We now have two full-time jobs: getting our day-to-day jobs done while simultaneously managing our careers.
After coaching dozens of high-achievers on career planning, getting promoted and personal branding, the most common question I usually get is: how do I build a successful career? It’s a tough question to answer. After all, we have different motivations, leadership styles, and ultimately, ideas of what success looks like.
However, I will share you 9 tips that you can use to take your career to the next level. In some instances you might be doing some of these things already; however, done together you may experience a faster growth in your career.
Find your Career Crystal Ball: It’s hard to build a successful career until you at least have an idea of where you want to go. This does not necessarily mean that you need to have all the details completely down, but for a few years you should have some vision about the type of impact you want to make, who you want to work with, potential responsibilities you’d like to take on and even where you want your market value to be at certain points. Unfortunately, we tend to default to reactive as opposed to proactive mode when it comes to managing our careers.
Go into career “wilderness” regularly: It’s worth taking time off regularly to reflect on your career. I typically have my clients do this twice by year - at the start of the year and somewhere in the long run.
Work with a coach: There is a misperception that coaches - executive, career, leadership and the likes - only work with people who are underperforming. However, coaches bring value to everyone at all levels. Coaches bring out the best in you by helping you to identify and control your blind spots, setting goals and taking steps to accomplishing your wildest career dreams faster, and empowering you to get to the peak of your performance. Those who rise to the top pretty quickly usually work with coaches, and when they are at the top they continue to work with coaches.
Secure a “Guardian Angel” for your career: Having a senior-level champion who is batting for you will help to fast-track your career. This is someone relatively high-up in the organization who genuinely believes in your potential. He is willing to put his hat in the ring for you, will pull you in on high-profile projects and is not afraid to advocate for you as you pursue that next raise or promotion. Read this HBR article on how to find a sponsor for your career.
Become savvy at internal politics: When many of us think about politics at work we tend to turn our noses. Going through this dynamic does not appeal to us. However, you are much more likely to fast track your career and get on the projects you want, when you are able to lead in the face of politics. Bonnie Marcus - an executive coach and author of the Politics of Promotion - makes a brilliant case in her book on how those who get to the top and stay there are very savvy at internal politics.
It’s simply understanding the internal pulse of your company: getting familiar with how promotions are really made in your company, observing who holds the power over making these decisions, and who influences those power holders. Once you are clear on those three things, then it makes it easier for you to build and nurture key relationships and avoid potentially disastrous “blindsides”.
Have meaningful conversations: Relationships are built one conversation at a time. There is value in having continuous conversations, even after you’ve landed your dream job; because these conversations open doors to future opportunities. What is important here is not quantity but quality conversations. Take time out regularly to catch up with former colleagues, clients, old bosses, peers, mentors, and those whom you genuinely want to stay in touch with.
Build a “Board of Advisors”: We all have uncertainties and moments where we could use multiple perspectives before we make a decision. It might be useful to cultivate relationships with key professionals who are senior to you, to lean on for advice and regular feedback on the decisions you are making in your career.
Whether we recognize it or not the face of career management is changing. To get ahead and stay ahead in our careers we have to treat it as a full-time job in itself. Keeping on top of this will lead to faster promotions, more fulfilling projects, better salary offers, and overall faster career advancement.