Today, there are more opportunities than ever to drive your own career advancement. Companies are implementing programs to nurture and empower employees who are interested in career advancement. Individuals who make professional and leadership development their personal responsibility have the edge. They develop a plan, knowing that there are several paths to leadership positions, but that timing, opportunity, knowledge, and relationships matter, and that extensive experience is essential.
Consider these 7 strategies for your career advancement plan:
Take on a challenge beyond your comfort zone to increase your skills, knowledge and experience. Develop new skills and demonstrate that you are capable before there is a vacant office at the next level, to enhance the probability of being considered for it. Request to lead projects and assignments that are challenging, make an impact and support strategic initiative important to senior leaders. Take a load off of your boss’s desk and offer to take on one of his or her projects. Request projects that will require your collaboration with colleagues outside of your department.
Ask for honest and candid feedback, once completed. The most uncomfortable activity in any career is to give or receive feedback; consider it an opportunity to improve and obtain direction, rather than criticism.
Create Opportunities for Yourself
Executives are more drawn to those individuals who have shown they can add value. Identify a problem or challenge for which you can successfully lead a team to implement a solution. Choose those opportunities which complement your strengths, making it more likely that your results will stand out.
Step up and take advantage of professional development programs, including mentor programs, affinity groups, and leadership programs. Make yourself available to participate. Take an active role and lead.
Be a Source of Ideas
Even if you are not the source of a new idea, be the source that stimulates new ideas and solutions. Hone your communication and collaboration skills to inspire colleagues to contribute their perspective into improving new ideas. Demonstrate your ability to identify the right people for the right positions. Form a team of individuals with diverse perspectives that includes creative thinkers who can help generate new ideas, such as a new way of working with customers, a new way of getting work done, or a new strategy.
Expand your network of industry colleagues and thought leaders to learn what they are doing to impact the organizations they work for, and to gain access to new and different information. Expand your network to include people who bring different knowledge and perspective, who can stimulate your thinking, and even be a source of insight toward identifying a solution.
Hone your skills to apply concepts from different industries or organizations into identifying solutions to challenges in your organization.
You’ve lead a team to develop a new and innovative solution, next, it’s time to demonstrate your skills to successfully implement programs, initiatives, and strategies. Demonstrate your ability to take on large goals, break them down into action steps, and ensure the right person is accountable for each, and that the necessary resources are available. Become comfortable delegating details and allowing others to make decisions independently. You can only do this if you have honed your ability to select the right individuals for a team. Delegating frees up your time to devote to other career development opportunities.
Include Lateral Moves
Heading straight to the top sounds like a great idea, but lateral career moves are essential and critical. The knowledge, skills, and experience you will gain will enhance your ability to look at challenges and opportunities from a broader perspective, and see the organization as a network of separate functions, each relevant to the success of the whole. You will also gain the opportunity to expand your network into different departments, and across organizational levels and functions.
Until such an opportunity arises, join multidisciplinary teams. You’ll be able to see challenges from different perspectives, and develop a broad enough perspective to be able to see how each function in the corporation might affect a solution to any challenge. Understand the goals and objectives of other departments and be able to anticipate the impact of new strategies and initiatives
Work Across Organizational Boundaries
Since each function of a business is affected by all others, a great leader understands the interplay of these forces.
Demonstrate the ability to build positive collaborative relationships with colleagues across all levels. Develop your influence to gain support, get work done across boundaries, and, as a result, achieve the best outcome.
Finding out how your department can work with another to streamline procedures, improve customer service, and improve the bottom line is a formula for success.
It is never too early to begin to intentionally develop an executive presence. It takes time and requires that you demonstrate credibility, confidence, sound judgment, and an ability to influence, lead, and collaborate. Presence is the unique and distinctive impression that you carry with you, and is your credibility factor and likability, having power over the positions you get, your rewards, and the quality of your relationships. It is the thing that makes people listen to you, take you seriously, and want to hear more from you.
Hone your presentation, collaboration and unique communication skills. Make impactful contributions.
A fundamental requirement to remain on the path to the executive suite is to drive your career advancement through lifelong learning followed by action. There is less value in learning what to do, and more value in taking courageous risk and putting what you have learned into action.