We have all taken different paths in our careers. Some choose to graduate before applying for their first position, others will, from choice or necessity, look to work up from more junior roles. This is often true for those who had other commitments earlier on in life. If you had a family member (a younger sibling or an elderly or infirm parent) whose care took predominance over your education. Alternatively, you may not have been able to live with the prospect of so much student debt (some students are graduating $132,000 in the red) and had no other way to fund your university education.
Why has it taken so long to find your ideal role?
Like so many others, you may have spent years in jobs you merely tolerated and have only found your ‘perfect fit’ more recently, and now want to progress as far as you can. You might even have found that the industry you now have the opportunity to excel in simply did not exist when you were in your late teens and early twenties.
However you got here, you’ve now got some pretty firm ideas about your career path. So, the next thing to do is to walk it. It may look like quite a long journey, and I’m sure you’ve read somewhere that a long journey starts with a single step. That may be very motivational, but in reality, what all successful journeys start with is an awful lot of careful preparation.
Stage One – Preparation
#1 You need to make your step-by-step career plan.
You will have no doubt read reports of the study made at Harvard where the 3% of students who wrote down their goals did better than the other 97% combined. Whilst it has been quoted to the point of cliché, it does show the value of putting things down on paper. (After all, many things become clichés because they are true).
Your initial task here is to write down your eventual goal, the absolute extent of your ambition. For instance, to become a branch manager, a managing partner in the firm, or to head your own department. However, to turn this from merely some sort of ‘wish list’ into a probability, the next thing you need to do is to write down all of the steps you need to take to get there. This may take some time and research, but this is a key step and not one you should skip past.
That means listing every single promotion and every job you need to do on the way (whether it be at your present company or if you have to pursue your career at another one). You’ll be putting down exactly the skills, education, and characteristics you need to get yourself there.
While you’re in this heat of all this enthusiasm, though, don’t let yourself get carried away. You need to be realistic here, too. If you want to be the CEO, but the CEO’s job is going to the CEO’s son and you aren’t him, then you need to aim elsewhere.
#2 Take a full and honest audit of your current skills and learning.
You need to be fully aware of the point from which you’re starting on this journey, and that includes taking inventory of the assets you already have, and everything you’ve already done to help you on your way. You need to note down every bit of training you’ve ever received, which probably won’t be easy.
It’s easy to forget some, or even most, of the training you’ve had over the years, and that’s because some of it was very forgettable. After all, you probably don’t see that rainy Tuesday afternoon watching a ‘death by PowerPoint’ presentation on empowerment being something you want to make a big deal about on your resume or CV.
While that’s certainly true, you need to document them all, note them down (even if they don’t make it onto your CV), as they will come in useful for meetings and appraisals down the line.
#3 Collect all positive feedback from managers and colleagues.
This one might seem a bit odd, but this slightly left-field part of the plan can bear quite a lot of fruit. Or to put it another way, if you were a company and a customer gave you glowing feedback, you’d snap it up in an instant and put it with the rest of your testimonials on the front page of your website for all to see. So, why would you not do that for yourself? If you’ve had any emails praising your valid contribution for outstanding performance in a project, copy it out and put it on file. The same goes for any previous job assessments and appraisals that you were pleased with.
If they say good things about you, you can file them and use them as a tool on the way to promotion.
#4 Identify any self-sabotaging habits you may have and work on them.
This may not be the most popular part of the process, but it is absolutely essential. As you’ve made a very detailed account of everything you’ve got working for you, you also need to make a list of all the things you do to work against yourself.
The list will be different for everybody, but the key here is to be honest with yourself, but at the same time not beat yourself up. Once you’ve identified what these self-sabotaging habits are, the next thing is to do something about them.
After all, there is no point in putting all of this work in if you’re then going to do something that makes it all blow up in your face.
Stage Two – Start walking the path to your promotion
#1 Adopt good habits
Just like the rest of the steps in this stage, this will be a gradual process. So, you can’t just get all fired up and go at it like it’s a New Year’s Resolution –after all, we know what happens to those. Simple things like concentrating on getting the right amount of sleep, cutting back on the late nights out and the later nights in, can make a lot of difference over time.
Look at your behavior generally, and hold it up against those who already hold the first position you aspire to. If there’s work you need to do, go and do it, but if not, you are probably ready for the next step.
#2 Work on your education
As it has already been established, the biggest step you missed out on was the one in the classroom. Holding down a full-time job and going to university is a very delicate balance so you’ll need a school that understands the situation.
The obvious and most logical step is that if you can’t go to the university, then the university should come to you. Online courses are available that cover a range of subjects.
So say, for instance, you want to follow in the footsteps of the goal-setting students mentioned earlier and choose an MBA program. That would be the most sensible choice as it’s one of the most sought after qualifications by employers and an online course is much easier to balance with your life commitments. A sought after program like the one at Suffolk University includes accounting principles, finance, and business intelligence – click here to find out more.
#3 Become a driving force in your current role
Obviously, getting something like an MBA won’t happen overnight, but your career ambitions don’t have to be put on hold while you’re busy getting letters after your name. There are many things you can do to raise your profile in whatever role you have at the moment.
This is literally your chance to ‘walk the walk’ and show that you are capable of handling the extra work and responsibility that typically comes with a promotion. Become the ‘heartbeat’ of your team, own projects from start to finish, and basically show them you’ve got what it takes.
As more of the boxes in this little to-do list are checked, as your education improves and your boss is really getting to know exactly who you are – it’s time to take the most difficult step of the entire journey.
#4 Ask for your promotion
This is where so many flounder. They may have everything they need to succeed, but just simply have not asked for a promotion, and it’s so important that you do. In fact, the chances are that your boss is actually waiting for you to knock on his door and ask, but if you never do, they’ll just assume you’re happy where you are… and let you stay there.
So many jobs end in bitterness because an employee has worked all the overtime and taken on the extra responsibility. But, they then become more and more disillusioned because they are not offered advancement when all they had to do was ask.
Asking also settles a thing or two. It lets you know your chances of promotion in that particular company. If you ask, and you get raised eyebrows or a shake of the head, then maybe you’d be better off pursuing your ambitions elsewhere.