You’re going places. The question is, how do you get there without burning the bridges you cross? For starters, follow these seven guidelines to ethical, effective career advancement — and lead the way for those who follow in your footsteps.
1. Establish and champion core values
The organizations you work all have well-defined value propositions. Why don’t you?
Take an hour this week to boil down and lay out your core values. What do you stand for, professionally? How do you convey your deepest-held beliefs? When you find yourself straying off the path you’ve set for yourself, what brings you back?
Share these values publicly: on your professional website, your employer bio, your LinkedIn profile, even your CV. Make sure your colleagues, employers, and professional peers understand what motivates you. If you’d prefer not to share all of what centers you, “public” and “private” versions work fine.
2. Take responsibility for your own professional development
If you’re fortunate enough to work for a firm that takes a keen interest in your professional development, take full advantage of the opportunities they offer. But don’t stop there. See your employer-sponsored development as the bare minimum. Look for additional opportunities to obtain new credentials and learn new skills.
3. Embrace new challenges and opportunities
In that same vein, be willing — truly willing — to embrace new challenges and opportunities when they present themselves. Whether that means moving on from the company you founded to pursue an exciting new business proposition or determining that you’ve outgrown your current role and applying for more senior “stretch” positions, you’ll grow personally and professionally in the process — even if the outcome fails to qualify as a traditional “success.”
4. Volunteer for jobs no one else wants to do
In junior roles, volunteer for additional responsibility every chance you get. To be clear, you don’t want to become known as the person willing to do menial work that does little to challenge your skills or burnish your reputation for professional excellence. You do want to take on complex, challenging projects that your peers simply don’t feel they have the bandwidth to accommodate.
5. Make the ask when you really want something
“I won’t get it if I don’t ask” must be your mantra. If you really want something — a promotion, a raise, a lateral transfer with a clearer path to advancement — you can’t chance your plan on an offer that may never come. Make the ask, and put the onus on your interlocutor to shoot you down.
6. Always take the meeting
Not everyone believes in meeting for the sake of meeting. But there’s a compelling case to be made that conversing one-on-one with as many peers as possible is a better way to build one’s personal network than exchanging cards at trade shows or making low-stakes small talk during happy hour. You’re more likely to meet your next investor or co-founder in a scheduled, one-on-one chat than an aimless mingle.
7. Embrace the peacemaker role
Not everyone is a born peacemaker. With effort, however, most professionals can learn conflict resolution skills. Become known around the office and within your professional network as someone to whom others turn for help resolving disputes and brokering compromise. A propensity for turning down the temperature and helping everyone get to “yes” may get you farther than you realize.
Is your career where it needs to be?
We like to think that we’re completely in control of our careers, but if you’ve spent enough time out there in the real world, you know that’s not quite true.
Whether you use the Serenity Prayer as your lodestar or prefer simply to turn the wheel when you encounter an immovable roadblock not of your own making, don’t get too bummed out by the stuff over which you have no direct control. Rather, tend to your own professional plot, and let the other chips fall where they may. You might be surprised how far you travel under the power of your competence alone.