Making a career is like driving down a highway: once you’ve been passed over, you have to move forward in the general flow. Even if you’re not a millennial and you’re not one of the ambitious 40% who expect a promotion every year or two, one day you want to “arrive” in a warm place with a leather chair, insurance, bonuses and a salary that you’re not ashamed to tell your parents.
In this article, we’ll tell you how to succeed in the career race. We’ll tell you about “how to get through traffic on the first ten miles” and get ahead of your colleagues.
Do it pretty and it’ll be pretty
There is a lot of “right” advice about a fast career and successful success written today. Let’s list just a few of them:
- Get up early and meditate, then practice gratitude, visualize plans and goals, and fill yourself with love (Tony Robbins gets millions for these recommendations, so why not try it?);
- Run in the morning (running will make a person out of you);
- Have a proper breakfast, not a cup of instant coffee;
- Read a new book every week (and it would be great if you remember and use some of it);
- Get a job through connections or find a mentor;
- Come to work on time and leave later than your boss;
- Dress as if you were already in a higher position;
- Make sure that every new contact on your LinkedIn network appreciates your professional skills (even if you just said hello to that person at a trade show);
- Always be friendly to the receptionist, executive secretary and sysadmin.
Oh yeah! We almost forgot: Send memes and emoji to slackers, jeers, and other messengers more often, where artificial intelligence is already tracking your “activity” and “engagement”.
The tips listed above are great, but for some reason they don’t always work for everyone. Maybe you need a special set of genes or the placement of stars at birth? Surely you can remember one or two familiar assistants – junior manager’s assistants, who are dressed in Hugo Boss on 13th salary and every other person asking to be their mentor.
In general, we advise you to follow the “beautiful” advice – just in case. Articles on the Internet called “158 things successful people do before you’re even awake” can’t be wrong. Oh, and a run in the morning with a helpful book in the evening wouldn’t be out of place.
Ugh, that’s it! Now we can get down to real business. We tell you how to make a successful career, even if the set of genes is standard, and you do not believe in horoscopes.
1. Prove yourself. Get rid of impostor syndrome
It is believed that the duty of insecurity in their achievements and professional solvency helps people to move mountains and achieve the impossible. But there is a limit to everything: one day you will have to admit that “you deserve it” – or the vacant warm place will put someone who boldly shouts about their merits on every corner and in social networks.
Easier said than done, and the cost of a psychologist is not in the family budget? Start with the basics:
- Change your attitude towards professional failures and rejections – from clients, partners, supervisor. Failure is feedback, on which you will become a better person. Failure is a redirection to a better path (you have the wit to come up with a “plan B,” right?);
- Stop waiting until you feel 100% ready. Pretend you’re 99% ready – and act on it;
- Self-confidence does not lie in affirmations and praise of the boss. It is the result of regular action and small steps that lead somewhere. Take steps, and your confidence will grow.
2. Promise little and… exceed expectations
The saddest thing about work is that you have to do it. If you dream of outmaneuvering all your fellow competitors, you have to try hard. And even that is not enough (there are a lot of workaholics around us today)!
Be smarter: talk and promise the “bare minimum” and then put yourself out there enough to make those around you uncontrollably drop their jaw and eyes pop out of their heads.
Yes, we know it’s not easy. After all, you’ve spent months or years sharpening your skills. But try to follow this rule. It is better to keep the secrets of superproductivity to yourself, and respond modestly to your manager’s praise.
3. Grab every opportunity for growth
As experience shows: careers are made by those who take on projects that no one likes. Those projects are complex, with little clear prospects, formal support from management, and obvious benefits in the event of success.
Bring order to the client base, prepare the accounting department for the transition to IFRS standards, conduct a competitive analysis – as part of the job functions. Help external consultants conduct corporate team-building exercises, write articles for the corporate newspaper, simplify internal reporting forms or come up with convenient regulations for routine tasks – on “sheer enthusiasm”, courage and belief in long-term benefits.
Also, do the work you want to do before you get it. Take on acting roles, offer to help your boss on projects that will put him or her in a better light (and provide you with useful experience in the long run).
4. Try to love internal networking (and at least one HR)
Everyone knows that one should never eat alone, but few have any idea who to make dinner appointments with. The main “targets” are two:
- People who have recently been promoted. It doesn’t matter that they are not from your department and being friends with them won’t get you a quarterly bonus or interesting projects. The important thing is that you can find out what kind of qualities they have and encouraged the leaders of your company. It remains to nurture or emphasize the same in yourself;
- A friendly HR specialist. Having an informant who whispers about job openings on time gives you an advantage over rival colleagues. HR professionals are the ones who usually have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the company and in the labor market in general. They are useful work friends. And the lack of hidden competition (unless you are an HR specialist yourself!) makes for a pleasant friendship… and it sometimes real.
5. Become the inner troubleshooter
Troubleshooting is about solving unsolvable problems. Believe me, every company has such problems, and they can take weeks or even months to solve.
How do you find such tasks? Look around the office for things that hinder productivity, cause unnecessary expenses, undermine workplace safety, or prevent the company from achieving its goals. Develop a plan to improve these areas and offer management a solution in the form of you, your expertise and enthusiasm.
You can also train newcomers as a mentor, fix a router quickly, share useful contacts or write chatbots for business purposes (if you know how). Be careful, though: your goal is to become indispensable in principle, but not indispensable in your own workplace.
6. Make yourself visible
“Don’t wait for others to pay attention to your work and accomplishments. Just work.” That’s great advice, but it’s useless. You might get noticed in three years, ten years, or maybe never…
If your goal is career advancement and success in your career race, you must learn to show yourself in the best light, to always be seen by your superiors. But it’s important not to overdo it.
How to find the fine line between self-promotion and bragging about not to cross it? Here are some tips:
- Participate in projects that are “in the public eye”: covered in corporate publications, held for the company’s public relations purposes, or that team up with representatives from other departments;
- Always attend team-building and training events to develop soft skills – there are many opportunities for networking outside of your department and outside of professional responsibilities;
- Write articles for the company blog as an expert;
- Strategically praise others, such as publicly acknowledging their contributions to your project. Also strategically ask for advice. For example, according to a study by Harvard Business School professor Alison Wood Brooks, people perceive those who seek advice as more competent than those who do not;
- Speak up in meetings, even if your opinion conflicts with that of others. This brings us to the next piece of advice…
7. Always (!) come prepared for the meetings
Your contribution to the solution of common problems must be obvious. And to do so, it must be! Take time to think about your proposals, to assemble arguments for them, to visualize them – in general, to be convincing.
8. Learn your profession ahead, do it before you are asked to
Not only is it important to be well versed in your profession, but you are constantly learning what you may need at the next career level:
- the ability to manage people;
- the ability to delegate responsibilities properly;
- the skill to negotiate effectively;
- the skill of reasonable allocation of time and resources;
- the mastery of work-life balance.
Be sure to share your successes from your studies and trainings publicly. The paradox is that stories about work accomplishments can be perceived as bragging, but stories about academic achievements are not. You admit that you didn’t know or couldn’t do something, you show humility and modesty.
If the company encourages self-study (e.g., sending employees to professional development courses or paying for the corporate library), take every opportunity and thank managers for it.
9. Be a ray of light in a dark realm
If you can’t be the “soul of the team”, just try to be a positive person. Under no circumstances should you criticize anyone or be a toxic negativist. There are plenty of naysayers in any team, but in the career race those who see opportunities, not obstacles, get ahead (in theory). And those who are hard not to like (in practice).
10. Rarely but aptly break the rules
Yes, we know, every company has a set of rules. And the bigger the company, the more rules there are, and they must be strictly adhered to. However, these rules are created mainly for discipline (you’re fine with that, right). Some rules can be broken, the main thing is to understand when it is appropriate. Can safely name two situations:
- Let’s say a company has published a position that interests you (with a promotion), but the requirements state that the candidate must have more than five years of work experience, and you have only two years of experience. To hell with the rules! Send in your resume and apply! Even a rejection from a supervisor or an HR person will provide feedback and help you make a training plan for the coming year;
- Let’s say there are no openings at the company. Ask for a promotion, even if you are not offered one. The probability that the manager will propose it himself is minimal: you, as an excellent employee, will suit him at his current position. But to refuse a promotion without justification will be more difficult for him than to gloss over the possibilities.
That’s all the advice. Following these rules will make it much easier for you to succeed in your career race and get promoted.