Are you feeling stuck in your career? Have you been passed by for promotion or just trying to see the roads of opportunity ahead? We have all felt this way at some time or other in our career.
People are often led to believe that promotions come:
- to those who are lucky (just happened to be in the right place at the right time);
- to those who manage-up well (become their boss’s favorite);
- as part of the job (entitlement).
The truth is – none of these work in the corporate world.
Swimmer Michael Phelps is arguably the great American Olympian and one of the greatest competitors of all time. In the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, Phelps won eight gold medals to break the record for the most ever captured in a single Olympiad and became the most decorated Olympian in history.
During his seventh race, the 100 meter butterfly, Phelps trailed for most of the race. In the last fraction of a second, Phelps thrust his arms into one last mighty stroke. Meanwhile his Serbian competitor coasted the final few inches. Phelps tapped the wall first, beating his competitor by one-hundredth of a second.
Most of us won’t experience such a heart-pounding dramatic moment in our lifetimes, but we do have significant situations in our life that propel our personal and professional career forward. What’s interesting is we may not recognize when those significant moments occur until much later.
This has been true for me especially in the area of promotions. My promotions in corporate America have never followed a conventional career path. They’ve been a collection of significant but unrecognizable moments that thrust me toward new opportunities.
One promotion came my way when I had to stand up to a client who was pushing unethical practices onto my employee and our company. This client was a large account for our company, and when I told my boss about the situation, he said, “If you upset the client in any way, you’ll be out of a job.” The client flew in to put pressure on me, but during the meeting, I was able to influence the customer to do the right thing, and, yes, I kept my job. What I didn’t know was that the the husband of the employee I stood up for was well regarded in our global company. When he heard what I had done, he asked me to apply for a job in his department. Long story short, I got the job and a promotion in one of the premiere areas of our company.
Life is full of moments that require us to stretch, get uncomfortable, be sometimes fearful – but they move us on to the next level of our personal growth.
Over the years, I have found that promotions come due to three key principles. They are principles that are often ignored, yet they prepare for you for a promotion each and every day. Don’t make these three mistakes:
1. Not building a network of colleagues that support your career. We all know that building relationships is key in any endeavor, whether it’s your career, looking for one, or getting through the rough periods in life. By building a network, you’ll find support and encouragement when you need it the most. Promotions come from nudges from a network of mentors, sponsors, and peers who know what you’re capable of and have an invested interest in you. I also like to reciprocate the same for them.
2. Being unconscious of your reputation. You remember the saying, “Do the right thing even when no one is watching.” I’m a firm believer in that statement because it’s about integrity – to always be above board in all interactions, tasks, and deliverables – no matter with who, where, what, or when. I’ve always managed my reputation by doing the right thing and following professional principles.
I once had an employee who asked me to give him career advice. He had interviewed for numerous internal positions in the company and wasn’t getting second interviews. I was his new boss, less than 20 days on the job. I said, “Do you really want to know what’s holding you back from a second interview?” He answered, “Yes. I know something is holding me back but no one will tell me what that is.” The fact was – he was our lead engineer in the call center nights and weekends so management trusted him to do the right things when they were away. Word on the floor was he often stepped away from the call center, took excessive breaks outside the building, and was not available to the other engineers for tech support. I was his new manager and I had even heard this about him. He thought no one was paying attention. The truth is everyone pays attention! Each and every day we take in information about one another, right or wrong, good or bad, these observations develop a perception about you.
This is when I first coined the phrase you interview every day. Often employees think a great interview is all it takes to land the next promotion. Don’t be fooled. Your reputation precedes you – if not by word of mouth and observation, then by good hiring managers and recruiters who can spot these gaps in a minute. People are intuitive about one another. They can sense when someone is not being truthful about their performance and not being truthful for how they work with others. Your reputation is your brand; be known for getting things done and working well with others.
3. Lack of building your perseverance and agility to learn. Agility is a fairly new buzz word in business, but it’s been a principle of mine for many years. Agility is being able to solve various and numerous business problems because you have built the knowledge as well as the network for getting things done. Build knowledge that runs broad and deep by adding skills to your portfolio on your subject matter and complimentary practicums. It’s not always easy and it takes time but you’re increasing your contribution and value. These additional skills will enable you to be qualified and considered for more roles and opportunities.
Perseverance; I relate this to having a long-term vision for your career that will help you get through the rough patches. When you have a strong sense of self and a meaningful purpose for your career, your values and principles are aligned with your work. Another way of persevering is to say to yourself quitting isn’t an option. You’ve put too much time and effort into your career so don’t give up on getting that promotion. Like Michael Phelps – his perseverance showed up in the final seconds of that 7th race – that one final boost catapulted him into becoming an all time world record breaker! So don’t quit – it’s a choice that can bring you closest to your dream.
Take these mistakes and turn them into principles: 1) build a network that supports you, 2) build a solid reputation, and 3) build perseverance and agility. These principles worked for me and they will work for you! The key word is prepare because success truly happens when preparedness meets opportunity.
Here’s to your success!
Which of these mistakes can you turn into a principle? Choose one to start and finish strong! Tweet me and share your story: https://twitter.com/findyouraim.