It takes more than hard work and expertise to advance in a career and achieve personal satisfaction. Sherrie Campbell of Entrepreneur magazine has said integrity, authenticity and patience are traits that will promote a successful career path.
Barry Maher, a speaker, consultant and author, offered up this hands-on approach: "Hitch your wagon to a star. Find a mentor who's moving up and help that mentor get wherever it is he or she wants to go."
If you're looking to climb the career ladder faster, consider these practical strategies.
Improve your leadership skills
Not everyone is a born leader. However, most people have some trait or skill from which others could benefit. Knowing how to share that skill can increase your value to an organization. For example, if you know the capabilities and peculiarities of a particular software, volunteer to be the go-to person for those using that software and develop your own personal niche.
"Research has shown that leaders are made through the development of core leadership competencies such as strategic planning, critical thinking, problem solving and team building," said Artika Tyner, an author, speaker, and leadership and public policy professor. She cited a study by the University of Illinois that examined whether leaders are born or made. "The study supports the idea that leadership development follows a specific progression."
Melissa Lamson, CEO of Lamson Consulting, said that leadership skills are important but that workers should also demonstrate their long-term commitment by asking managers which skills they should develop to increase their value to the company. Then follow through.
Be a team player
Being a team player might sound cliche, but it is necessary in today's work environment as progressive organizations abandon traditional hierarchical models and adopt flat structures where employees with diverse knowledge and approaches innovate and tackle projects as teams. Monica Easton-Cardone, CEO and co-founder of chargeback management company Chargebacks911, said people should "maintain a whatever-it-takes-to-get-the-job-done philosophy."
"Stay late, come in early and volunteer to help others as often as possible," she said. "Be aware and listen to the current internal issues, think of solutions and share those solutions with others. Become the go-to person at work by adapting a love-to-learn attitude. Employers seek out individuals who want to go beyond their comfort level to learn new things."
Lamson, however, warned that high achievers might overextend themselves. "Learn the art of saying no if you're so busy that the quality of your work is suffering," she said.
Maher added this advice: "Do the jobs no one else is willing to do. Demonstrate your capabilities and your capacity to grow."
"Never miss a chance to learn or to grow but, whenever possible, avoid situations where you're set up for failure," Maher added.
Passed over for promotion? Mediocre raise? Not landing the best assignments? It may not be due to your job performance, Lamson said. "No matter how stellar your results, or how much your co-workers and stakeholders depend on you, if your manager doesn't know what a good job you're doing, it won't matter," she said.
Volunteer for high-profile projects to get noticed by your boss. For example, if your group is focusing on a new initiative such as the development of a new brand, try to get involved in that project because it will probably be under the microscope of management.
"The key is to take a proactive role in building your relationship with your manager rather than passively hoping for credit and guidance. Often, these tactics can make the difference in not only your experience at your current company but in your career overall," she said. "Remember, no matter how successful you get, you'll still answer to someone, which makes learning to manage up one of the most valuable skills you can acquire.
"Too many professionals labor under the same myth," Lamson said. "They assume that if they work hard and perform well, their boss will notice. The truth is every boss has big responsibilities and may be too busy to notice everything their reports accomplish."
Rather than passively wait for recognition, praise and direction, smart employees will proactively build a productive relationship with their bosses," she added. "Schedule regular face time with your boss and make sure you prepare an agenda for each meeting to make every moment count. Ask for feedback and expectations so you know how to deliver the right results."
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