It’s not always easy to know how best to keep moving onwards and upwards in your career, to land those promotions, and to develop the kind of professional reputation that can carry you from strength to strength over the years.
Of course, part of the problem is that professional life is often unpredictable. It may be that the job you thought was a great fit for you, with plenty of opportunities for climbing the corporate ladder, comes to an end with little warning.
It may also be that an HR recruitment agency will reach out to you and offer you a chance at a great role which you never even considered to be a viable option.
In any event, there are certain things that you can do to help to put yourself in the best possible position with regards to your career prospects.
Here are some tips to help keep you moving up in our career come rain or shine.
Under-promise and over-deliver
It’s the fatal mistake of the over-ambitious and overly-eager-to-please new kid on the block, to promise far too much and deliver far too little.
The reality of the matter is that if your boss expects you to turn in 3 projects this week, and you promise to complete 10 instead, he or she will not have a good impression of you for failing to meet your stated target, even if you wrap up 6 projects.
It’s a quirk of human psychology that we form our impressions around how events match our expectations, and by promising too much, you cause your boss to set their expectations very high indeed.
It’s also a major red flag to most people when someone can’t stick to their word, no matter what circumstances arise. Failing to do exactly as you’ve said you would mark you out immediately as a big-mouth, a liar, unreliable, and full of hot air.
By far the better approach for establishing a healthy and useful professional reputation is to under-promise and over deliver.
Promise to turn in 3 projects this week, then turn in 4 or 5 instead. In this case, you’re not only meeting your bosses expectations; you’re exceeding them. You’re solidifying yourself in the minds of your colleagues and workplace superiors as a trustworthy hard worker, who sticks to their word, and goes above and beyond the call of duty.
People with that kind of reputation are frequently thought of when opportunities for promotion arise.
Always be looking for the next step up, no matter how settled you are in your current role
If you find yourself in a job situation which you find relatively fulfilling and positive, it can be very tempting to just switch your work life to autopilot, and stop the search for better opportunities altogether.
Needless to say, this isn’t a good idea. Even the most seemingly stable and cushy jobs can disappear with scant warning, and it’s certainly the case that you miss out on many great opportunities by ceasing to reach for higher prospects at a particular point in your career.
The cartoonist Scott Adams, creator of the famous Dilbert comics, wrote in his book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big” of an event near the beginning of his professional life in business, where he met a high-powered executive on a plane flight who gave him a priceless bit of advice:
“Your job isn’t to do your job; your job is to look for a better job.”
By constantly being on the lookout for bigger and better professional opportunities, day by day, you significantly reduce the likelihood that you’re going to miss the wave that would carry you to your dream life. You also protect yourself from the naturally fickle nature of the job market.
Finally, by constantly remaining on the lookout for better job opportunities, you’re likely to find that you feel far more energised during the average working day, and far more motivated to put in a decent performance, worthy not only of your current role, but of the more impressive role you hope soon to be occupying.
Pursue training opportunities wherever possible
Many companies will put their staff forward for various types of training, and many other avenues exist for ambitious-minded people to pursue their own training and the development of their skillsets, off the company clock.
Whether you’re in a position to rack up job-specific qualifications via your current role, or whether you would need to enrol in evening or weekend courses, pursuing training opportunities whenever possible is one of the best ways of improving your professional prospects and making yourself more employable.
As a general rule, companies are less willing to part with people who they have invested the time and resources in training to a high standard. This, alone, puts you in a better bargaining position within your job than you might otherwise be.
But it is, of course, also the case that the more wide-ranging your skillset is, the more useful you are to any potential employer, and the more flexible you can be in the types of job roles you approach in the first place.
Ask for what you want
It seems like a stunningly simple idea, but one of the best ways of progressing in your career is simply to know what you want and to ask for what you want.
Many opportunities pass by those who might be most deserving, for the sole reason that those people don’t speak up and advocate for their own interests.
Employers will often look for those who seem most driven and proactive when issuing promotions, and even if they don’t actively and consciously prioritise those kinds of people, there are nonetheless powerful subconscious mechanisms that come into play and win the outspoken the most attention.
Be the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from asking for promotions, raises, and assignment to lucrative contracts and important projects.
Meekness may seem polite, but in business culture, in particular, it is an impediment that stands in your way.
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