take charge of your career progression

by | Jan 8, 2015 | Leadership

You want to do the best you can in your career. You want to keep on progressing so that you can make a difference, and earn a decent living. Yet a fog has descended between where you are and where you want to go. Nobody seems to be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to reach the next level.

When you’ve had a conversation with your manager about it, the response is along the lines of, “You’re on the right track – just keep doing what you’re doing”. But what does this mean? You’re none the wiser and it’s leaving you frustrated and despondent.

You may even be thinking of voting with your feet and finding an organisation that gives you the title you believe you deserve.

Are you climbing up the right ladder?

Before we get into ideas for clearing the fog, I just want to check : are you climbing up the right ladder? Are you absolutely sure that you want to stay in the organisation and continue on your current career track?

I remember leaving a blue chip a few years back where I had become attached to reaching the next level. When I got honest about what I really wanted, it wasn’t the company I was working for or the career options I could have there. Soon after I left, the promotion I had been focussing on became irrelevant.

It’s easy to get caught up in an institutional bubble and forget there is another world out there. Be honest with yourself about what you want and why.

Getting some answers

If you’re sure you want to make the leap to the next level, here are some thoughts to help you get clarity.

  • Ask the right questions. I constantly hear my clients report back on the vagueness of their managers when it comes to giving pointers about what they need to do to progress. The classic is, “You need to flex your style.” What does that mean?!Ask the right questions until you get the answers you need. “What specifically do I need to do to be ready for the next level?” Keep probing until you get actionable answers.

    For example, “So what exactly do you mean by ‘flexing my style’? In what situations/with whom is this relevant? What do I need to be doing/saying differently?”

  • Do your own research. 360 feedback is often an integral part of performance reviews. However, again the quality and specificity of feedback can vary.Who can you approach for feedback on how you are perceived by others? How you can you find out what you can do less of, more of or differently to enhance your impact? It is likely to be a mix of your management, peers and team members.

    Keep probing until you get specific – and honest – answers.

  • Do the decision-makers know who you are? Decision-making about who makes promotion and when is often shrouded in mystery. Unfortunately, meeting – or even exceeding – expectations is rarely enough.The people who have the power to influence the decisions about who goes up and who stays down need to know who you are.

    Find out who the movers and shakers are when it comes to the decision about your promotion. How well do they know you? Make sure you and your work are visible to them.

And finally…

I recently canvassed feedback for one of my clients from her organisation’s leadership about her readiness for promotion to a particular role within the next 12 months. They were effusive about her qualities but the answer was that she needed more “miles on the clock”. Sure, there were areas where she could develop and mature as a leader, but they believed much of that would come from experience and time.

Do you just need more miles on the clock? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Alison Reid helps smart people unleash their brilliance so they can lead themselves and others to great results. She's the author of "Unleash Your Leadership : How to Worry Less and Achieve More". Download an extract or buy the book.