Your career goal and manager support
Last week, we discussed why it is so important to share our career goal to gain our managers support. Without this insight, managers have no idea how to help us obtain the next level. Just stating the career goal (“I want to be a manager”) itself isn’t enough. This is a very small part of the conversation and just a starting point. We need to do a lot more than just stating our career goal if we want to get anywhere whether that is life, relationships or our careers.
If you are waiting for the next job opening to be announced so that you can start moving your career forward, you will be too late and miss the bus. We need to lay the foundation and work on our career goal before the job opening is announced.
No current goal
We may not have a current career goal and this can be OK in certain situations (which we will discuss below). Just remember, there are plenty of folks who DO know what they want from their career and more importantly have signaled this intent to their manager. Even if they are less qualified than we suspect, these are usually the folks that will land the promotions that we may be coveting. (See last weeks post here for the explanation why)
Whether you know what you want out of your career or not, there are universal moves you can make to set yourself up for future success. Obviously, it is best if you have an idea of what you want to do, and if so, we need to let our managers know ASAP. In addition, we need to explain what we have done to help us attain this goal and what plans are in place for the future to set ourselves up for success.
If you do not know what you want to do just yet, we want to prove and market a few basic skill sets that are applicable to all next level positions:
- Thought leadership
- Public speaking
- Leadership without a leadership title
- Positive attitude
- Presentation layer (dress and act for the position you want, not the one you are currently working)
One common goal is the pursuit of an MBA. There are plenty of MBA programs around but these can be during business hours. Spring Arbor University has an 18-month program you can complete online and doesn’t need a GMAT.
Beyond the technical expertise of the position, there are obviously more skills needed than the above 4, but at a high level, all leaders share the above 4 and the above would be considered a bare minimum for any promotion, transfer or new project.
How to demonstrate skills
Let’s go back to our customer service rep that wants to take his or her career to the next level. There are a number of ways to demonstrate the above. Tell your manager you are going to do the following in an effort to demonstrate the skills needed to make it to the next level.
- Put together a top 10 list of customer questions and answers for new hires so they have an idea of what to expect from the department, company, customers, etc. (Thought leadership)
- Explain that you will be happy to go over this list with any batch of new hires that are brought into the customer service group. (Public Speaking, leadership without title and positive attitude)
- Explain that your plan would be to keep this list updated and provide answers to new issues come up.
- You want to build a reputation for being the Subject Matter Expert and if other topics come up, you would like to volunteer.
Put in the extra time
Disclaimer: Depending on your position and company culture, you may not be able to spend time on this project because there are other priorities. Because of workplace laws, some managers may feel they have to pay you for your work and discourage you from the extra effort. My suggestion is to just do this on your own time and present a simple high-level vision to your manager as a showcase. They may be able to advise you on a more powerful way of showcasing your skill set. Try to put this into presentation form for more impact. Talking through your idea won’t have the same punch as a few PowerPoint slides.
It is much easier to promote someone who is doing more than the job than to promote someone
who is doing the current job well
Other ideas that I am literally pulling out of my ass, on the fly:
- Demonstration / FAQ for a lunch and learn to explain functions of your department, new initiative, technology, or process to others that are not as familiar with what your group is working on. Including and organizing others on your team will demonstrate leadership without a title.
- Many departments are collecting data and metrics. For many companies, the focus is on collection vs. analysis. Come up with a way to parse this data at a very simple level to show trends, or demonstrate a hypothesis and you can make a mark for yourself.
- Next time there is a new hire, take the newb to lunch and be the informal mentor, confidant, and buddy. Show them the in’s and out’s of the department, explain the culture and generally treat them like your little brother or sister if they were to join the company.
Here is why the above ideas can be so powerful
Many managers would LOVE to have someone in the department be responsible for any 1 of 100 tasks that are not being tracked or initiated. But without anyone showing interest in any specific topic, most managers don’t want to suggest responsibility to anyone on their team. Most managers don’t want to be the asshole manager that piles more work on an employee because the usual response is an exasperated sigh of “more work for the same amount of money?”
Most managers want to give more responsibility to employees and most employees want more responsibility (as long as it is a project of personal interest). But without direction from the employee, it is just human nature to just take the easy route and “not” give out any projects. This avoids the negative body language like the rolling eyes and deeps sighs of frustration. Think about that one for a minute.
Establish a reputation
The lunch and learn will demonstrate public speaking, presentation skills, thought leadership, and even the ability to conduct research. You may think that these skills should be obvious to your manager but they are not. Demonstrating skill sets and establishing a reputation will make you a stand out. When the VP asks your manager for someone to work on a project, yours will be the first to be thought. Why? Because you demonstrated the ability in the past.
The easy lever with metrics is that because data analysis is in its infancy as a discipline, just tracking the data in an excel spreadsheet and turning the data into a pie chart or bar graph can be enough to bring notice to your corporate existence. You don’t need a Ph.D. to show initiative. You don’t need a big presentation; just a few small theories with suggestions on how to leverage the data can establish your niche. Just Google “Basic metrics for “Your” industry” and it is off to the races.
Taking a newb under your wing is managing without the title. Keep the gossip out of the equation and you will be demonstrating leadership and thought leadership.
The above are just a few ideas that could rejuvenate your career. The point is that we need to:
- Explain our career goals to our managers or they won’t know how to help us.
- Share the steps we HAVE made to meet our goals. Explain the steps we think we should make to meet our goals. Otherwise, our goals come across as just talk.
- Reiterate to your manager that you want to build a reputation for your “thing”. Anytime similar opportunities come up in the future, you want to be the chosen one.
Even if we don’t have specific goals, continue to be pro-active. Show that you are a team player BEYOND the job description signed up for. Going beyond your current job description generally means we are performing at the “next level’s” job description. We are demonstrating that we are ready for the next role because we ARE performing portions of the role.
Who is easier to promote?
It is much easier to promote someone who is doing more than the job than to promote someone who is doing the current job well. Folks doing a great job will only go so far. You will go much further with your career goal if you are doing a great job. Make sure to work beyond the job description AND updating your manager with your career aspirations.
Like a Boss!
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.
Boss: During a critical moment, a person, animal or thing seizes the opportunity. They take charge and win or overcome an obstacle that seems nearly impossible to accomplish.