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How to Move up within a Company – Career Progression Secrets

How to Move up within a Company – Career Progression Secrets

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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