Are you hoping to advance your career in the next year? If so, I’ll give you my biggest tip…you don’t even have to read the whole article…here it is: Make a plan because no one else will make it for you!
Yes, you heard me right. In my years as a career coach, I have observed that people who get what they want sit squarely in the driver’s seat and steer their career where they want it to go. That doesn’t mean they don’t stop and ask for directions along the way, reassessing their path. Nor does it mean they don’t encounter road blocks along the way. The key to success is accepting you are responsible for advancing your career.
In this article, I explore how to navigate the roadblocks and advance your career.
Roadblocks to advancing your career
As I’ve said before, your career is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s inevitable you will face challenges along the way. Here are a few career roadblocks I’ve seen.
Having a fixed mindset
As a career coach, the biggest roadblock I see amongst my clients is having a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset means you assume your intelligence, character and creativity are fixed – that is you can’t change, learn and grow. In reality the fixed mindsets that I see are from people not wanting to change, learn and grow. A fixed mindset often leads people to accepting less than what they truly want. As the American writer, Debbie Millman says:
“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve.”
That’s confronting for all of us. It’s far easier to blame your boss or employer for your lack of career development than it is to accept the reality that you might be holding yourself back.
The great news is, you’re not stuck. You can cultivate a growth mindset through curiosity, creativity and a willingness to try new things. Yes, there is a risk of failure but there is also a chance you’ll succeed. But if you never try, I am certain that you’ll never succeed. I bet you’ll never say “I’m so glad I played it safe and accepted less than I deserved”. That doesn’t mean taking uncalculated risks but rather it means taking the reins and making a plan to change.
I’ve written an article about how to cultivate a growth mindset, which I encourage you to read if you think this applies to you.
Lack of Advocates or Champions
Your advocates (or internal champions) are the people who in your network who are influencers in your organization and who promote or advocate for your you when it comes to new opportunities and promotions. These are the all-powerful “people in high places”.
It’s about knowing who you need to connect with, how to build trustworthy relationships, how to gain credibility and how to influence others around and above you to achieve your goal. It sounds manipulative but it’s not. People with a high degree of emotional intelligence understand the game. They know they need to consider others and create good outcomes for all parties otherwise, they risk damaging relationships and losing their credibility. If you want to advance your career and be a leader, be someone who helps others get ahead. This will earn you respect, kadoos and – dare I say it – favours.
You can have the perfect pitch for a promotion or new job opportunity but it has to be made at the right time and to the right people. For example, you might assume your performance review is the right time to ask for a promotion but what if the company completed its succession planning in the previous financial year? You may have missed out. This is where those advocates and champions would have come in handy.
Your Personal Brand
Your personal brand is how others see you and talk about you when you are not around. This can help or hinder your career. Creating the right personal brand is a fine art – you want to be seen as an expert and a leader but at the same time, people like working with people they like. Don’t engineer your brand to such a degree that you forget to bring the good parts of your personality to work.
If you need to review your personal brand, read my article on Why Personal Branding is Important for Your Career.
The Career Blocker Boss
Okay, you’ve done all the work on yourself and you’re still not getting ahead. Sometimes, you can have a boss who I like to call “the career blocker”. This is a manger who:
- Won’t invest time in your career development
- Fears you’ll take their job
- Won’t help you build a coalition of advocates within in the organization
Before you label your boss as a career blocker, do your research. Why aren’t they talking to you about career advancement? Is it because opportunities don’t exist? Or do they fear having a difficult conversation with you about the areas you need to improve?
If you’ve done your research and confirmed your boss is a blocker, I recommend you look to another department or find another job. A career blocker boss is never going to recognise your potential or help you get ahead – thy just don’t. it is not part of their personality. Don’t waste years of your life trying to convince them otherwise.
How do I advance my career?
So, now you’ve acknowledged and addressed the roadblocks to advancing your career, how do you get ahead?
Gone are the days of the gold watch, where every year you make incremental steps with the same employer. These days, you have to take a more agile and proactive approach.
According to Process Street, consulting firm, Accenture, surveyed 3,400 executives in 2014, and found that only 37% had asked for a raise, promotion, or job change, but of those who asked, 65% said it helped. In fact, 59% of people who asked for a promotion got one. That is better than 50/50!! So, the easiest way to get a promotion is to ask for one! This can happen at a performance review but not always. As I mentioned above, stay connected to your network so you’re the first to hear when opportunities arise. Then ask them for the opportunity.
I’ve written an article What to say in your performance review that provides some handy tips on how to put yourself forward in a way that builds your credibility and feels authentic.
Another way to career advancement is through education. In my blog article, Build your knowledge, build your worth, I discuss how the research proves formal and informal education improve your career and earning potential. This links back to having a growth mindset. No matter your age or experience, you have an enormous capacity to learn.
Advancement through education doesn’t just relate to formal education but also building on-the-job know how and emotional intelligence. Talk to your network to learn more about the business plans. What does your organisation hope to achieve in the next three years? What projects require leadership and how can you put yourself forward for the role?
Foster your Creativity
Earning a promotion by using your creativity is another way to advance your career. In my article The importance of creativity for a long career I discuss how creativity is the ability to see old problems in new ways. Employers want innovation – it’s how they gain a competitive advantage.
The senior leadership team doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, sometimes they can be so far removed from customers and daily operations, they don’t see the problems as clearly as the front-line staff.
Being a creative problem solver is a great way to build your personal brand and influence. Again, don’t expect your boss to engineer the promotion for you. Do your groundwork. Talk to key people in the organisation and your network about your ideas and put them forward in such a way that enhances it your brand.
Work on your leadership brand
Banging on the door isn’t the only way to get your next role. Have someone invite you in by building your profile as a leader.
If you want to be seen as a leader, then you have to look, sound and act like one. Your first consideration is your conduct at work. Do you snipe the boss in the tea room or do you give constructive feedback one-to-one? Do you see problems as a challenge or something to complain about? Your words, actions and behavior signal your readiness to step up.
Also, think about ways you can build your leadership profile in a way that doesn’t undermine your boss. For example, can you write about your area of expertise for your employer’s website, blog or social media? Or, if your employer won’t support you to do this, can you start your own blog or podcast? Speak to contacts in your industry and find out if they’re looking for speakers at industry events. Let people know what you know and why it’s valuable – it will help you raise your profile as a leader in your field.
Technical versus people leader
A promotion nearly always means taking on more responsibility in return for more authority and money. If you have strong communications skills and enjoy seeing others thrive, people leadership is a good pathway for you. But managing people isn’t for everyone. Some people love and are good at creative or technical work. They find it more satisfying than watching others do the work. Others don’t like hierarchy or managing conflict. When you manage people there’s a good chance you’ll have to deliver the bad news as well as hand out the pay rises. If this makes your stomach churn, consider advancing your career by becoming a specialist in your field. In some professions, such as medicine, this is the norm. In fact, the more you specialise, the more highly regarded you become. Also consider adding complementary skills to advance your career. For example, if you work in IT and have strong technical skills, you could study project management to broaden your job opportunities.
The key to success is accepting the responsibility for advancing your career. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone. After all, how do you reach your destination without a map? If you’re experiencing career roadblocks or want help to build your leadership profile, I’m here to help. Click on the link below to book a career conversation with me and together, we’ll make a plan to advance your career.
Alternatively, I offer a fantastic range of online career learning tools via my website for self-guided learning including:
- LinkedIn Makeover
- Master Your Interview Skills
- Networking Online & In-Person
- Your Dynamic CV
- Let’s Get Back to Work