If you think things “happen” to you (as in: Others get promoted, when’s it going to be MY turn?) or if you think you are a victim of circumstance (as in: Everybody else went to the New York meeting, why do I always get picked last or not at all?), then skip this article. It’s not for you.
Nope, this article is for people who want to sit in the driver’s seat of their careers so badly they smell the Italian leather. Is that you? Good. Hold on to your seats. These six tips will super accelerate your career in unexpected, “road less traveled” ways.
1.Work yourself out of your current job. Last man standing is not where you want to be. I know from personal experience. In one of my early jobs, I did my work really, really well. I didn’t have a great support team under me, so I made triple sure everything got done without complaint. Great – except I couldn’t advance. Here’s why: No one was trained to take my responsibilities. In order to work yourself up, you have to work yourself out. Develop your successor. The most employable people work themselves out of a job so they are poised for the next big challenge.
- Formalize and document your work. If you run your job like the Bermuda Triangle, that’s not a positive thing. Here’s an aerial view. If one day you are unavailable (let’s say you’re getting a long overdue crown), people in the company should know how you’ve left things. What if the crown turns into a nightmarish double root canal and your MIA for a few days? By formalizing and documenting your work, you leave a trail: open projects, location of files, client status, project next steps. Now if all that makes you afraid, ask yourself why. Accelerating your career means making sure the band continues to play – with or without you.
- Discuss your gaps and paths. The more I have developed others, the more I have progressed in my career – in management and the traction that followed as I became an entrepreneur, coach and author. No matter what your position, giving feedback helps everyone succeed.
On the flipside, you have to be ready to discuss your performance with higher-ups and work objectively with that feedback. Typically, these issues come up in a performance review. Listen intentionally. Learn about what you are missing and venture to close the gaps.
With that said, don’t settle for vague feedback like: “You need to be more assertive.” Really? What does that mean? Do not assume you know what it is. Ask for specifics and examples. Here’s the level of detail you want to hear from your manager:
“You need to be more assertive when you address the engineering staff. When you were proposing your idea to reduce scrap, you said: ‘I was wondering if we could try to test the quality of the raw materials before we start production.’ Here’s what I wish you had said: ‘I have looked into the data regarding reasons for scrap, 78 percent are related to raw material failures. I propose we require a test of raw materials to be done prior to mixing the ingredients.’”
Even more importantly, here’s what you want him/her to follow up with:
“If you are assertive, you will see your ideas being implemented more frequently and you will gain a reputation for solving problems. This will add more value to the organization, and it is what you need in order to be a project manager.”
Make sure your performance plan is tied to where you want to go. If you’re going from an auditor to senior auditor, find out what you are missing to become a senior auditor. Then tackle the list – until there is nothing left standing in your way.
- Be honest – with yourself. Knowing your gaps means little if you don’t first understand yourself. A personal example: I am a doer. Being a doer bites me in the behind sometimes because (shocking) I like to do it all. I have to twist my own arm to delegate. What has given me traction is an understanding that being less of a doer and being more of a coach/trainer to others gets me further, faster.
- Define your “must haves.” There is no perfect job. There is no perfect anything. Jobs, spouses, children, the whole lot is one imperfect beautiful mess (thankfully). What things are important for you in your career? Find the right fit. Google, GE or family business? Define your “perfect” – by size of corporation, type of business, location, culture. Recognize your must-haves. This is particularly important at the beginning of a career.
- Know your “walk out” point. There are moments in your career when you need to put your foot down and say “stop.” When you are being passed over for opportunities and there is not a legitimate reason in sight or instances where you are being taken advantage of. Knowing your “walk out” point stops you from wasting time in an environment that doesn’t bring out the best in you. Then, summon the courage to walk. Believe it or not, the decision almost always accelerates your career. Sometimes leaving comes by way of circumstance and has nothing to do with the company you work for. I do want to make sure I remind everyone to always do the right thing, that is, give two-week notice and transition your work properly.
Are you in the driver’s seat of your career? It all starts by taking responsibility. Now kick up some dust – and go bravely and confidently as you super accelerate your career.
GABBY’S BIG TAKEAWAY:
Be purposeful in your career. Dare to challenge yourself and those around you. Then go, go, go!