Plan your career advancement

Advancing in your career doesn’t happen by chance.  It needs some strategic thinking and sound planning on your part.

Whether you’re aiming for a promotion in your current company, or looking for an entirely new professional direction, you need to gain clarity on what you really want, and establish a solid career plan to implement until you succeed.  You can adopt a coaching approach by being structured, solution-focused and action-oriented in your career advancement project. Here are some key ideas to reflect upon.

If you want to progress your career in  your current company, here are some points to consider.

Organizational Knowledge –  Do you know enough about your company and how it functions?  You might be so busy in your job, in your specific work unit, that you aren’t noticing what is going in the organization at large.  To make a career move you must take the time to research and understand what is going on across the organization, so that you can target an area where you would have an opportunity for development.

Organizational Fit – Are you in the right job in your company? Perhaps there are areas where you would be able to use your talents better.  Convincing your manager or HR that you can contribute more in a different role is not always easy.  Make sure you research extensively to develop good arguments to make your point.  Volunteer to help for any projects in the area you are interested in so that you can build some experience.

Personal Brand – What is your reputation in your company? What are you appreciated for?  If you want to progress in your career you must have some visibility and you should be well-known for your professional and personal qualities.  This doesn’t mean that you have to become a show-off,  blowing your horn at every occasion, but  you will have to make an effort to be seen, heard, noticed and appreciated.   One way is to be a valuable contributor in meetings. Prepare yourself on the topic well in advance so that you can take the floor when the opportunity presents itself.

 Skills – Do you really have what it takes to move up?  Even if you have a lot of on-the-job experience, you may be lacking some specific skill that is essential in the higher level position that you are aiming for. This could be an additional language,  a technical skill or leadership skills.  Find out what new skills you need to develop in order to advance in your career.  Often this is implicit knowledge that a potential hiring manager knows about but hasn’t necessarily spelled out in a vacancy notice – for example they might be looking for someone who understands team dynamics –  so you’ll have to ask around. Then, take it upon yourself to get the right training and add it to your portfolio.

If you want to change company, or maybe even industry or profession, here are some points to consider.

Make the most of the transition period –  The transition between jobs is a very delicate and important period in anyone’s life.  You might be leaving your job of your own accord, or you may have suffered the consequences of a restructuring. You may be re-entering the job market after parental leave or completing an advanced degree.  Whatever your situation, now is the time to ask the big questions.  What kind of job do you really want in the long-term?  Look far ahead at your ultimate goal. It is important to discover your values, your sense of purpose and identify a profession that will allow you to live in accordance with them.

Research the job market –  You will need to get a sound knowledge of the job market that you wish to engage with. Be open-minded when researching, explore different industries, be curious.  For example if you are an expert in finance, your search should not be limited to banks.  Depending on your specialty, your financial skills would be appreciated in many other fields: manufacturing, tourism, luxury goods, health, IT, energy, fashion.   Look for areas that are attractive to you, and then funnel in and start looking at specific companies, making sure you include also medium-size enterprises.

Prepare your marketing toolkit – This essential step is time-consuming and tedious. You have to carefully craft your written material, and rehearse what you will deliver orally until you sound perfectly natural.  Your toolkit should contain many items starting with a well-written base CV which you can then customize for different applications (yes, you must customize each time you apply!), a short bio, a LinkedIn profile, and a customizable model cover letter.   You must also learn how to talk about yourself, and have sort of “pitch” that you can use on different occasions.  The goal is not to become salesy, but to be succint, to the point and authentic when presenting yourself.    Lastly, it is very important to practice interview skills. You are at your most vulnerable when being interviewed by a panel of total strangers who have the power of deciding on your future, so you should take interview practice as seriously as a musician rehearses before a show.

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©2017 Saba Imru-Mathieu, Executive Leadership Coach, Founding Partner, Leaders Today

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