So, you started a new job, fantastic! But if you're an ambitious go-getter, you're already thinking about how to get to that next level and achieve success. Your company is highly competitive, and there are talented people, some with more experience than you, on your team and throughout your department. How do you stand out and make a name for yourself? What does it actually take to truly excel? What is it that the people that get promoted seem to know that you don't? The truth is, career success is less about what you know, but rather what you do with it. Having the right skills will get you in the door, but your ability to successfully navigate your work environment determines how far you go. Below are a few tips to get you heading in the right direction:
The truth is, career success is less about what you know, but rather what you do with it. Having the right skills will get you in the door, but your ability to successfully navigate your work environment determines how far you go. Below are a few tips to get you heading in the right direction:
1. Get to know your position well, and execute with excellence.
Seems pretty basic, right? But too often, we walk into jobs looking to level up without first building a strong foundation of performance. Your work product is an objective basis on which you can be judged, so make sure it speaks highly of you. If your job offers free courses to help you further build your knowledge, take advantage! If there are subject matter experts in your department who can share useful tips and tricks, learn from them. This not only helps you to continue expanding your knowledge base, but also establishes relationships with critical members of your organization.
2. Speak up in meetings.
You can be awesome and have all the expertise in the world, but if no one knows, it doesn't matter. Speaking up to share knowledge, offer new ideas, and ask (or answer) complex questions allows you to gain the attention of those in the room and shows what you can contribute. You don't even have to speak up to make your own point or suggestion. You can bolster or reiterate a point made by a colleague and still garner some head turns.
3. Take initiative and find ways to add value.
Once you've gotten a good handle on your role, start identifying areas for improvement. Whether there are processes to streamline, reports to automate, measures to reduce costs, don't wait for someone to tell you there's work to be done. Identify these projects yourself and start taking action.
4. Work your relationship with your boss, and then their boss.
The person you always want in your corner is your immediate boss. They are the person who can make or break your next move because they are seen as the closest to you and your work. If a new project comes up for you, your boss may get asked for their thoughts before it's even brought to you. So even if you aren't best friends, make an effort to establish a good working relationship. And then take it up a level. Get to know your boss' manager. Yes, they have insight that you can learn from, but let's be honest, they also have more power. So set up informal coffee breaks or lunches. Collaborate with your boss to present deliverables you've been working on. Create that connection so they can keep you in mind for bigger opportunities your immediate boss may not be aware of.
5. Become the problem-solver.
Or as I like to call it, the "solution architect". Every organization has a "fixer", the person they call when something is broken, when they have an issue that no one else knows how to solve, or they've received a directive and don't know how to approach it. Seek to become that go-to person, the Olivia Pope of your department, if you will. Being that solution architect will facilitate you getting pulled into high-visibility projects and strategic initiatives because your colleagues, as well as your senior management, will be aware that you are the one who can not only get it done, but get it done right.
6. Go where the decisions are made.
We all know that some of the most important decisions in business are made OUTSIDE of the office. This means you need to be in attendance for the non-office events. Whether it's going to lunch with the team, happy hours, holiday parties, or offsite events, make the effort to be present. It allows you to network and grow relationships with your coworkers and senior management. It also ensures you are part of key conversations in real-time and have the opportunity to offer valuable input.
7. Volunteer for the unconventional projects/assignments.
While it is tempting to focus on work efforts on what's comfortable for us, a great way to get your name buzzing is to be the person who takes on the work that other people shy away from. Being willing to walk down the unbeaten path and deliver on the tough, unsexy projects showcases your leadership qualities, ability to make difficult decisions, and your depth of expertise.
8. Find a sponsor/advocate.
Please keep in mind that a sponsor and mentor are not the same thing. One individual can serve both roles, but they are not one and the same. A mentor is someone who offers guidance and advice to help you on your career journey, many times leveraging their own personal experience. A sponsor is someone who has achieved a certain level of success in your company, and is willing to advocate on your behalf, open doors for you, and connect you to the right people. A sponsor will vouch for your skills and may have the "juice" to get you into positions that may have been difficult to secure otherwise.
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Originally published on November 4, 2019