By: Rachel Zupek
Vince Thompson was willing to do whatever it took to make his company successful. He shifted from sales management to leading sales training when the need was there, and when the company asked him to run its Southwest territory, he relocated for the position.
“The knowledge I needed to change positions did not come from my predecessors or even bosses,” Thompson says. “It came from mentors and colleagues within the company that were vested in my success and willing to teach more and provide honest feedback.”
It’s no good to sit still in any area of your life — work is no exception. Thompson, author of “Ignited: Managers! Light Up Your Company and Career for More Power, More Purpose and More Success,” says we should all try to live up to our potential as contributors and to do that, we have to aim to get ahead at some point.
“What’s important to recognize is where your passions and strength lie and then to spend your time advancing them. Blindly following the upward path has lead some to find great dissatisfaction,” Thompson says.
Even though you know you want to get ahead, situations arise that can sometimes prevent you from getting there. People get comfortable and stop trying, or they think that trying won’t make a difference, says Deborah Brown-Volkman, president of Surpass Your Dreams, Inc., a New-York based career and mentor coaching company.
Individuals may also assume their employer would rather hire someone externally with prior experience, says Kim Hahn, founder and chief executive officer of Florida-based multimedia company Intellectual Capital Productions, Inc.
“There are lots of reasons why it’s preferable to train a current employee in a new role rather than take a chance on a stranger,” Hahn says. “It takes time and money to recruit and train a new employee, and even once that’s accomplished, there’s no guarantee that the new employee will be able to fit in with the style and culture of the corporation.”
You’re dying for more respect and recognition for your work, and you’d love to tackle bigger challenges, learn new skills and contribute more to your company. Don’t sit back and wait for an opportunity to present itself. Your chance for change may be under your nose.
So, think you’re ready to move up in the ranks? Here are 10 ways to get ahead with ease.
1. Identify your area of interest.
Hahn suggests making a list of your talents and interests and applying the list to the kinds of work you want to perform in your new job. If you’re not sure, contact your human resource department — most have tests that can help you identify what’s most satisfying to you.
2. Communicate your desires.
Managers aren’t mind-readers, so be explicit with your aspirations to move up, says Lisa Kojis, managing partner for staffing firm Princeton One. “Share your aspirations with your manager or superiors in the company, especially during review times so that management can help establish goals and benchmark for determining when is the right time to promote you.” But…
3. Don’t ask too soon.
“You need to be a proven commodity at the job you were hired to do first,” Kojis says. “Take on additional responsibilities if you can, without being asked and without receiving additional compensation for it.”
4. Be a team player.
Thompson suggests understanding the roles of the others on your team as much as possible. Kojis agrees, saying that you should explore other divisions in your parent company. “Be open to relocation for the next opportunity,” she explains, “If your company is too bulky, go elsewhere or figure out what you will need to stand out.”
Make a list of all the people you count on for success and make sure they believe in your ability to contribute, Thompson says. “If your teammates are rooting for you, that’ll mean a lot,” he says. “Start by building or restoring trust and then focus on ways that you can deliver them value.”
6. Seek out a mentor.
You can learn a lot from people who have mastered the career you aspire to, Hahn says. “Most successful people love to share their secrets for success and are willing to give advice, make introductions and assist an up-and-comer in the organization.”
7. Develop additional skills.
Take inventory of what you can bring to the table and what new tools you’ll need to acquire, Hahn says. You may need to take some in-house classes or get your master’s degree.
8. Don’t let money motivate you.
Too often we judge things based solely on money and responsibility, Thompson says. “Think about how moving up enhances your skill set, makes you more valuable and affects your family and personal life,” he says.
9. Ask for feedback.
Know how your work is being evaluated and get your goals and evaluations in writing, Kojis says.
10. Do it again!
Remember that this career change need not be your last, Hahn says. “Life is like a menu and you should sample many choices.”