This is for the people out there who want to have a bigger positive impact and be more influential within their company. This is not for ‘climbers’ who just want to rise for the sake of rising. This is for people with serious career progression in mind who want to move up using ethical strategies.
In 5 years, I have figured out how to rise to one of the top positions within a government department that has serious competition for the best roles. By rising quickly, I have become the youngest Senior Adviser by far, have doubled my income, and don’t have any particular qualifications.
The strategies I’m about to share with you are about how to take your strengths and turn them into an asset for the company you work for. This is about combining what you love most with some boundaries to ensure that your rise up the ranks is relatively risk-free. Follow this guide to become irreplaceable, with a widely known reputation for performance, integrity and results.
You can ask almost anyone in the Department I work for, and they will have heard good things about me. Not only that, they will know me as a high achiever and solid performer. We’re talking hundreds of people, including some I’ve never even met. Don’t get me wrong, some of them do not like me at all, but I am confident they at least respect me.
I’m not a better person than anyone else–I have simply learned the steps on how to create a rock-solid reputation, where I’m well known and respected. For the first few promotions, I had to apply 3 or 4 times before I got them. For my last promotion, I pretty much walked onto the job due to my reputation alone. Now, I have other services trying to poach me.
I’m no better than you–you can be in this same situation if you apply the following rules and techniques to build up your reputation. Try the steps below and see how you go.
THINGS YOU SHOULD DO
1. Proactively identify the company’s biggest problems and contribute to solving them
Offer to design and deliver training sessions to staff on how to do something better. Ask your boss and other senior staff what the company needs to fix and then figure out how to help fix it. Just showing your support will help you get the “company-focused problem solver” label, which is an awesome way to be seen.
I once accidentally got sent minutes from a meeting of senior managers, and in these notes they specifically mentioned me as a “secret weapon.” This is how you want to be known. By solving problems no one else is taking on, you make yourself valuable, because you create a role that wasn’t there before which only you can fill.
2. Support your manager
Know that your boss is always going to pretty much be a mandatory referee for you. This does not mean suck up to them or become their slave. But it does mean you need to recognize that you are paid to make their job easier, not harder. If you want to assert yourself, that’s fine, but in the end, your boss has the final say and you need to respect that.
Having a reputation as difficult to manage will be the single biggest barrier to getting promoted. Bosses love having someone support them, as being a manager/leader can feel like it’s you versus the world. They often have pressures from above you don’t know about.
3. Ask for more challenging work
Always ask your boss to stretch your comfort zone and prepare you for greater things. Tell your boss you have hopes of moving up and are interested in any extra-ordinary tasks that could help you develop. Tell your boss that all you want from them in exchange for hard work and loyalty is the opportunity and freedom to develop. There’s nothing I like more as a manager than having a new staff member asking me to mold them into a superstar.
4. Self-promote shamelessly
Don’t brag, but don’t be too humble and shy either–no one else can be relied on to talk you up. A great way to do this is send out emails to large portions of the company with regular recommendations or tips (not too frequent as to be annoying though). Every job I’ve had, I’ve found a reason to send out a fortnightly newsletter that provides valuable information for others. It’s probably the best way to get your name out there.
5. Get a coach
Make sure you take every available opportunity to receive mentoring, particularly from people higher up the chain than you. Listen to what they say, and take their advice. They’re more likely to know what you need than anyone else, but even more importantly, they can steer you away from mistakes that may damage your reputation. And making a good name with higher-ups could really pay out for you!
When I apply for a role, my referees are some of the most senior people in the company, and they can all vouch for me because they’ve coached me personally. I went to them for coaching; I didn’t wait for an offer.
6. Always own your mistakes and take responsibility for fixing any mistakes with your name attached to them
It’s OK to get things wrong as long as you own up immediately with integrity, and offer solutions. Not admitting mistakes or passing the blame might work in politics, but in business, you’ll be seen as someone who doesn’t take responsibility and can’t be relied on to take necessary risks safely. Simply say, “I messed up, but I’ve fixed it by doing x, y and z.” If you’re part of a team that screws up, while everyone else is blaming each other you can say, “The damage is done, let’s just own it and fix it.” Show leaderships skills.
7. Take every development opportunity
Show the company that you’re interested in a range of work, particularly anything that will help the company, even if you don’t get more financial reward. With everyone switching careers every two seconds these days, companies must be craving loyal employees they can mold into ideal leaders.
THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER DO
1. Send emails or other written communication in the heat of the moment
If you receive an email or phone message that makes you emotional, write a reply and then save it in draft. Come back to it the next day (or at least take as long as you’re allowed to respond). Once you’ve cooled off, ask yourself “How can I respond to this in a way that shows I am un-phased and professional in all situations?”
Better yet, try calling or seeing the sender in person. You’d be amazed at how much easier it is to diffuse conflict when you can involve body language, eye contact and voice tone. Diplomacy and conflict resolution are highly sought after skills.
2. Formally challenge a hiring decision
You missed out on the promotion? Tough. Do not challenge it, because even though this may be an option, ultimately you lose. First, you have questioned the integrity of the hiring panel, so now they hate you. Second, you come across as a poor sport who does not accept feedback, so you’re now seen as litigious and “hard to manage.” Third, you’ve now pissed off and undermined the person who got the job and who may very well be in a position to influence how higher-ups see you. You just can’t win, so even when it’s unfair, suck it up and ask the panel for feedback on what you need to improve for next time.
3. Go over your boss’s head (unless you have a really legitimate complaint)
There are some awful managers out there, and if you suspect you are being held back by one, go to your union or another representative before you back-stab your boss to their superiors. If you do get to the point where you need to escalate something because your boss is being awful, do it openly. Tell them you’re going to do it, that it’s nothing personal, that you’re just trying to look out for your career. But really, most people I see doing this don’t have a legitimate beef and just look like trouble-makers. You’re better off trying to get into another team or something.
4. Try to please everyone
The only people who need to be impressed by you are those who will decide whether or not you get promoted. For a long time (and probably still) I had a reputation among my peers as “The Golden Boy.” They made fun of me behind my back because I was always doing a good job, never challenged the Department’s core values, and was always solving problems that had nothing to do with my role.
Nowadays, it’s my job to tell them how to do their job. I’m even coaching some of them! If I had tried to please them I would have never been promoted. The only person you should try to please is you, but you should also aim to impress those who actually matter to your career goals. Everyone else can either support you or get the hell out of your way, period.