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Published On: Thu, Jul 16th, 2015

How to take your career to the next level

TOYIN KOMOLAFE

Many desire to go to the next level in their career but most of the time do not know what practical steps to take to achieve this. Career coach, Joanne Cleaver, author of the “The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent,” gives critical advice on how to achieve that next big level in your career!

Be strategic

There is need for strategy in virtually every facet of our lives. Just like you strategise in business, there is need for you to also do so in your career, without a strategic career path, you might just be moving around a cycle rather than experiencing a significant progress in your career.  Joanne Cleaver, author of the The Career Lattice: Combat Brain Drain, Improve Company Culture, and Attract Top Talent, suggests you must proactively plot your own career plan. “Your employer won’t do it for you, so the first thing to know is that it’s up to you to pursue and land opportunities that advance your career agenda,” said Cleaver.

One great way to start is to access your current financial situation- what you have achieved, where you are, where you want to be and the likely steps to take that will help you get where you want to be. Cleaver recommends assessing your current experience and skill set to determine what you might need to get where you want to go.

“Ask yourself: Am I lacking hands-on operational experience? Proven expertise in a business skill, such as client retention? A working knowledge of a relevant slice of technology? What skill set would tee up my success in that position?” suggested Cleaver. By comparing the skills required by your next-step job to the skills you currently have, you will quickly see the gaps that are to be filled.

Act fast

After accessing yourself, you probably be able to identify gaps and see areas where your skills could be stronger to get you to the next level. Determine specific strategic actions that will help you reach your career goals faster.

Volunteer

Creating time for a volunteer job while you still have to face your primary assignment can no doubt be a serious task. However, strategically volunteering can be a powerful way to rapidly expand your network and get more people that will influence your career.

“Your end game is to transition to an assignment that builds your business skills, once your credibility is established,” explained Cleaver. “So a marketing executive, needing operational and financial management experience, might volunteer to co-chair an annual appeal. Such assignments tee up results-driven case studies for employees to bring back to their day job, illustrating business skills that prove their qualification for general management.”

Improve your output

Make whatever you make twice as well. Improve the quality of your work until people have no choice but to stop and gape. Create benchmarks for your output, and aim to top them every single time. Take classes, read book, follow a mentor, practice twice as much, commit yourself to doing what it takes to master your craft or profession.

Expand your niche

Do what you do now but with a wider outlook. If you write about dogs, start writing about pets in general. If you sell widgets, get into the widget case business. If you’re a musician, learn how to produce. Think about the people whose needs you aren’t meeting, and figure out how to meet them. Don’t try to create a new niche altogether, just look for ways to complement and leverage the work you’re already doing.

Expand your network

Your audience are the people who buy, read, or otherwise use your product; your network are the people that help you make it, market it, or distribute it. Focus on building strong relationships with a variety of people both in and out of your profession. Don’t try to fake it, strong relationships have to be genuine or they won’t last. Join a social networking site like LinkedIn and work it like mad. Go to trade shows, conferences, and exhibitions and talk to every exhibitor and every presenter. Make a list of 20 people in your field you want to know and email them introductions. Build relationships with your 10 best clients. Build relationships with someone from your top competitors if it is accepted in your organisation. Join a professional organisation and run for an office.

Obviously these are not all exclusive- you can and sometimes have to do more than one at the same time. And they are not all necessary – some even contradict others. But all of them shake up your routines and make people pay attention to you, whether those people are potential clients, potential customers, or potential partners.

None of these are keys to instant success. All of them require hard work and time to show any effect. If you’re ready to take it to the next level, and you are ready to put in the work and commitment that entails,  then go through the list and ask yourself how each item could help get you there.

 

Create your own promotion

With the collapse of mid-management roles in many companies, an employee with 10 to 15 years of experience may suddenly find there’s no next level in sight- their leaders may be in the same age range with no plans to retire or leave any time soon. In cases where you can’t expect a promotion, it may be time to orchestrate your own with a few key strategies:

Identify the pain in your organization and how you are uniquely suited to help calm that pain from your current position.

Build a business plan for a new role, department, or service you might lead.

Communicate with key players in your organization to let your intentions be known.

Take your efforts as seriously as you would a new job search

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