Dear Coach Joan: Career Advice
I keep getting the question of how to advance on the job. Many people seem to feel frustrated that their work is not appreciated enough, and they see others getting promotions before them. They often complain that these other people are not working as hard or producing as much as they are, yet for some reason these other folks are advancing.
Why? That’s the big question.
Yes, sometimes it’s because they are the bosses son or daughter. That is called nepotism!
But often it is because those getting ahead have been strategic in their research, planning and communications. They position themselves for advancement.
How does this work?
Say you are in a sales support position and want to move into sales. You perceive a sales career as having more independence, higher earning potential and a springboard to get further into management. That is a reasonable goal.
How to make that happen:
- Do your Research: Get to know a couple of successful sales people in your company. Ask them for a 20 minute meeting where you can do an informational interview to find out more about their jobs. Prepare good questions including the scope of their position, the skills they need for success, the challenges and opportunities they see. Listen carefully and make a list of the skills you already have and a list of the skills you can develop. Perhaps your company offers in-house training or you can take classes online or at a local college. Listen too, to see if you feel you identify with these successful sales people. So you have the same motivation and style they have? Can you take rejection? Can you take the risk of a commission based job? Learn all you can in preparation for meeting with your manager about your goal. If you are establishing good rapport with a sales person, ask if they would be your mentor and meeting with you from time to time and provide guidance, feedback and input. Maybe they’ll take you on a sales call or two and let you show your support and sales skills! Demonstrate competency!
- Communicate Your Intention and Your Plan: Tell your boss, manager or supervisor that you’ve been observing and meeting with successful members of the sales team, and you feel that you would be a great fit for the job! Show them the list of attributes you’ve learned are important in that job (several of which you may have already demonstrated in your sales support role) and the skills you’ve learned are needed that you plan to develop. Listen carefully to your manager’s response. If he/she is supportive, then go the next step and see if they will work with you on your development to achieve those skills. Also, develop a timeline for your intentions. Go to the company web site or HR to find out if there are plans to expand the sales force. If not, you may want to look outside the company once you have developed the necessary skills. Make sure to let your boss know that you are ambitious, and you are looking to advance in your career. Talk about your commitment to lifetime learning and growing and that you really are ready to expand and grow!
- Execute on Your Plan: Show your plan to your manager and get input and buy-in. Then, act on that plan. Take the courses, read the books, take the online webinars. Really do the work. This is where some people fall down, they just don’t follow through. Be a person who is willing to do the work and follow through! It’s wise to also look for mentors who will give you feedback and direction. If one of the successful sales people have offered to be mentor, make sure to set up appointments and do all the things they suggest. They might see your commitment and skills and refer you to the next open sales position. Create your connections and opportunities !
- More Communication: Plan weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings or status updates in email where you show and tell your manager how you are progressing on your plan. Ask for feedback and input. Set specific milestones with dates attached. Set your goal perhaps at a new job or promotion in six months. Once you put that stake in the ground you can work backward to planning the step by step journey toward reaching success!
You can take control of planning for a promotion and career development. Just think through where you want to go, meet with people who are in that role, establish support, get information and advice, develop an action plan, and most importantly, FOLLOW THROUGH.
Onward to your career advancement and success.