Gone are the days when working hard was enough to earn recognition or a promotion in the career world. Take control of your career trajectory and design your unique path. In addition to mapping out your career future, be sure to tap the wisdom of those who can empower you to achieve your goals. Keeping your professional ambitions a well-kept secret will not move you forward.
Your Boss is Not Your Career Coach
Many professionals naively believe that their boss is committed to helping them advance. While this may happen with some extraordinary leaders, most bosses are focused on their career future as a top priority. In fact, they are so busy doing their job that they may not recognize your achievements and value-add to the company. Often the problematic employees get more attention than the top performers.
Instead of faulting your boss for not being a mind reader, be clear and intentional in sharing your aspirations, especially if you seek advancement or a change within the organization. Frequent and brief check-ins could change the relationship and help your boss become your advocate.
Consider working with a trusted mentor, sponsor, or career development coach to help you create an action plan you can present to your boss. Clear goals and measurable outcomes will make it easier for your boss to champion you.
Managing up is essential so your boss knows the contribution you make that positively impact the company. Don’t wait for the annual performance review. Send a brief email regularly with bullet points about what you have accomplished as well as a few stretch goals. Be clear that no response is required so this does not add to your boss’s workload. You must make your achievements known for it’s rare that great work is celebrated.
Develop Your Purple Cow
Global branding guru, Seth Godin talks about the necessity of being remarkable in his book, “Purple Cow.” The concept argues that the only way to cut through the clutter of a crowded market is to innovate something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.
Marketing is not just for products or companies. Individuals need to consider how they are seen and heard in the career space and control the message they are sending out into the world. What makes you stand out amongst a crowd of perfectly competent professionals? Knowing your super powers and showcasing them in the career world will make you indispensable and highly recruitable.
You have much more control of your life and career if you take ownership of the design process and broadcast your message
What is Being Said When You Are Not in The Room?
Co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, Sallie Krawcheck wrote a book, “Own It: The Power of Women at Work” and one of the many transformative messages I gleaned was the reality that most of the important decisions that happen in your career occur when you are not in the room. From the hiring decision to the bonus or salary increase – the powers that be discuss these matters without you in the room to self-advocate.
It’s imperative that you have managed up your value to your immediate boss as well as other influencers and stakeholders in your organization that have the power to make career altering decisions. Earn the trust and respect of ambassadors and sponsors who can promote your value and significance in the workplace to ensure that the decision makers know why you are indispensable.
Leverage Your Influence
The squeaky wheel gets the oil but the way you relay your value-add message is essential in order to be perceived as a professional with influence.
- Be Seen and Heard – go beyond your department and share your subject matter expertise and professional super powers where they can be leveraged.
- Impact Change – change is ubiquitous in every industry so be seen as a change agent for good and embrace change with positivity and an open mind.
- Provide Solutions – bring suggestions, answers, and exploratory options to the table when complicated scenarios arise. There is no room for complaints when leveraging your influence.
Take a Seat at the Table
It takes courage and conviction to be seen and heard in your workplace. Make sure your voice is heard no matter where you reside on the organizational chart in your company. From entry level to the C-Suite, the table is where you are now and you deserve to be heard. Communicate in creative ways so your ideas are known beyond your individual rung on the company ladder.
Celebrate diversity of thought and increase your visibility by having a voice in ways that distinguish you. If you are a virtual or remote worker, your digital presence is very important so don’t let out of sight be out of mind. Go the extra mile to be where you can impact change.
Own Your Power
Power is not given, it’s taken. Too many people relinquish their power and let others make the most impactful career decisions about their future. Don’t assume you know what another is thinking since the mind reader’s paradox goes both ways.
- Listen Up – walk in another’s shoes and be sensitive to their unique perspective
- Show Up – be present and engaged
- Speak Up - have a point of view and be willing to entertain diversity of thought to discover new solutions
- Brave Up – advocate for yourself and others and create a culture of trust
Design Your Career Destiny
In order to be in control of your career destiny you must be proactive. Revisit your goals and adjust them as your life and career changes. Ask for what you need from others and earn the support of sponsors who can champion your great work.
Setting yourself up to be successful requires you to be gritty, tenacious and clear about what you want and to know what you do extraordinarily well. Don’t fall prey to the myth that others know what you want in your career. Write down your intentions, share them with others, and coach those around you to do the same.
You can design your career so it doesn’t happen by default. You only have yourself to blame if you don’t take control and start designing because there are no mind readers in the career world.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life- on iTunes and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.