf. An advocate can easily raise your profile with your boss’s boss and other high level executives by publicizing your successes.

Rosie took Jake’s advice and developed her game plan. She volunteered to head up the company’s web site revamp—a project that had been languishing for a year for lack of leadership. She completed it successfully in less than three months, and both Jake and her recently recruited advocate made sure everyone—including the company president—knew what she had done. It was no surprise that Rosie got that coveted promotion at her next performance review.

If you’ve been passed over for a promotion, or even if you’d just like to take on more challenges where you are, now is the time to act. Develop a list of five actions you could take immediately to improve your visibility. Then schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss them.

Talkback: Have you successfully improved your visibility in your company? How did you do it? Share your experience here.

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