While your managers are staring at the walls and sorting their brains out on how to replace those moving on or the boomers retiring, don't stay in your cubicle praying that you will get the promotion simply because it's your turn! Start planning, too. And start your personal "Fit for Promotion" campaign. To get fit and keep fit, here are some of the steps to take:
- Plan your career. Before you start climbing the ladder...make sure it's leaning against the right building! Assess your own personality and identify the areas where you find a great fit. These are your "fit areas". Start here. In your office, identify the senior jobs in your fit areas. Have a thorough understanding of these jobs. Assess where your competency levels are in these areas. Read news and articles on these areas and the industry of which they are a part. Find out the trends. How will these impact your career?
- Determine if this is the company you want to be a part of. The moment you get into an office, look around at the people working there. Who cares if it is only your first day? This is the day to do it. Are you all young and ambitious? Are there a number of soon-to-be retired? What's the doofus quotient (ratio of doofi to effective employees)? What is the management dork quotient (ratio of ego trippers to solid managers)? You don't have to answer these questions on your first day. Just have them in mind...watch and smile. Is this a place to stay and grow? If it is...keep reading. If it isn't....hmmmmm.
- Know everything about the business. Once you have decided to give this company a few years, know its core business. Know how it works. Listen, listen and listen. Be where people congregate especially during breaks. Sit with your colleagues. You will be surprised at the amount of information you get by just being there. Listen to their jobs, their expectations, their plans and dreams. Listen to their complaints, too. Again, keep all this information in mind.
- Participate actively and constructively. There are many occasions to do this. At meetings, prepare. Go over the agenda and read up on the topics. Read on what other companies do. Find mentors in the business who can share their own experience. During the discussion, give opinions that are backed by data. Ask questions that encourage improvement. Contribute your own ideas. Learn how to get your points across. Practice if necessary.
- Observe the supervisors and managers. Do this first in your fit areas. What are their core functions, the tasks that they do each day, the decisions they make, the requirements and expectations they must meet. Will these engage you? Will you enjoy these? If not, and you like the company, go find another fit area.
- Now, look beyond the individuals and just focus on the jobs. If you had that job, how could you do it better? What new skills would you need to be fit for those tasks? What attitudes seem important? Are they upbeat? Are you upbeat and a team player? Do you "pitch in"? Remember, for promotion, it's not just the knowledge and skills you have -- it's other people's assessment of your attitudes and the energy you give to others.
- Identify your skills and experiences. Congratulate yourself in the skills and experiences you have developed. This is not scrap paper time. Describe the skills and experiences professionally, so once the job is posted, you are ready to insert these in your resume.
- Identify the gaps in your competencies. Be on the watch for opportunities where you can improve these skills. This may mean going to seminars or workshops. If the company supports their employees to attend these, for heaven's sake, get going...don't wait. Don't forget the other things you can do on you own. Every day, work on your listening skills....remember it is hard to listen when your mouth is open. To be fit for the next level, your ears need to grow! People usually know you can't solve their problems. They just want a big ear or an encouraging smile, or direct feedback, or a better organizer to help them out.
- If the position requires a higher certification or degree, start now. There are many reputable degrees offered online. So, having no time is a cop out. You can approach your company to pay for the course. Most companies will do this when they have your assurance of staying with them for some years. Your interest to improve yourself will also be seen by your senior managers. Five years from now you will be five years older anyway, so you might as well have done something to improve your fitness.
- Ask the persons holding the jobs right now. Ask them to show you how they do some of the things they are doing. Encourage them to talk about their jobs. Make this informal by sitting with them during breaks. Or, when you see them trying to meet a deadline, ask if you can help. They will be able to tell you the traits and characteristics needed to fill these positions as well as the factors that make for success. Sure...some office colleagues will call you a brown-nose or a less attractive name...but they'll be saying the same thing to your successor after you're promoted.
- Talk to your managers. You don't have to be backward about going forward. Ask them what their plans are and whether that includes you. Ask them what they think you can do to get fit. If they're not interested, time to look for greener pastures. Better to know now than spend years of your life in quiet, failed anticipation.
Treat every job not as an end but as a step on the ladder. Always look up at the next step when you are on a ladder. When you do this, you keep yourself fit all the time.