Admit it … you’re angry.
You’ve worked long hours, taken on extra assignments and attended office parties. Your boss said he or she liked your work, even hinted at an imminent promotion. But when the time came, the prize went to your coworker.
High fives, pats on the back and congratulatory emails fly around your office. You keep a stiff upper lip and even offer your congratulations. Inside you’re seething. The promotion should have been yours.
And you ask yourself, why are they better than me?
Or has my boss just been pacifying me so I would work harder and sacrifice my personal life?
You pack up your laptop and pass your colleagues on their way to get a celebratory drink. It feels like you are the out part of the in crowd. As you lay awake at night, you worry that your career has gone stagnant.
You think the answer may be to find a new job. Certainly, a new company will recognize your efforts and reward you with amazing career options. Maybe not.
The truth is that hard work alone won’t get you to the next level. It’s just the beginning. What actually might get you there faster is a well-thought out game plan. And it’s easier to execute than you think.
1. Be Clear
Before you apply for a job or ask for a promotion, make sure you are pursuing a job that’s right for you. The last thing you want to do is to get your dream job only to find out it’s the wrong one.
Reach out to someone a level above the job that interests you and ask to learn more about the business area and prospective role. Most people will be flattered that you asked for their advice and will give you the time.
Whether the discussion is in person or on the phone, be professional in your tone and appearance, and come prepared with good questions.
Follow up the discussion with a thank you email that references specific insights gained from the conversation.
2. Say It and Say It Again
You know what you want. In fact, you have a list of everything you want in a career. The problem is that the paper isn’t worth what it’s printed on if you don’t tell anyone, particularly your boss, more than once a year.
Today’s fast-paced business world has produced leaders with good intentions but with limited attention spans. By the time you’ve left their office, your career goals are forgotten. So it’s important to spot the moments when you can reiterate your desires.
Corporate website articles, external blogs, meetings and even hallway conversations are easy ways to attach your career aspirations to natural business events.
When you find something that applies to a career area that interests you, send an email or have a hallway conversation with your boss and say something like this. “Ran across something that made me think (insert career goal) … Thought it might apply to (insert project or business area) … Do you a have a few minutes?”
3. Birds of a Feather
Ever wonder why your boss seems to like some people more than others? Contrary to what you might think, it is often not about shared interests, but how well others create a bond or connection.
It’s the same feeling when two people reach for the same doughnut simultaneously or when someone brings you coffee that’s made exactly how you like it.
It doesn’t require a personality change on your part. It simply requires that you communicate your thoughts and ideas in a way that is similar to their style. Using their mannerisms, tone and inflection will go a long way to getting your point across.
4. Rock Star Moves
At some point in your career, you’ve probably taken a personality test that plots your strengths and weaknesses against common leadership styles. Assessments point out obvious points and some blind spots but rarely do they provide actionable ideas related to your job.
The best guides are the rock star leaders who seem to have the wow factor that attracts intense positive attention, influences others and drives results. Watch them in action and pay special attention to their appearance, mannerism, tone and speech pattern. Notice how others react to them and emulate what works.
5. Got That Something
Everyone has something that is unique that sets them apart from others. Rather than focusing on your development points, exploit your strengths. Seize projects where your special skills will shine above others.
Indulge in a little self-promotion campaign, slipping subtle sound bites about the special you into meetings, emails and hallway encounters. When people hear things repeatedly, they state them as fact.
Companies are always looking for ways showcase their employees through their work and charitable contributions within the community. It’s another way to advertise to prospective customers and employees.
Send your boss, human resources and corporate communications information about your special projects, awards or your work with charitable organizations that might make an interesting article.
Now imagine, it’s six months later and the promotion cycle is here again, but this time it’s your turn. You’re the new leader that everyone wants to follow and emulate, all because you did the work, but more importantly you took the risk.
Sound impossible? It’s not.
You’ve done the work.
And I’ll let you in on a secret. When all else fails, fake it until you make it.
Great article, Nanette. Spot on!
playing on your strengths and having a good vibe with the boss are soo critical,
I actually feel that those are the key things because it requires results which are most likely to be achieved through strength and a human decision which is emotional no matter how much we deny.
Thanks for adding that idea to the post. Vibe really does matter!
Definitely need to understand what are “good” moves as opposed to something that looks good on paper, but may be a dog of a job. Asking people who work with the roles is a great idea … get a realistic preview and make sure you really WANT the JOB not the TITLE.
Self-promoting is good to a point … just don’t go overboard. Repetitive reminders can become bothersome to the leader, who then may think you lack patience or perspective. So always give it a new twist.
Thanks for your input about particularly on the job and title. It’s a great addition.
Good tips! I just finished an interview and gave myself a pat on the back for at leasts completing step 1! I also very much agree with focusing on what makes you unique. I think far too often people get caught up in competing to get a task or project completed well, and forget to show their personal style in their work.
Wish when I was starting out, that I had that advise to follow. I am now in my 70’s and had to struggle with my career.
Excellent article. In one of the companies i worked for, all managers are supposed to discover their strengths (talent is the word Gallup Company uses) by taking a survey designed by Gallup Company (Read the book “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham, Donald O. Clifton, for information on this questionnaire. Once the strengths are identified, mangers can decide how to their strengths to work by following the the six-step, six-week plan detailed by Marcus Buckingham in his book “Go Put Your Strengths to work”.
Thanks for commenting. I will look up the book, but I am curious what you thought about it.
Hi Nanette, …this is a great article and I loved the way you have put it. One of my strong beliefs over the years has been that in addition to choosing the right job that meets your strengths – it is equally important to “choose the right boss” to work for…
That is very true. Thank you for the feedback and input.