Some of the most successful people have interesting twists in their career path. They strive for greatness and commit to meaningful growth. They may not aim to be the CEO but they somehow become irreplaceable. This article is for those people who desire to have a career progression like Sunder Pichai (CEO of Alphabet/Google) or Satya Nadella (CEO of Microsoft). This is not for those who want to rise just for the sake of moving up.
The strategies discussed below will convert you from an expense to your company to an investment. These tips will help you master your strengths and work on your weaknesses so you can become an asset to the company and get the positions you desire.
There are many specific strategies that are never taught to us before we enter an organization. It does not matter if you have graduated from a university or not, almost all entry level workers make the same kind of mistakes. This can quickly ruin their chance of becoming great and getting promoted within the system. You will learn how to convert what you love and combine it with smart tweaks to your everyday behavior to make sure you rise up with minimal risk. There may be a couple of factors preventing you from getting to the top. Existing hierarchy, office politics, and jealousy are just a few. You have to choose how to navigate the hurdles and make each day impactful. Being consistent will not only help you reach the top quickly but also gain respect from your peers. Bear in mind that a few people might not like you, but they will have no choice but to respect you because of the value you bring to your company.
Here are a few things that you need to keep in your thoughts and use to guide your actions if you want the best possible results:
Learn the Company Culture
This is essential for anyone entering any organization at any level. Company culture is often one of the most overlooked aspects of one’s corporate journey. Things in the company are the way they are because of many reasons. No matter how much a company claims to have an open culture and believes in their employees’ collective contributions, there are unspoken rules for every company in the world.
Knowing how to integrate into a company is the first step you should take.
What role do you play?
What value do you bring?
Who will help you get there?
What do you need to get there?
You should observe what your peers and seniors are focused on. Is it performance or is it reputation? Is it creativity or productivity?
During your initial time, you will likely try to adjust to your surroundings. Make sure to avoid some obvious mistakes. For example, if you are called into a meeting with senior managers, make sure you know when it is your turn to speak. Make sure you uncover the unspoken rules. There may be good reasons for them (or maybe not) , just respect them and move on, especially in the beginning.
Trying to change the people around you if you work at start-ups is typically easier since the cultures of startups tend to be more flexible. Large corporations often have their own culture and it is hard to change it. Make sure you find the right balance where you adapt to the company but you are still true to yourself. Maintain that fine balance between your principles and the company values.
This is what most people find challenging. They try too hard to be seen as a credible employee and end up overthinking. As your time in the company progresses, so will your experience in dealing with problems. Your productivity will also go up. Support your manager in solving the problems that other employees have not taken up.
By taking up challenging tasks, you not only show your true potential, but also show them you will and can do it again, if needed. This is how you truly build your credibility within a company. Getting known as the ‘problem-solver’ is a great name to make for yourself as it shows how much passion you have towards your work. You will most likely be among the first group of people for raises and promotions. If you aren’t, go somewhere where you will be valued
Humility is a large part of being successful in life and it is what every boss wants and needs from their employees. That is what you will one day look for in your team.
Always be ready to learn from your peers and try to improve the systems. You can do this by sharing your knowledge frequently and pushing for healthy workplace collaboration. Become someone who is not just a ‘problem-solver’, but someone who is looked as the ‘secret weapon’ by the higher ups. You will eventually be more involved in high profile meetings where you can pitch your ideas. This can have huge impacts in the workplace and it will set you apart. That’s a sense of satisfaction every leader wants and is looking for. Once you have reached this stage, the sky's the limit.
Know How To Sell Yourself
Do not brag! However, this does mean that you should shy away from taking the credit you deserve. There is a fine line between knowing what you bring to the table, and knowing the people around you when you speak about yourself. Little actions such as keeping your peers updated about industry trends or attaching your name to the things you provide can take you far. This way you make sure you get the recognition you deserve. This ensures that people cannot discredit you.
There are always people who undersell themselves because they shy away from any kind of attention. They feel it is wrong or that they need to do more. Now don’t go and take credit for every small thing but just make sure people know what you bring to the table.
Being humble is definitely a good trait to have as both an employee and a boss. You should sell yourself unless the occasion is right. Since you are a ‘problem-solver’ for the team, it should not be too hard to find instances where you are allowed to take credit.
Another important part of selling yourself is by involving other departments. Making sure other people know what you have to offer is important. This will open up future opportunities. You will get your recognition in due time and senior managers will be highly likely to consider you for future leadership roles.
Solve as many diverse problems as you can, even if you don’t always have a financial gain. At the minimum, you have good resume experience. Make sure you don’t overstep and make your manager look bad. It is always good to be on the good side of your boss. As you move up the ladder, you will have gained various skills from solving diverse problems yourself. This will give you the praises and raises that you want.
Get Good at Networking
For most people, networking is how they get their way into an organization. According to PayScale upwards of 85% of open positions are filled through networking. However, it typically stops there. Networking shouldn’t stop once you get into a company. In fact, it should be the start. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your name is dropped in the most important rooms? As you learn the company culture, build credibility with your colleagues, grow as a team player, and solve problems, opportunities will come. This will help you be top of mind with some influential people within your company.
You could take part in networking events within your company. You learn so much when people are outside the typical meeting and work environment. Visit industry conferences to broaden your circle outside the workplace. This can be good if you are trying to recruit someone to your team. An easy way to put your name out there is to volunteer to mentor junior employees and nurture them into the leaders of tomorrow.
Your circle of influencers will help you move forward and push your name to the highest level wherever they go. Let’s say you have an idea that you want to pitch to an executive. If your network has already dropped your name more than once, it makes your job easier.
By now, you have surrounded yourself with some like-minded people who are growth-driven, extremely productive, influential, and credible. Observe their career trajectory and set realistic goals for yourself. You may look at someone else for reference but don't copy their exact moves. Forge your own path by learning from their mistakes. It gives you a heads up and saves you years in your career.
Setting goals is essential to this process. Most of us let anxiety and impatience get to us, causing us to eventually give up. You may give yourself 2 years for a team lead position or 4 years for a senior manager position. Maybe you are extremely ambitious and set a 10 year goal to become the CEO.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is, it is important to find and solve the biggest problems you can solve. The bigger, the better!
Set small but powerful goals and see how your life changes over time. You may fall short sometimes but that’s okay. No one is perfect.
Beware of Some Hard Truths
Time gets more valuable as you move up the ladder. Promotions typically mean more work. Each and every day will get more challenging. It will be scary at times but there will also be exciting times of growth.. If you like this mix, you’re at the right place. It is different when managing a team of 15 compared to a team of 2.
Time management is absolutely necessary to master. You must understand how to tackle the problem of not having enough time. Some days it may mean coming in early. Other days you may have to stay late. Be smart about it. Pick up skills that will save you time. Remember to only take on what you can handle.
You will have to speak up and make tough decisions. There is just no way around it. The way your words impact others will play a big role in your career. You don’t want to reach the top and make a lot of enemies. It will limit your influence and the ability to get things done.
You’ll have to make sure that your communication skills are top notch. You don’t want to come across as being condescending or negative. Words are powerful and the right words will encourage people. The wrong words will leave a bad taste in their mouth. You may land in some difficult citations but using the right words is a very powerful skill that will make some good friends for you. At the minimum, people will respect you.
As you move closer to the top, dread may kick in. You may not be satisfied with your current level. You have gained enough experience that you start asking questions like,
“Is it time to switch jobs?”
“Should I wait for my “boss” to retire?”
“Am I content with what I have?”
It is true that these thoughts linger even in the minds of the best. It might even cause you to make a wrong decision. The best way to tackle it is by being honest with yourself. Be objective. Your vision gets clearer when you realize that going to the top is easier if you build others along the way.
Listen more. Talk less. Help others shine.
Your work-life balance might not be at a level you need it to be.
This is not always your fault. Work is important. But so is your personal time. What’s the point if you are working all the time?
How do you draw the fine line? There will be times when your life outside of work will directly impact your performance. Do your best to manage your work life and your personal life. If you need help, make sure to check if there are resources at work to help you.
All of the advice in this article is based on successful leaders and the leaders who mentor the leaders of tomorrow. Let these lessons shape your mind.
You may not know what the future holds, but if you follow these steps, yours will be promising. They will not only get you to where you want to be but also fill you with purpose and ambition to get there.