You know you are smart. You come up with ideas at meetings, you have created efficiencies in your own work, and you find ways to get along with co-workers – even the miserable ones – so how come someone else gets the praise, the raise, and even the promotion?
It could be that you aren’t being smart about your career management! To manage your career you must think strategically.
The word “strategy” is defined as “the art of planning and directing overall military operations and movements in a war or battle.” I used the battle-related definition, as strategy is tactical; it’s all about a plan of action that will achieve a goal.
Let’s say you’d like to step into a team lead, supervisor, or management position? Can you get there just by doing a good job? Not so likely. I did that once and saw a more junior person, who had applied strategy, land a plum newly created customer service position that I would have loved!
You must evaluate, determine action, and capitalize on opportunities. For example, conduct research on the current departmental issues, volunteer for a team project, speak up at meetings, and network with your company’s movers and doers. Let influential players know you are looking to move up and ask them for suggestions on how to increase your productivity, your input, and your value.
Don’t wait to be asked for ideas; rather, proactively, and strategically, share these. Develop a business case or research a report, but share simultaneously with a few people, not just one. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t trust your boss, but I am saying to be smart about career management.
Here are a few ideas for coming up with winning ways at work!
Read and Research
Be prepared to speak up at the next meeting with confidence and influence. Get smart on relevant and timely topics to stand out as someone to pay attention to.
Step Out of Your Office
Find people to talk to about your aspirations. Heck, go bend the CAO’s ear – this can lead to suggestions for a mentor, for additional training, or even a meeting with your manager to create a plan to get you onto the corporate succession planning strategy
Take a Course
Take a course that will stimulate that “out-of-the-box” thinking that we hear about. Courses like critical thinking, problem solving, art, or poetry – any kind of brain activity! Creativity at work is critical to future business. Stagnant businesses fail and only those that recreate themselves grow stronger over time. Not into courses? Learn to play chess or pick up a Mensa brain teaser book. The point is to use your brain in a new way, to program new patterns of thinking.
Pretend Perfect is Achievable
Rather than think in terms of incremental improvements, paint a picture of perfection. Now, what steps would you have to take in order to get there? This exercise will identify many ideas for improving, and that skill is fundamental to career management. Most jobs have problems to solve, and those problems revolve around improving one thing or another.
Evaluate What Worked and What Did Not
Perhaps each month (our memories fade), ask yourself what worked well and what could have worked better. Over time you may identify a skill that is missing, giving you an idea for self-study or a new course to take.
I, as a resume writer, improve resumes. How would I develop a perfect resume? What questions would I have to ask of clients to get the rich and layered information that I like to work with?
What if, as a salesperson, you could envision a perfect day? What would make it so and how could you achieve that? Or as a teacher, what does your perfect day look like, sound like, feel like? What steps would get you to that day?
This exercise is not easy as we are taught that perfection is not possible. And I’m not suggesting your goal should be perfection. But I am suggesting that beginning with a vision of perfection will provide you with many, many ideas for improvements.
Lots of people are smart at work. But to step up the career ladder, you must add strategy to your workplace toolkit!