Step Up to Advance Your Career

Want to move up the corporate ladder?  If yes, then you’ll need to step up.  

Moving up the chain of command within your current company is one of the hardest things to do.  The reason is because senior managers already see you in your current role, performing your day-to-day responsibilities.  They do not physically “see” you in that higher level role, successfully managing those higher-level, higher risk programs and departments.  And no, it’s not a given that if you’re successful in your current position that you’ll be successful at a higher level position.

So how do you prove that you can do the job before you get the job?    

  1. First, you’ll need to role model those skills required in that advanced position.
    Talk to other department and senior managers to find out what kinds of skills, training and qualifications are needed for the advanced position.  For example, if you want to move from Account Manager to Sr. Account Manager, then you may find out the position requires someone with a proven track record in managing client expectations and leading teams.  Or, if you want to transition from a Sales Manager to the VP of Sales & Marketing, the company may need a strategic thinker who can generate revenue and influence senior management. If you feel that you have the right skills and qualifications to be successful in the new role, then take an assessment of your current projects and teams that you’re leading.  Are they allowing you to gain credibility with senior managers?  Are they allowing you to get the “big results” that you need to get noticed?

    If not, then you’ll need to step up and volunteer for projects that do.  Usually, these are projects that generate revenue, streamline costs, or give the company a competitive edge in the market.  Be proactive and go after those projects that are valued by company leaders where you can flex your muscles, showcase your strengths, and demonstrate that you’re the right person for the job. 

  2. Next, you’ll need to increase your visibility and credibility with Sr. Leaders. 
    You want to be seen by those managers, or career influencers who could praise your work to other senior managers, promote you, or influence others to promote you. Send a crystal clear message that you have the right skills and experience for that higher level position.  Seek out opportunities to promote your project teams, key successes, and the benefits that your projects are bringing to the company in your status updates, project reports, and presentations to staff and senior managers.  Also, increase your visibility by writing an article for the company newsletter, hosting a webinar, speaking at an internal conference or forum, or hosting a workshop.  

My client Kevin stepped up and volunteered for a highly valued and highly visible project, and two weeks later the project leader transferred to a different project.  Kevin stepped up again to take on the role of project leader which gave him tremendous opportunities for increased exposure and communication to senior leaders. 

One month later, Kevin stepped up again to support two additional high profile projects.  Not only did he receive a promotion, but he is also feeling more satisfied, more energized, and more respected in his career than ever before. 

I’ve personally stepped up in my own career several times with remarkable success.  Once, when the department I was working in shut down the marketing line of service along with two projects I was leading, my manager asked me if I wanted to lead a high profile technical project.  At the time, I didn’t have any experience in technical leadership.  I remember being terrified, but I knew the reward could be huge.  So I stepped up and within one year I received a promotion as well as a 22-percent increase in salary.

Successful professionals are always seeking out opportunities to step up and take on higher-level responsibilities that are valued by company leaders. Yes, there is risk involved, but if you don’t step up and prove yourself, then ten years from now you’re likely to be in the same job role with the same responsibilities and the same salary that you have today.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that if this is where you want to be.  But, if you want more responsibility, more leadership opportunities and a beefier paycheck – you’ll need to take the first step.

Taking More Control Over Your Career

It’s easy to think sometimes that successful professionals are lucky.  But the fact is they encounter as many obstacles and roadblocks as anyone else. 

So how do they keep ahead of the pack and constantly get pay raises, promotions, and the best opportunities?  Because they are what I call “career smart“. They make choices, decisions, and take risks every day with the purpose of advancing their career.

Being career smart is NOT about accepting whatever job is handed to you, but instead it’s about finding opportunities inside that job, or elsewhere, that allow you to create a career that inspires you. 

Below are three strategies to help you be career smart and achieve a career that fills you with purpose, meaning, and passion!  


1.  Get into a career where you can thrive (not just survive!)

It’s impossible to thrive in a career if you’re just going through the motions at work.  If you’re walking around dull and listless (like the Clairol Herbal Essence girl before she shampoos her hair), then others are sure to see you that way.  You need to be in a career that challenges you, flexes your professional muscles, and excites you!
Think about what kind of work you WANT to be doing.  Identify three key ingredients you need in your career to be happy and fulfilled such as leading teams, working on creative projects, developing new technologies, etc.  Once you’ve defined the three key ingredients, then do whatever it takes to drive your career towards that vision. 

2.  Send the “right” messages.

Everything you do and say sends messages to your senior managers, clients, networking contacts and potential employers. Your words, actions, presentations, status reports, resume, and interview responses all shape the perceptions others have about you.

Send a crystal clear message that focuses on the value that you consistently deliver to a company or client. Your “value” is a unique blend of your strengths, professional accomplishments, and personal characteristics such as being a good leader, risk taker, problem solver, strategic thinker, etc.  All of these things combined make up your “value package” which makes you truly unique from a crowd of colleagues, business associates, and even job applicants.

The key is to role model the “value” that you provide by consistently demonstrating it, living it and breathing it.

3.  Be open to possibilities.

I love the funny saying, “If you want to make God laugh – tell him your plans.”  🙂 

One of the biggest mistakes I ALMOST made was declining the privilege of serving on the American Marketing Association’s National Council.  I naively was only looking at it as another volunteer opportunity that cut into my professional and personal life.  Fortunately, a mentor helped me see the bigger picture which was a tremendous gift that could strengthen my leadership skills, deepen my marketing expertise, broaden my professional network, and advance my career ten fold.  (After accepting the position and serving just one year, I was named President of the AMA’s National Council which advanced my career up to a completely new level.)

Be assertive, and aggressively seek out new career opportunities.  Give serious consideration to each and every possibility that comes your way. Never decline an opportunity without getting a fresh perspective from people in your circle whom you respect.  Whether you’re considering a new job, or a new assignment in your current organization, answer the questions, “What could be the best possible benefit?”  “Could this help me learn a new skill or strengthen a current skill?”  “Could this be a stepping stone to help me achieve my ultimate career goal?” 

Successful professionals aren’t lucky.  They are career smart.  They make choices, decisions, and take risks every day with the purpose of advancing their career.  So step up, branch out, and start being receptive to new possibilities.  There are always opportunities around you.  You just have to go after them! 

Your Assignment…

Become career smart!

Determine what kind of career you WANT.  Identify three key ingredients you need in your career to be happy and fulfilled such as leading teams, working on creative projects, developing new technologies, etc.

Then, start talking to managers, mentors, clients, and potential employers about the kind of responsibilities that you want.  By talking about the career you want, you’ll be much more likely to achieve it!

Finally, be receptive to new opportunities.  Whether it’s an opportunity for a new job, a new assignment, or even a volunteer position, ask yourself, “What could be the best possible benefit?”  “Could this help me learn a new skill or strengthen a current skill?”  “Could this be a stepping stone to help me achieve my ultimate career goal?”  When you start taking on new opportunities you’ll be one step closer to achieving a career where you can thrive – and not just survive!

How are you going to become career smart?  Share your ideas with me so I can see them and support you!! 🙂