Published by The Nashville Business Journal
A wise friend once said, “You will get that promotion long after you think you should have gotten it and when you least expect it.”
In business, all we can do is to be as prepared as possible for what may come our way.
Preparation is fundamental to career success. No matter where you are today, always be preparing yourself for the next step in your career. Even if you don’t exactly know what that step is, do everything in your power to get ready. Here’s how:
Build a personal niche. Businesses are continually searching for that differentiated niche in the market that will yield competitive advantage. You can follow that same path by carving out a niche for yourself. Become an authority on a topic in your organization. Become so knowledgeable that you are considered the “go-to person” on a least one subject. Go-to people are both respected and admired.
Volunteer. Volunteer for special assignments, particularly on new projects or when the challenges will be the toughest. Embrace change and be a positive champion of it in your organization. Being open to change and volunteering gives you new and different experiences and often opens the door for career growth. And when times are tough, your boss will not forget those who helped and embraced change.
Live like a leader. As a professional and a leader, everything you do and say is likely being observed. You are always “on stage.” One of my mentors coached me to dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Start by benchmarking your personal appearance against the most respected leaders in your organization. And remember to smile, be a good conversationalist and consistently act like the consummate professional, because you never know who’s watching.
Recognize performance. Be a positive influence on others. Sincere recognition is the number one motivator, so don’t be shy about congratulating others with a simple pat on the back or a nice note. You don’t have to be the boss to hand out accolades; often a positive word from a peer can mean as a much or more than the same words from a boss. Try it. You will feel good, and those you recognize will develop a new-found respect for you.
Associate with winners. Get to know the “movers and the shakers,” particularly those in more senior roles in your organization. Also, start to associate with your competitive peers inside and outside your company. Participate in professional groups and trade organizations to broaden your contacts and your knowledge. Make a point to have lunch with a different person every day. Making winning associations can advance your career in more ways than you can count.
Become a communications pro. Effective writing is a basic building block of success—and practice is the key to improvement. If your writing skills could use some polishing, find a friend who can critique and coach your writing. Also, practice your conversational skills and be prepared to ask good questions and then listen—very carefully—to what others are saying. And as scary as it may be, speak in front of groups at every opportunity. Public speaking also gets better with practice. You can influence your career more through effective communications skills than in any other way.