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Tips for Advancing In Your Career

Whether you are ready for more responsibilities in your present job; you would like to make a horizontal move into another department, or you are considering a lateral move into another industry entirely, think about this: you won’t necessarily need to climb UP the ladder these days, to be successful.

Let’s examine the fine points. It’s probably pretty much a given that, if you’re considering advancing, your career is solid.  Your challenges at this juncture have to come in the form of responsibility, and of having people directly underneath you, in rank.

What you want is the ability to be a major player in your field.  This includes directing and motivating your co-workers.

Not Leader Material?

Did you hesitate at the mention of guiding others, believing that you function very well as a worker who supports others or as a team member, but not necessarily as a leader?

You might wish to rethink that.

The secret to great leadership IS good support. Think about it.  As a good team player, you are prompting the group to believe that, individually, their contributions make for a successful project. You’re paving the way for their development by helping to make the group effort cohesive and smooth.

If you have to throw in a suggestion or two, it’s not too far removed from the concept of a leader making a request.

In addition to inspiring greatness and achievement in others, leaders are needed to tweak here and there. In all likelihood, you’re doing that now, too.

So re-examine whether you have the equipment to lead. Chances are that, if you are a win/win team player who props people up when they’re buckling, and who gives atta gals and atta guys frequently, then, in many respects, you are already leading.

Don’t Dwell on Credit

If you are not concerned with who gets credit, you’ll see how quickly your co-workers copy your all-for-one; one-for-all attitude.

“If you don’t care who gets the credit, you can accomplish anything,” said President Harry S. Truman.

Granted, you will want the company to know that you are a very capable employee; that they should trust you with additional responsibilities.

That will quickly become evident. 

Actions speak louder than words. For now, continue to share the spotlight.

Here are a few hints on how to take that next step in your career – whether it’s lateral/horizontal or decidedly up the ladder.

Titles: What You Should Consider

So many titles these days are symbolic or even inflated.  You need to steer clear of being swayed by a high-falutin’ title  – Executive Vice President, for example, when the duties are those of a mid-level sales rep – until you examine the obligations that go with it.

Too, one company’s idea of an Executive VP might be another company’s CEO slot.   It’s best not to put too much emphasis on a title.  Again, ask for a listing of the duties involved.

Always your #1 Mantra should be:  bottom line – will I be able to make decisions which (under reasonable circumstances) won’t have to go through a multi-faceted approval process, and will I also be able to influence or direct people?

Why Make a Lateral Move?

The primary goal behind crossing over either into another department or another company…or into an entirely new industry …is to amass the necessary experience to accelerate your career growth in a manner that’s valuable to you and to the industry.

That’s why Mantra #2 should be the following:  does this move give me MORE options in the future?

For instance, does it open doors where before you would have been “stuck” and unable to break through the glass ceiling?  Men as well as women have to crack that ceiling if they wish to move up to the next level.

How?  Be informed!  Strategize!  Plan ahead and seek out mentors who’ll show you the ropes, and advocates who’ll vouch for you behind closed doors. Don’t confuse the two; mentors make time for you; they instruct you in areas where you are not yet entirely competent.

Your advocates, on the other hand, occupy themselves with running the show, and speak up for you when crucial decisions are made.

Meet often with these two supporters. Thank them for their time and efforts…and for their faith in you.  Don’t crowd them.  Be aware that their agendas are extremely busy.

Observe your support-team’s habits; take notes on how they handle conflicts and how they make choices.

Don’t Get Caught Up In Over-Specialization

No matter your position at present, if you wish to sit in on boardroom meetings; help plan strategy; direct your company’s endeavors and develop programs that will benefit the company as well as the community, you need to cease to think only in a limited, specialized manner.

Envision the big picture.

Yes, we’re speaking of seeing the forest for the trees.  This is especially true if you came in as a junior or as a trainee.

Anybody on the bottom rung who focuses only on performing the job they were hired for is going to stay on the bottom rung.

As of today, Ms. or Mr. would-be management staffer, you are going to expand your focus.  If opportunities open up for positions a level or two above yours –which require experience in another department, say– don’t automatically write it off.  Remember:  You can learn the ropes.

Goodbye, Comfort Zone.  Hello, Support Team

Have you spotted an opening or promotion on the bulletin board which you’d love to go for?   Apply, and immerse yourself in the subject.  Surf the web; read books and newspapers; talk to those who are doing the job now.

For instance, if you work in accounting; there’s an opening in the production department, and you are interested in doing that type of work, drop by the department and chat a few people up.

Speak to the supervisor as soon as she or he has a few moments free. Inquire as to the skill sets which would be required.

Keep in mind that people in decision-making levels do, at some point in their careers, learn on the job.

The front lines are a great teacher!  If you’re willing to roll up your shirtsleeves and work hard, find a mentor and buckle down to a few arduous months.

Take the risk. Explore new horizons. Everyone else who is where you want to be was, at one time or another, in their comfort zone.  They made the leap.  You can, too.

If you opt to take that challenging route, you’ll be breaking out of your shell and so, yes, it’ll feel uncomfortable for a while.  You may be tempted to question your decision.

Hang in there and know that it gets easier.   Seek out your mentor whenever you need to be shored up. He or she will paint the big picture for you again – and you’ll be thankful you took the initiative to make the move you did.

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