On average, employers will promote 8.9% of their employees annually. With many ambitious individuals in the workforce having career aspirations of being promoted to a role with more influence, responsibility, and compensation, how do you ensure you’re in the consideration set when the time comes?
One way is to ensure your actions and intentions go further than seeking to achieve a title. One of the biggest mistakes ambitious professionals make is focusing solely on climbing the ladder - more often than not, this leads to failure. Not to mention, you’ll become discouraged in the process, as, on average, it takes 6.9 years for an employee to be promoted to a first-time manager.
When you focus too much on achieving a new title, you become distracted from what you actually need to get promoted - the right attitude, a career plan, personal development, and a solid track record of success. You need to be prepared to take on more than just a title when you’re tapped on the shoulder to step up into your next role.
Career aspirations are achieved by taking charge of your own development, focusing on small, incremental advancements in your skills and knowledge, and being consistent and committed to your current role day-in and day-out. It’s hard to see while you’re in it, but these actions add up to real results over time.
So if you find yourself in the common position of a desire to climb the corporate ladder, here are 8 tips to increase your likelihood of reaching your career aspirations.
8 Tips for Achieving Career Aspirations
- Set professional goals and stick to them
- Make your boss's job easier
- Live the company's values
- Be proactive and take initiative
- Demonstrate a hunger to learn and grow
- Show character
- Build relationships
- Talk about your career aspirations
Set Professional Goals And Stick To Them
In the 1960s, American psychologist, and a pioneer of goal-setting theory Edwin Locke, developed his approach to explaining human behavior in the workplace. His research found that goals have two primary characteristics: content and intensity. Content is what you’re trying to achieve, such as being promoted and intensity, the number of resources needed to achieve the goal, otherwise put, the things you need to do and the steps you need to take.
To reach your career aspirations, you need first to determine your professional goal and then map out the journey you need to take in bite-size segments to move you towards goal attainment. To help you do so, we’ve created the professional goals workbook. This free resource takes you step-by-step through setting your goals and worksheets to do so.
However, no amount of planning will get you anywhere without hard work and holding yourself accountable for turning the plans into results. That’s where the real work comes in.
Make Your Boss’s Job Easier
The objective of making your boss’s job easier isn’t about kissing up. When you aim to make your team leader successful, you’re also creating opportunities for yourself as you learn and grow in the process. Use these 4 proven ways to make your boss’s job easier to set yourself up to attain your own career aspirations.
- Demonstrate commitment and a solid track record
Dependable, engaged, and accountable are the trifecta of employee qualities that any leader would want in someone on their team. These types of employees just make a leader’s job easier. To be that type of employee who would be looked at when promotions arise, do what you say, hit timelines, take responsibility for your actions, never let your leader be blindsided, and show initiative to capitalize on new opportunities or fix problems.
- Align your efforts with the team and corporate goals
When you understand the “why” behind your team and company goals, you’re better able to see the big picture of what is essential, align your tasks to produce the most significant results, and avoid distractions that take you away from those goals. In addition, demonstrating that you understand the vision for the team and that your contributions are integral to its success makes you a valuable resource for your leader. Finally, it shows you’re ready to step into a more strategic position when an opening arises.
- Build trust with your leader
Over time, through your actions, track record, and building a solid relationship with your direct leader, you will begin to build a level of trust with them. When your leader trusts you, they’re more likely to share information and seek your feedback and input on ideas, and you’ll become a sounding board for them before they make any decisions, making you a valued ally to them. This, in turn, ensures they’re always looking out for your best interest, and they are invested in you achieving your career aspirations.
- Come with ideas and solutions, not just problems
There are always opportunities to bring new ideas and solutions to inefficiencies and problems that have not been resolved. When you do this, you add great value to the team and make your boss look great in the eyes of their boss. Everyone likes someone that brings more than just problems.
Live The Company's Values
A company’s core values tell employees, partners, and customers who the company is, what they stand for and what to expect from working for or with them. If your company is invested in building a culture that aligns with its core mission, vision, and values, it will be critical that you demonstrate these behaviors, as it is the way the company expects its employees to interact with each other and those outside of the company.
In addition, organizations seek out individuals for leadership positions who model their company’s values, as employees look at their direct leader’s behaviors to understand how they should behave.
Be Proactive and Take Initiative
Being proactive and taking the initiative is demonstrated by finding solutions to problems, suggesting innovative ideas, and offering help to other teams when they’re in a pinch before being asked. There is a great demand for individuals who can anticipate issues and solve problems before they arise, are agile and can change quickly, and seek out opportunities to optimize the way things are done. Showing these qualities is a surefire way to get yourself noticed.
Demonstrate A Hunger To Learn and Grow
Seeking stretch assignments that push you outside of your comfort zone, asking for feedback to improve your performance, and creating a development plan are a few ways to demonstrate you’re invested in growing your abilities and doing the hard work to achieve your career ambitions.
Your direct leader will be the one who can deliver constructive feedback, delegate projects, and help you turn the professional goals you’ve created into a learning plan that will assist you in achieving them. When you build your plan, it may include activities such as on-the-job training, working with a mentor or professional coach, or attending a program to equip you with new skills you’ll need, such as leadership, communication, and business acumen as you move forward in your career.
A CEO I reported to would say, “Would you be proud or ashamed if this ended up on the cover of the national newspaper?” He would say this to his leadership team as a reminder to demonstrate character in every decision made and action taken.
Beyond avoiding a PR nightmare, this may leave you asking, how does one show character? An article on the topic by Yale University defines character as “Acting with respect, integrity, and ethical behavior.” They go on to define the three pillars of character:
- Respect: Flows from a commitment to treating all others as you would want to be treated.
- Integrity: This means doing the right thing even when it is difficult. You demonstrate dependability, honesty, loyalty, and good judgment.
- Ethical behavior: This means acting in ways consistent with what society and individuals think are good values, such as respect, honesty, fairness, equality, dignity, diversity, and individual rights.
Your character will say a lot about your future potential with your company and the likelihood you will be selected for a promotion, as your good moral standing mitigates the risk of an external or internal crisis due to poor behavior.
One person and only their opinion rarely determine who will be promoted. When an opportunity for a promotion arises, and a shortlist of candidates is made, leaders will seek input from their peers. Building relationships and creating raving fans throughout the organization can be the difference between people rooting for you to be promoted or being overlooked.
Talk About your Career aspirations
To be considered for a promotion, you need to let those around you know you desire to take on more responsibility and a leadership position. Sometimes management may not know you want it, and not everyone wants to manage people. So communicate your career aspirations, keep track of your accomplishments, and when the time is right, present your case and why you should be the one who is promoted.
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