So you didn’t turn out to be a doctor or a lawyer. Your parents must be so disappointed. Just tell them to chill out. There’s still hope for a long, progressive, and lucrative career that doesn’t require any specialized schooling or hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.
This USA today article listed the top ten most popular $100k careers, and 1.5 million American managers dominated the list – IT managers, marketing managers, engineering managers, finance managers, and sales managers. Chances are you work in one of these fields.
Here’s how you can make the leap from individual contributor to supervisor by getting promoted at your current company.
Find Someone to be Your Champion
You are going to need a person higher than you on the org chart – preferably two levels up or more – who will sing your praises to anyone who will listen and let you ride their coattails up the ladder. It’s easier than you think. Upwardly mobile employees like you are a solution to many big boss problems like succession planning and leadership development.
Obviously your champion will need to think highly of you, so allow me to introduce a new vocabulary phrase for you: Snapshot Theory. Snapshot Theory says that anytime an executive observes you or your work they take a mental photograph. Imagine the executive collects these snapshots of you on their mental version of your Facebook page. There may only be one or two photos of you on this imaginary Facebook page, and as far as the exec is concerned, that is who you are. Every interaction counts.
My son goes to pre-school, where everyone gets a turn and there are no losers. Everyone is a little winner. I don’t remember such an innocent world, but I do remember watching my first WWF steel cage match – where two wrestlers went in and only one came out. Work is more like the latter.
You are a brand, and the best branded employees are the ones who get ahead. Aggressively build your brand by boasting about your work accomplishments to managers. Learn and challenge yourself to out-perform your peers. Solicit feedback from customers, internal or external, and save your praise letters. Play corporate politics by schmoozing, networking, and winning allies throughout the organization. Get comfortable getting out of your comfort zone, because that’s when you’ll be progressing your career.
Demonstrate Leadership Ability
Everyone loves free samples. You enjoy a free chip with some dip at the grocery store, and you think, “Yes, I can see myself eating an entire bag of these chips.”
Give your boss a free sample of your leadership ability. Make a tough decision under pressure. Speak up at a meeting in support of the new company directive. Train and mentor your less experienced or poorer performing peers. Solve problems yourself without asking your boss a million questions. Make your boss think, “Yes, I can see this person as a leader on my team.”
Dress for the Job You Want
I literally mean you should wear the clothes that people who have the job you want wear. Better still to dress like their bosses. If supervisors wear suits, start wearing suits – the best you can afford. If your uniform or dress at your current level is restricted, then make yours perfect. I know, you should be judged on merit not clothes, but trust me, dress counts.
Promote Yourself First
If you want to be a boss then start acting like a boss. In other words, boss some people around and see what happens. They may tell you to go pound sand. Who cares? Try again. Most likely people will start to listen and do what you ask. If that doesn’t work, start giving people feedback on their work. It’s easy if you start with positive feedback like, “hey good job” and that type of stuff. It’s even easier if you start with coworkers who are newer than you. Before long, coworkers will come to you for advice or questions about what they should be doing, and then you’ll be a boss, and your official promotion will soon follow.
Even if you do all of the above perfectly remember, there are no two warriors more powerful for your career progression than patience and time. Enjoy the journey.