Author: Diana Clement
A mild-mannered Clark Kent doesn’t need to be Superman to land a promotion. Photo / Warner Bros
Some people just know how to get to the next level at work. Whether they’re good or not they have their eye on a job or two higher than their own or maybe even the very top job. They apply for a promotion at regular intervals and climb their way up.
Not everyone is born with that killer instinct and sometimes talented people languish in jobs well beneath their abilities.
Sharn Rayner, director at Pod Consulting, was one of those people who always had it in her mind where her next career step would be.
When she advises clients she says that to get to the next level you really need to know where you’re headed, says Rayner. That means creating a career development plan.”
“I ask them to think about what they love to do, are passionate about and can see themselves doing. If you want to do something and if you have the drive and the passion it is all about knocking on those doors and you will get ahead.”
Career consultant Jennie Miller who is national president of the Career Development Association of New Zealand says you need to know what the next level and the one after that looks like and means to you to increase your chances of success.
“Having a career vision is incredibly motivating, and helps ensure you don’t go down the wrong path.”
Sometimes that next step isn’t up the ladder. In fact it can be a lattice, says Miller.
“If you’re on a personal ladder, don’t put it up against the wrong wall.”
Rayner likens it to having a destination but taking scenic detours along the way in your career. It’s likely you’ll also need to the occasional puncture along the way.
But knowing where you’re headed is important.
Your boss’s job
Look at the person in the role above you or the one you want, says Rayner. If that’s a role you’d like to have in the future analyse the skills that the incumbent uses in his or her job. Where are the gaps in your own repertoire? This is what you need to start learning. In fact no matter where you are in your career, never stop learning, says Rayner.
“If you are doing these things you have more to offer.”
Then you need to start putting yourself forward to show you have the desire to step up, says Rayner. Employers like people who demonstrate a growth mind set.
Volunteer for projects at work, join groups in the organisation and learn from those who are in the positions you’d like to get to.
The next most logical step?
Rayner cites the case of an administrative assistant she employed who made it clear from the start that she had an ambition to work her way up in the business.
The employee had done an HR degree but not managed to get a foot in the industry. She opted for a lower role in the correct industry to start with, but chose an organisation that invested in people and had a strong employment brand. Rayner said to the employee that if she was prepared to work hard she would coach her. The young employee very clearly demonstrated that she had the passion to grow and worked her way up to HR co-ordinator, adviser and finally partner over a period of four years.”
Rayner worked with one mid-career client who wanted to move up, but had realised by trial and error that he didn’t want to manage people. On the surface managing a team was the next most logical step for him. Eventually, with help, the client carved out a role for himself in the business as an internal adviser. This role of influence widened his reach in the company.
Don’t be run ragged
Be careful when working to move up. Don’t run yourself ragged doing everything you’re offered and burn yourself out, and maybe miss better opportunities, says Miller.
Some other tips include:
– If you can, write blogs for the company, says Rayner. Content for the website is very often in demand in a wide range of organisations.
– Always have a mentor, says Rayner. This person can challenge you to think outside your square.
– Miller advocates a career approach called active engagement, where she gets clients to imagine they’ve moved up to the next level. They imagine walking across the room to the new role and look back and talk to how they got there.
– Do a deal with your boss at your performance review. If you achieve X, then the organisation will give you Y. That way it’s hard-wired into your professional development plan and hard for managers to get out of.