In light of all the celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s life amidst his passing, I thought I would resurrect a blog post I wrote about him from a while back.
Author Archives: Young Professional's Edge (YP Edge)
The 7 secret (and not so secret) ways to get the promotion of your dreams, starting today (PART 3: Doing the job & Acting “As If”)
Ok. Your goals are aligned with your organization’s and you’ve got mentors. What next?
The 3rd step in getting promoted is to start acting “as if” and finding ways to do the job you want.
There is nothing that makes a hiring manager more confident in a candidate than seeing that they have actually succeeded in doing the job she is hiring for. While this can be pretty easy if you are looking for a lateral position at a new company, it can be difficult when you are looking for a job at the next level.
A few years ago I was hiring a new salesperson for my small business sales team. I interviewed one candidate coming from a consumer sales background. As most of us are aware, selling to consumers can be very different than selling to businesses. In his current position, this candidate also had the opportunity to sell products to businesses. When asking him how many business sales he had over the last few months, he responded that he had little to none. This communicated to me that he didn’t really want the job (or that he was letting our beloved millennial “sense of entitlement” get the best of him). He acted like he deserved the job but when I explained to him that someone who really wanted this role would have made an effort to prepare for it, he had no response (and as you can imagine, did not get the job).
Don’t let obstacles stand in your way though, there are things you can do to prove you are ready.
Before going out and taking on too much new responsibility, make sure to do an inventory of what skills are needed to be successful in the promoted role you are interested in. If it is a position managing someone the skills are very different than if you are an individual contributor. Moreover, you don’t want to spend time and energy building skills that those looking to promote you wouldn’t value.
One of the easiest ways to show you are ready for the promoted position is by backing up your boss (if the promotion is in your same organization) or someone who is going on vacation that does the job you want. This (1) helps you validate that it is a job you really want to do, and (2) gives you first-hand experience doing it. The experiences you have actually doing the job will do wonders in convincing people you are ready to be promoted (and make great references during the interview process).
Remember, however that responsibilities you would have in your own job don’t just come from filling in for someone, it also comes from building necessary skills elsewhere. Generally those that are preparing for a promotion have already proven they can be successful at their current job, so creating a new project or getting buy-in for a new initiative is much easier than if not. Be creative and find a way to morph some of your current work responsibilities into tasks that show you have the skills of those who get promoted to the next level.
Make sure to keep track of these additional projects and build a good story that is not only based on experience but also on measureable results.
To the point of acting “as if,” it is important that you begin to act like someone who would be successful in the promoted position. Find a way to distance yourself from your peers in the eyes of your group’s leadership. Start to dress, communicate and exude leadership qualities like those at the level you want to be at. Don’t get caught talking about the crazy thing that went down the previous evening at happy hour around the workplace. At the same time, be sure not to alienate your peers (or be thought of by them as a “sellout”), balancing your time between being part of the group and aligning yourself for promotion. Depending on the culture of your organization, your peers may have influence in you getting promoted (or may at least be someone polled by a hiring manager). You want your peers to think of you as a leader, but someone that is still part of their team.
Once you have started doing the promoted job you are seeking and being viewed by others as someone who has the qualities of someone who should be promoted, then it’s time to move on to Step 4, which we will discuss in the next post.
After you have aligned your goals with those of your boss/organization’s leadership and found ways to make others look good, it’s time to build your support team.
As the saying goes, even Tiger Woods has a coach. Even if you are hot sh*t (or at least think you are), outside parties can help you to succeed and I would venture to say are completely necessary to succeed.
No one ever completely accomplishes any great goal alone. You need others to help you focus on where you want to go and to motivate you when you are faced with obstacles.
In the professional realm mentors fill this “coach” role.
Mentors come in all shapes and sizes and are tools that are often misunderstood and regularly underutilized.
While it is important to find a mentor who has accomplished what you want to accomplish, is at the top of their game and can help guide you along the way (I refer to these as “macro mentors”), it is important to have what I refer to as “mini mentors” to help you with specific (niche) things as you prepare to get promoted (they also help you once you do get promoted, as mentioned here).
To build on the Tiger Woods example, he doesn’t have just one coach. He has one coach that helps him with putting, a different coach that helps him with chipping and yet another who helps with his drive and perfecting his swing. In the same light, you should find mini mentors that can help you learn and develop the skills you need to show you are promotion ready (and to help you succeed once you are promoted). Find someone who is really good at one skill or characteristic that you need to get promoted and engage them to learn how they do it.
Do an inventory of the skills and characteristics you need to develop in order to get promoted. Brainstorm yourself and ask others. Some typical mini mentors may help you with things like: showing you can balance your workload while managing the workload of others (especially relevant when promotion gives you direct reports), executive communication (where you have to present complex topics to leadership in a clear and strategic manner), or it can even be gaining knowledge about a certain topic or internal process where making a subject matter expert (SME) your teacher can be very advantageous to helping you master the subject.
While it is fine to leverage mentors who don’t work at your company, it is a good idea to find at least a couple who are at a higher level within your company (or department) because they can become advocates for you, speaking to hiring managers about how great of a candidate you are or giving you a behind the curtain look at what a hiring manager is really looking for so you can tailor your answers to questions during the interview process. Their network of contacts in the company can make you aware of soon to be open positions and help you understand what your future boss would be like.
There is one important key to leveraging macro and mini mentors that you must keep in mind to be successful.
With mini mentors, you have more power to select who you want to get help from, but it is also important to find ways to return the favor to them. Identify something you are an expert in that can help them and mentor them on it. If you are an expert on a topic that interests them, teach them what you know or if you are effective at a skill they struggle with (let’s say they have poor written communication skills) then you can teach them (in this case, how to write better).
With your macro mentors who have reached the higher level you aspire for, you must remember that they also choose you. This means that finding these macro mentors can take time and may require persistence on your part. If someone you really want to mentor you resists at first, be persistent and show them that you are worth their time. Show them that you are passionate about something they are interested in to catch their attention. At the same time, keep an eye out for someone who proactively helps you. They may be a great candidate to mentor you.
Now that your goals are aligned and you have a team of macro and micro mentors, helping you build the skills necessary to get promoted, it’s time to start doing the job at the next level. Part 3 will discuss how…
“How do I get promoted?” – a common question I am asked when speaking to groups of young professionals across the country.
For all intents and purposes, the answer is it depends.
Although there are unique circumstances and nuances depending on your industry, company and job function, there are, however, steps you can take to make yourself “promotion ready” no matter that your specific scenario is.
In my next few blog entries I will share with you the 7 steps you can take to make yourself promotion-ready.
Before delving into Step #1, first let’s do a quick attitude check. Making sure you have a “promotion ready attitude” is a foundational step (a Step #0, if you will) before going full force into promotion preparation.
Let me dispel any strong biases in your mind- NO you don’t deserve to get promoted. Nobody owes you a promotion and if anyone has ever “promised” you a promotion (unless it’s the owner/CEO of the company), you should be weary that it will ever come to fruition. Promotions must be earned. Plus, they don’t come around all that often. Think about it- most companies have somewhere between 5 and 8 levels of management, so that means if you end up making it to a C-Level position, you will only be promoted 8 times over a 40-50 year period – that means you will only get promoted once every 5 or 6 years, not every 2 or 3. Studies have found that only 1 in 10 people get promoted each year. This toxic feeling can be labeled as a sense of entitlement.
Closely related to entitlement (especially for us millennials) is impatience. We want instant gratification NOW. We want to know that the hard work we are putting in each day is recognized and will get us somewhere. Unfortunately, we can’t just snap our fingers and get promoted to the next level.
But what if I hate my job right now and would love it if I was in my boss’ position? you may ask… Then don’t show it. Even if your job sucks, you can’t go around airing your negative opinions out about it. People are always watching and this type of attitude doesn’t inspire anyone to give you a shot at the next level.
Earning a promotion comes from consistently delivering results over a long period of time (the operative words here are consistently and long period of time). Promotions don’t just appear overnight. They are earned long before the job opportunity arises. Plus, most of the higher ups in your company or organization already have a mental list of who they feel is ready for the next level.
Now at the same time, you want to diagnose whether your department or company has a toxic culture that isn’t conducive of getting a promotion. Maybe you have a boss who takes credit for all your great work, or a lack of support from your peers or no hope of personal development, even after getting promoted. In those cases, it may be best to find a new job at a new company. But, if your current company does pass this litmus test and is a place where you want to seek career advancement, it’s best to move through these 7 Steps to become “promotion ready.” In conducting this toxic environment litmus test, remember that in many cases it is easier to get promoted from within to look for a promotion elsewhere (so it’s not always best to seek out greener pastures for promotional opportunities).
Now that the foundational step (Step #0) is out of the way, let’s go on to Step 1, Goal Alignment.
No matter how long you have been in a job, it is always possible to recalibrate to better align your goals with those of your boss and the team. Through school and in many job situations we have been trained to focus on our own performance; our own accomplishments, job proficiencies and metrics. In reality, when you fully focus on not making yourself look good, but on making others look good and accomplishing the goals of the team, that is when people take notice.
In basketball, it’s statistically great to be a player that scores 40 or 50 points a game by not passing the ball to teammates, but if you always lose the game, then what’s the point? If instead you focus on passing the ball to your teammate and setting them up to make great shots in a winning effort, you make the whole team successful. While the former gets some of the glory, it is the latter that inspires others and leads to championships.
In a work context, goal alignment is understanding what the vision, objectives and goals of your boss and organization are and then using your talents to their utmost to fulfill these goals. True leaders know what they are good at (and bad at) and contribute their strengths to help the team.
At the very least, remember that your boss either decides or is a key influencer in determining what your annual bonus is, the type of raise you get and whether you are supported in seeking a promotion. If you do all you can to make your boss look good and be successful, don’t you think that will inspire him/her to give you the bigger raise or bonus and support you when you want to pursue a promotion?
Once you have your focus and actions narrowed to what is in the team’s or your boss’ best interest, it’s time to build toward Step #2 in the process, getting mentors.
What have YOU found to be the keys to getting promoted in your career? Let us know in the comments below.
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Recently I came across a blog entry, that really got me worked up.
Basically the author complained about being 24 and not yet getting her “dream job.” While I appreciated how the advice that followed was well intentioned and somewhat informative, what really got me upset was the general attitude and premise of the discussion.
I think it is ridiculous early in your career to be out in search of your “dream job.” This causes delusions of grandeur and this mentality leads people to feel certain jobs are “under” them or not worth their time.
The truth is, whatever you think your dream job is right now, it will change. Guaranteed. I am 100% sure that for most people, your idea of your “dream job” will be very different 5, 10 and even 20 years from now.
I think this mentality is where many millennials go wrong. We are a passionate bunch that believe in changing the world. We are socially conscious and enthusiastic and have the energy to make our dent in the universe. But at the same time, the answer is not to go out on a Don Quixote journey to find the job that is perfect for us. This mentality also paints you in a corner because if you focus all your effort on one niche area, when your passions shift, it is difficult to take that experience and relevant skills and apply them elsewhere.
Note: I don’t want to burst everyone’s bubble or come across as a naysayer preaching that we should all “give up now!” On the contrary, I am as optimistic as it comes, but I know that my goals, focus and concept of a “dream job” is very different at 30 than it was when I was 24.
The answer is to build foundational skills
Instead of searching endlessly for your dream job and crying because you have yet to have it handed to you, focus on finding (and seizing) opportunities that help you build transferable skills.
Instead of focusing on one small niche area that may be interesting to you now, put equal focus into getting experience that will help you no matter what job, company or industry you will be in.
Our parents’ generation made something like an average of 5 career changes over the course of their 40+ year career. For our generation, that number could be twice as large.
Given that change will happen (multiple times), it is crucial to have skills that will make you successful with whatever your career may hand you.
Skills like project management, product development, managing people, and so on, are important skills whether you are in accounting or operations, whether you are in retail or tech, whether you are at a big company or a start-up.
I believe that your ultimate success in business is more contingent upon what you can lead others to do than you are capable of doing yourself (ex: your ability to lead ten people to make 8 widgets/day provides an 8x output compared to your ability to make 10 widgets/day all by yourself). I know that my experience managing teams will help me be successful no matter what company I work for and what functional area I work in.
It doesn’t have to come from your job
But what about my passions? you might ask…
I am not suggesting you discard your passions and join the ranks of mindless drones collecting paychecks and savoring a measly 2 weeks of vacation a year. I am merely questioning whether your career has to fulfill all your passions.
You don’t have to drop your whole career just to seek your passion, be more creative about it. I have seen time and time again how friends have started a side business or taken a leadership position in a non-profit to explore their passions. The things you do outside of work present a prime place to explore your passions. This is why it is important to seek variety, so you don’t fully focus only on your full-time job.
Ultimately, all I am saying is that you shouldn’t be anxiously waiting for or endlessly seeking what you consider to be your “dream job.” The fact is that your dreams and passions will change and you may never even find that dream job you have fixated on. Or worse, you may get that job and realize that your dream job is really a nightmare. Who’s to say that if you find that dream job that you would even be ready for it or would even be good at it?
That is why we all should build foundational skills at age 24 (and beyond) that will help us as our careers take its own uncharted course, instead of just endlessly seeking a “dream job” that will solve all our troubles and make you instantly fulfilled.
Life and careers are much harder than this. Those who are most successful build skills while their passions are developing and then use these skills to be the best when great opportunities come along (note that I didn’t label it as a “dream job” coming along).
“Dream jobs” will always remain just that, dreams. Instead of dreaming, go out there and build up skills that will make you successful wherever your career may take you. Then, jump on opportunities that you are passionate about, and see what exciting results follow.
What do YOU think?
Have you found your “dream job” or have you fallen short? Have you seen how skills you built early on have helped you in other jobs?
This was originally posted as one of my entries for the Personal Branding Blog (http://PersonalBrandingBlog.com)
If we asked experts what the first job of an effective leader is, the conflicting answers would be plentiful: Some would say it’s to set a vision and goals. To others it would be to motivate the group being led. A few would even venture to single out something more clever like surrounding oneself with smarter people who fill in the leader’s gaps as the most important.
To avoid joining this debate, I venture to let others battle over what the correct first job is while asserting that the most important subsequent job of a leader is to remove obstacles.
My experience as a manager, leading teams of all generations in both the corporate world and in the community has led me to the conclusion that no matter how diverse, or high performing and regardless of the group’s goals are, the best way to increase results is to remove the things that are hindering the group and its individuals from reaching it’s full potential.
These obstacles, big and small, insignificant or substantial take away from your team’s ability to do their job and fulfill established goals. It demotivates and lowers morale. It even generates frustration within the most talented people you work with, causing them to leave for greener (or at least more frictionless) pastures.
Removing obstacles may take the form of creating a new elaborate process to streamline a legacy way to doing things. It may be conducting your own analysis and confronting a boss or peer whose actions are slowing down your team or it may be something simpler.
The easiest way to remove obstacles for others is to ask them what is preventing them from doing their best. For a team of unionized call center reps I managed a few years ago, the number of obstacles was substantial. After seeing that this played itself out in endless complaints and low morale, I tackled this issue through periodic “venting sessions” where I would collect lists of obstacles, seeking to understand the obstacles discussed as opposed to refuting them. I then worked hard to remove these obstacles, some of which I could and others that I couldn’t.
The results were amazing. Not only did the length and intensity of these “venting sessions” decrease, but morale and results improve dramatically.
Results skyrocketed not because of some analytical tool or special initiative; it occurred because of the effective use of an obstacle removing mindset.
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In the final entry of our series, we will look at the most important success factor within the first 60 days of any new job, the “why” – as in, “why am I here?”
This element comes last because it generally comes near the end of the 60 day period (and in some cases even after the first 60 days has concluded). The “why” is about purpose and because it is so substantial, it is not something that should be rushed.
While the “what” more closely relates to a job description or set of responsibilities that are applicable to anyone who takes on your job, the “why” is more about the unique work that you do.
The “why” is about impact. It is about leaving your mark.
When you start a new job you should always be on the hunt for things that you can do to improve the organization. Look for initiatives to lead or things to be a part of that go above and beyond what your boss considers to be your job.
Finding out why you are in a position and then following it through to completion will be a key influence to the raises you receive, the bonuses you are offered and the career opportunities (for promotion or otherwise) that you are given.
The positive “mark” that you leave on an organization does not have to be a grand ordeal, simple things work too. The main thing to keep in mind is that you should do something that will last long after you have moved on to a new job.
A large strategic partnership, organization restructuring effort or redefining of a process can be great things to be a part of to leave your mark, but the genesis of the idea does not have to be grand. Focus on an issue that you see over and over again. Think about the pain points of others (your customer or co-workers alike), then brainstorm ways to improve them.
A good way to put it in context is to identify a responsibility you can take on or an initiative you can create that will allow you to accomplish something worthy of being listed on your resume.
When I was managing a call center, I found that morale was an issue. Shortly after starting the position, we had to move offices, finding a new space in another location 45 miles away. All the employees were experiencing a big change in their normal day to day routines (commutes and otherwise) and it took a toll on everyone’s attitude. I saw this situation as an opportunity.
I teamed up with a peer of mine and we created the “Morale Committee.” We brought together volunteers throughout the organization who wanted to help improve office morale and get our teams past the adjustment period after moving offices. We put together recognition events: raffles, birthday celebrations, contests, and soon morale really improved and more people wanted to be part of the committee. It ended up that for a few years after I left the committee lived on, maintaining the high level of morale within the office and leaving a lasting impression of the impact I had made.
No matter how big or small, find ways that you can leave a positive impact and create fulfilling reasons why you should be in the job you are in.
To summarize, within the first 60 days of any job, remember the Who, What, How, Where and Why:
- Who are you
- What is your job
- How do you manage
- Where do you position yourself
- Why are you here
When you have each of these down, you will be well on your way to being successful in any new job. It was the successful implementation of these 5 things that led a manager of mine to say to me during a performance review three months into my job, “In my 25 years working you are the best person I have ever hired for any position I have ever hired for.” Others who I have shared this formula with have experienced similar results.
I hope this formula can bring you the same level of success.
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The “where” in our 60 days to new job success analogy refers to “where do I position myself.” The “where” is all about politics and alignment. A portion of this is gossip avoidance and the other is relationship building.
As much as we despise work politics and do our best to avoid them, they are inevitable.
Watercooler talk happens all the time and is fairly easy to get sucked into. By nature, the gossipers seek out people to share their latest stories with. In particular, when you first start a job, the gossipers will test you out to see if you will become a source for them or a welcoming ear to engage in back office chat.
If you become engaged with them, it will be hard to get out, so make sure to avoid these situations or at the very least don’t acknowledge them. Even an occasionally, “really, I don’t believe that” from you when hearing about the latest rumor going around the office makes you an accessory. Without knowing it, that gossiper may move on to the next person quoting that he/she talked to you and that you totally agree with them, even if you never said anything in the first place. As a rule of thumb, don’t even be part of the rumor conversation (this goes without saying that you shouldn’t do anything to be the person gossiped about).
On the relationship building front, most of us are familiar with the fact that in order to get recognition and move up within an organization, you need to have the support of people around you. From the beginning, it is important what sides you pick and who you align with. Similar to the advice related to rumors, do your best to avoid siding with any peers in the office because they may bring you into situations that will compromise your neutrality and could hurt you later.
Picking sides tends to lead to behind closed door conversations and situations that cause you to focus more on politics and positioning than actually doing your job.
STARs are transparent. Instead of worrying about how things are perceived (making yourself look good and other look bad), a STAR does her job and lets her results speak to her worth to the organization instead of relying on politicking.
As eluded to, the simple answer to “where do I position myself?” is to position yourself as a neutral outside party. Help everyone and engage in rumor-mongering with no one.
When looking longer term, political alignment is a factor that will influence your career at any company. If you align yourself with a certain executive, leveraging them as a mentor or following their lead as they move to different positions within the company, be conscious of how they are being perceived because how others view them will affect how they view you. Just as within the first 60 days, it is best to avoid choosing just one side.
Our concluding blog entry for the series will focus on the all important “why” in ensuring success within the first 60 days of any new job.
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Now, we look at the all important “how” of transitioning into any new job; “how do I manage.”
When I say “how do I manage,” I am referring to the how you manage the relationships with your boss, your peers, with the people you interact with (in different departments or otherwise) to do your job, and in management roles- how to manage your new team.
Let’s start with your boss. While at first glance it may seem counter intuitive; wait, I thought my boss manages me, not the other way around. STARs realize that managing is a two way street. Besides doing your job, successful people seek to understand their boss and then adapt to support him or her.
When starting a new position it is crucial to learn how your boss likes to communicate, what his goals are and how he likes to run the team. Moreover, a great way to “manage” your boss is by understanding his strengths and weaknesses. Take note of his strengths but then do your best to mitigate his weaknesses. Often, a simple thing to you could mean a great deal to your boss.
I once had a manager who was a fantastic leader and solid verbal communicator, but had struggled at times with written communication. On countless occasions he would call me into his office to read an email, letter or presentation he was about to send out to ensure the grammar was correct and that he was getting his point across. This took little time and effort for me, but meant a lot to him. Seeing this as an opportunity, I proactively asked if there were ways to assist my boss with written tasks.
The same goes for communication with your boss. In my first job out of school, I made the mistake of deciding not to ask questions of my boss, instead using my peers; I wanted to show her that I knew how to do my job. A couple months later when my first performance review came around, my boss expressed her concern because she wasn’t getting any feedback from me and didn’t think I understood my job. I made the mistake of not learning how she liked to engage with her direct reports, leading to some misunderstandings. Make sure to learn these types of things early on.
Put differently, within the first 60 days of your job, you want to figure out how to make your boss look good.
The same goes for your peers or people in other organizations you need to work with to complete your job responsibilities. Learn how these people like to communicate and get their work done. Note whether the most effective way to get through to them is via email, text, phone calls or face to face meetings. If you adapt to their style, you will find that they will be more willing to help you or make the work you need them to do a priority- ultimately helping you do your job better.
Learning how to “manage up” and cross functionally from the beginning will set you down the path to success in any new role.
In the upcoming entry, we will look at the “where” in how to be successful within the first 2 months of a new job.
Continuing our series on how to be successful within the first 60 days of any new position, we now focus on the “what”- as in, “what is my job.”
More than anything, the focus is a tactical exercise in fully understanding your job responsibilities. While I wish it was as easy as regularly referring to your job description (which I have found can be notably different than the work I actually end up doing), the goal here is to get a grasp of your day-to-day and make sure you can get to a point where you can work independently, with little to no help.
I recall my transition to a new position a few years ago when I began managing a sales team. Among a number of job responsibilities that I needed to understand, I needed to get a better grasp on how to conduct a coaching session with my sales reps and I had to learn how to complete a number of administrative tasks through our CRM (customer relationship management) software. In this case, and in any new job transition that you face, the key is to master two simple things: (1) asking questions, and (2) finding “mini mentors.”
What many people neglect to think about, is the importance of asking questions. Some feel embarrassed to speak up and admit that they don’t know something, not wanting to appear un-knowledgeable. This is the worst approach you can take. In most situations, no one will tell you every single thing you need to know and if you are not willing to ask questions (paired with some self-directed research) then how are you expected to understand something? Don’t be apprehensive about asking questions. When you first start a job, you are not expected to know it all. Yet if you don’t, then in the months that follow things that you aren’t expected to know on day one become things that you should have learned a while ago. It is important who you ask questions to (better your peers than your boss, and better to spread out the question asking instead of asking one person every single questions about everything).
Secondly, find “mini mentors.” When most of us think of mentorship, we think of a formal relationship we develop with an accomplished person in our field. Someone we can come to when making tough career decisions. While this research is important to have, mentors can also play a more targeted role in your day-to-day work. Find a resource for specific job responsibilities that you can go to when questions arise. In my case, for example, I had a mini-mentor to help me with conducting coaching reviews and a different mentor to help with the tasks I had to do in our CRM system.
When I needed to prepare for my initial coaching sessions or when I wanted to test out a new coaching technique I did test runs with my coaching mini-mentor. When I needed to pull a weekly report on my sales team’s results or wanted to create a new report on their prospecting activity, I reached out to my CRM mini-mentor to walk through how to do this in the system.
For any given job, you can have upwards of a half dozen mini-mentors or more, each providing something valuable to you during your transition to a position (and beyond). It’s a good idea to find ways to reciprocate with your mini-mentors to help them in an area that you are good at that they may need help in.
Remember to seek out and develop relationships with mini-mentors and be willing to ask questions of them (and anyone) when starting a new role.
Next, we will address the “How” in the first 60 days of any new job.