Getting Out of a Work Rut: How to Accelerate Your Career and Move Up the Ranks
You work harder than anyone else, and you know it. You’re always the first to come into the office, and the last to leave. You go above and beyond expectations, and your performance evaluation results are consistently stellar. In fact, you once saw your supervisor chatting with one of the higher-ups, and you could swear that, for a moment, he shot a meaningful glance in your direction.
So why, oh why, are you still stuck in the same place you were three years ago? Why did the co-worker in the next cubicle get promoted, even though you two did the exact same things? Did that co-worker use voodoo on your boss or something?
Maybe. But the more probable explanation is this: Your co-worker understood that it takes more than hard work and know-how to climb up the ranks. What it really takes to accelerate your career is to do the following:
Set Your Sights on the Big Picture
You know how they say that employees are mere “cogs in the wheel”? Don’t buy that. Don’t think for one second that your contributions don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, because they do. It’s just that, in your drive to get ahead, you forgot something crucial: In a corporate context, your boat will rise only if everyone else’s boat does the same.
Ditch the “every woman for herself” mindset. To quote ex-GE CEO Jack Welch’s bestselling management book Winning: “Change your job in a way that makes the people around you work better and your boss look smarter.” It’s fine to have career goals for yourself, but if you’re serious about getting promoted a.s.a.p., you need to align at least some of those goals with your company’s.
Stay Alert for Opportunities
Ernest Hemingway summed it up best when he said: “You make your own luck.” This might sound like a platitude, but it’s true: Studies have shown, time and again, that Lady Luck blesses those who have an optimistic attitude in life.
If your current job doesn’t have a clear path down the road, maybe it’s not for you. Take stock of your skills, experience and qualifications, and see whether they can be put to good use for other departments/divisions. There’s no point in staying where you are, if you’re capable of flourishing somewhere else.
Keep Educating Yourself
Successful people are lifelong learners. Warren Buffett, for instance, spends 80 percent of his day reading and thinking. Keep in mind that this guy is already in his 80s!
Then again, you might not have that much time to spend, especially if you’re in hectic fields like healthcare. Still, it won’t hurt to sign up for additional education and expand your knowledge base from there.
Rub Elbows With the Right People
“What you know” can only take you so far. At some point, you’re going to have to acknowledge that “who you know” also matters to your success. In other words, you need to network.
Identify the A-listers in your group: the ones who always take the lead, always have something valuable to say during meetings, and regularly get plum assignments. But be careful not to suddenly spring yourself on them. Remember that they’re smart enough to figure out if someone has an ulterior motive for schmoozing up.
Instead, approach them the way you would a potential friend. If you bump into them in the water cooler/pantry, smile and introduce yourself. Start off your conversations on lighter topics (“I like having two spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee. What about you?”) before moving on to the more serious ones (“Hey, have you heard about what happened to the M&A department?”). Keep your interactions nice and organic, so you can slowly but surely easy yourself into their social circle.
Stay on Your Colleagues’ Radar
Don’t limit your network to your company. Start build your presence online by setting up a personal website, writing guest blog posts for sites in your niche, and establishing your expertise. Stand out by building a distinct personal brand, having something unique to say, and prioritizing quali y over quantity. This way, you increase your chances of getting noticed, and nabbing opportunities you might not have even considered before.
Prepare to Move to the Next Level
Yes, a promotion is a feather in your cap. But it can also be a weight on your back, if you’re not prepared for it.
Know everything about the job you’re gunning for. Ask the people who already have that job for tips and tricks. Develop the skills required for it, and get yourself a certification or two. If you’re going to aim for something, you’d better give it 100 percent. Otherwise, there’s no point to aiming for it at all.
Prepare to Move On
Having a job is like having a relationship: Sometimes, you just have to accept that things just aren’t working, and that you need to let go.
It’s painful, of course. You’ve already invested a lot into getting yourself promoted. The last thing you want after your trouble is to realize that it’s all for nothing. But if you continue to hold on to something that isn’t getting anywhere, you risk missing out on better things.
To paraphrase the business consultant Peter Drucker, “Get good, or get out.” If you find yourself losing motivation in the process of climbing to the top, take a step back and reflect on where you really want to go. If you forge ahead, no one’s going to stop you. If you decide to shift gears, no one who matters will take it against you either. You’re the one in charge of your destiny, after all.
Getting ahead isn’t just a matter of working hard. It’s also a matter of working smart. Keep your eyes peeled, your chin up, and your head firmly set on your shoulders. Before you know it, you’ll be standing outside the door to success, and everything will fall into place.