How to take control of your career

In September 2016, the company I work at hosted a Women’s Leadership Conference entitled, “It’s Your Move.” The idea behind the theme was that every person is not only responsible for the direction of their own careers, but they are much more empowered than they might think. With some careful planning and the use of a multitude of resources, each of us can move strategically along the career path of our choosing.

Let me be real, I picked the theme out of a sense of defiance. After hearing story after story of women who were told they couldn’t get a promotion, get a raise, lead a company, break into a certain field and ultimately take control of her own career, I decided that it was time to defy these barriers and false narratives.

Being in control of your career takes boldness. It might mean venturing into an area that you might not be familiar with because there aren’t many role models yet. Being in control of your career takes confidence. It means knowing who you are, knowing your strengths and weaknesses (but focusing on your strengths) and knowing what you want. Inwardly, we need to take the stance of the defiant girl facing off against the Wall Street bull. Being in control of your career will require you to be strategic. It will require to you make the right connections, be seen by the right people and speak up at the right times. It will also mean that you have to make corrections and changes as needed.

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There are some things in life that are true mysteries.  Career advancement doesn’t have to be one of them. We still have a long way to go before there is more representation of women in key decision-making positions, but we’re seeing more women entering the C-Suite. It will still take many years to close the wage gap, but more women are learning how to negotiate for fair wages. We are making strides because, in addition to our expertise and training,  we are learning how to use the tools (sponsorship, networking, negotiation) that have always been available.

My career journey will be much different than yours but we all have the same tools at our disposal. What we do with them will make all the difference. When it comes to career advancement, fortune favors the bold, confident and strategic.

Career Advancement Best Practices

When it comes to your career, always remember that you’re in charge. There are some elements that are beyond your control (amount of job openings, proximity to jobs etc), but in a general sense, you set the pace and the direction. Think of each phase of your career as a project that you manage. In the early stages of your career (up to 5 years), your focus should be on skill development and the building of professional relationships. As you approach the mid-career stage, you should be able to demonstrate the application of best practices and industry standards and start to set yourself up as a contributor of ideas. Finally, as you approach Manager/Director/C-Suite, it’s time to brand yourself as an industry leader and Subject Matter Expert. Look for opportunities to speak and get published (even if it’s on your own blog).

A couple of caveats here. Time-frames are not set in stone. Even though the average age for entrance into the C-Suite is 53, you can get there sooner. You don’t have to be a newbie for 5 years if you master your craft beforehand. Also remember that whatever your title (or age), you are a leader and people are watching you, so act like someone you, yourself, would follow.

Even though your approach to work may change depending on your level of responsibility and experience level, there are some best practices that you should have in place no matter what career stage you’re at.

Continuous Learning

We’ve all heard it said that leaders are learners. This is more than a catch-phrase. The value of Professional Development cannot be downplayed when it comes to career advancement. Studies have shown that organizations that encourage professional development activities are more likely to produce employees who are loyal to the organization, align more closely with the company vision and as a result, progress more rapidly than peers who don’t participate.

Increase your Visibility

In an earlier post entitled 4 Ways to Increase your Visibility at Work, I talk about ways to get out of the shadows and in front of key decision-makers. This is usually one of the first pieces of advice that I give to younger employees. We sometimes have the mistaken idea that as long as you work hard, your boss will notice, and reward you for your diligence. While this may be true some of the time, it won’t make you a stand-out in your field. I was recently impressed by a young female in the accounting field who is progressing rapidly in her career. As we spoke, she told me that she would reach out to her managers for training and spend one-on-one time with them. They were all so impressed with her drive and initiative that they all personally took the time to sponsor her in her career. For mid-career professionals, increase your visibility by getting on the speaking circuit. Volunteer to speak at conferences and other networking events. For professionals with more responsibility, consider becoming a sponsor or mentor. Also remember, the higher you climb in an organization, the more likely you are to be a representative of the brand. Use that platform to help your company shine and to also highlight your accomplishments.

Find a Sponsor

Sponsorship is something that I talk about often as it is one of the most neglected ways to advance your career – at least among women. Sponsorship involves an influential person becoming your career advocate. A sponsor will use their “political capital” to speak on your behalf, recommend you for high-profile projects, put you in front of the right people and help you to get promoted. The young accountant mentioned earlier became a protege of more than one sponsor in her organization. Since she had managed to increase her visibility (through her desire to learn and initiative) now every time a promotion or opportunity opens up, they immediately recommend her.

If you have a sponsor, consider yourself blessed. Your career will progress much more quickly than if you tried to navigate it on your own. If you don’t have one, make a plan to find one.

Network

Networking is another way to increase your visibility outside of the organization. Regardless of where you are in your career, you should make an effort to attend both formal and informal networking events. Conferences, symposiums, and similar events give you exposure to industry leaders, keep you on top of the trends and allow you to be noticed by a wider variety of people. Networking can really open up your eyes to new possibilities and give you a perspective that your job alone can’t give. As I always say, networking is about reciprocity and relationships should be formed from an authentic place of interest in the other person. While networking can reap benefits for you, never forget that you have a lot to offer others. Look for opportunities to meet other people in your industry. An exercise that I like to do at every networking event I attend is to introduce myself to someone just starting out in their career as well as someone more experienced that I can learn from. I’m always surprised at how much I learn from people on both sides of the career spectrum.

Enjoy the journey

As I said at the start of this piece, you have control over your own career. That’s not to say that things will always be easy and that you won’t experience setbacks along the way. The key is to know who you are, set clear objectives for yourself and enjoy every step of your career journey.

Leverage Failure for Future Career Success

Even though I have a lot of finance and accounting experience, it’s not my favorite thing to do. I admit that I enjoyed the money that I earned in this field, but I never had a real passion for it. I’m a firm believer in working to your strengths, so when the opportunity came for me to work in Project/Program Management, I gracefully exited the world of finance. Or so I thought. In my most current role, I am responsible for the L&D budget. This means that I have to set the budget and track each income and expense item for the program. Pretty straightforward, except that I would much rather plan, facilitate, strategize and build people.

For the most part, I was on top of the budget, but a major item slipped through the cracks and caused me to report significantly more income than the program had actually made. There were actually two mistakes here. The first, and perhaps the lesser of the two, was the administrative error that caused the miscalculation. In my final reconciliation before submitting my Board report, something didn’t seem right, but I ignored that instinct. This was the major mistake. I knew enough about budgeting to know that a 30% variance from forecast shouldn’t be ignored – but the numbers were saying something else. Errors like this can be big a problem when your program is self-funded, so I should have been checking not only once, but twice and possibly three times.

I had a moment, or maybe a day of panic and frustration because of this failure. Unless you have someone’s life in your hands, no mistake is fatal. I wasn’t happy with it, but I was determined to learn from it. Here’s what I learned about failure in this instance.

I) Own the mistake

Rather than make excuses for your error, the best thing to do is to own it.

  • Acknowledge that you made the mistake.
  • Don’t shift blame.

My mistake was pretty major. The error was entirely mine and it shouldn’t have happened. Based on this incorrect information, we could have spent money that we didn’t even have. Thankfully, we caught it in time.

You may have failed at something, but that doesn’t make you a failure. Mistakes don’t have to be fatal and they don’t have to define you unless you allow them to. Admittedly, the consequences of this error were unpleasant. I had to tell my boss that we hadn’t performed as well as we had thought and the financials had to be completely amended to adjust for the missed item.

II) Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned is a Project Management Best Practice. The idea here is that knowledge can be gained from every experience – good or bad. After you’ve acknowledged your part in the mishap, now’s the time to start looking at what exactly went wrong.

  • Do you need more training in a particular area?
  • Were you lacking information to make a complete decision?
  • Did you have proper systems in place?
  • Were you overwhelmed by your workload?

After some careful examination, you should be able to get to the source of the error. For me, the error was an administrative one. I hadn’t put a system of checks and balances in place that would flag me when an item was overlooked. I relied on my memory, and we all know how that can go. By documenting your lessons learned, you can gain a deeper understanding of what happened. It also serves as a historical document for someone else doing your job.

III) Make Adjustments

Once you know why something went wrong, you can more readily work on ways to prevent it from reoccurring. As mentioned earlier, Project Managers work most effectively when we can apply Best Practices. This means that we don’t reinvent the wheel unless we absolutely have to. One of our Best Practices is the Monitor & Control of processes. There are templates and procedures in place that help to reduce the occurrence of human error.

If you use failure to leverage future success, no opportunity will ever be a wasted one.

I had become siloed in my thinking, wrongly believing that Project Management and Finance were two completely separate worlds when there is, in fact, a lot of overlap between the two. When I framed budgeting in reference to Monitoring & Controlling, a language I was more fluent in, it created a system that I more readily embraced.

IV) Move On

Don’t let one mistake define you or derail your career momentum. After the dust settled, I emailed my boss to let her know how the error happened and what I would do to prevent it from happening in the future. Even though she didn’t ask me to, I increased my level of accountability and reported back much more frequently. I created a few simple templates that would ensure no item was missed and saw my reporting accuracy improve significantly. We laugh about this mishap now that it’s in the past.

Failure isn’t fatal

Looking back, I am grateful not for the failure, but for the learning that came out of it. I learned that there were areas that I needed to develop in myself in order to become better at my job. As a result, I took a few budgeting and finance courses to ensure that I could do this part of my job to the best of my ability. I also took an SQL course that taught me how to build databases. I started applying an old time-management trick I learned early on in my career. Do the thing you like least first thing in your day. When audit time rolls around, I close my office door and set aside time each morning to focus completely on finances. This ensures that I’m fresh when I’m looking at those numbers and that I’m also free from distractions.

Success > Failure

Here’s where the success comes in. Since I took the time to re-work my finance processes so that they were much more accurate, I now have more time to focus on the aspects of my job that I really enjoy. I still have to do my projections and reconcile spreadsheets, but I have much more confidence in their accuracy. My SQL training has allowed me to build functional databases that are more accurate than what I had been using. If I hadn’t made the error, I would still be spending extra time on that part of my job.

We all make mistakes and we all fail at times. The outcome is entirely dependent on what you do with it. If you use failure to leverage future success, no opportunity will ever be a wasted one.

 

10 ways to use your network to find work

Consider these two statistics about finding work.

  • “85 percent of jobs are filled through networking”
  • “Only about 5% are jobs are filled through job boards”

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Job hunting can be a fulltime job in itself. After months of sending out resumes and filling out online applications without a callback, you might feel like giving up. Don’t despair, however. You might just be directing your resources to the wrong places. What often happens is people put most of their effort into the avenue that provides the lowest returns (job boards in this case). If you really want to maximize your job search efforts, it’s time to start using your network for all it’s worth. The chances of finding a job using your network are much greater than just utilizing job boards to find work.

Your network is your goldmine

People think that networking is about working a room or having to schmooze with upper management, so they’re immediately turned off by it. While it is necessary to attend networking events and approach people you don’t know (See # 10), many networking activities involve connecting with people you’re already familiar with. Authentic networking relationships involve give-and-take with the end goal of both parties gaining something.

  1. Don’t be afraid to reach out – This is probably the most difficult hurdle to get over. Asking other people if they know of any job openings is not always an easy thing to do. This is especially true if you’re currently working and want to keep your job search private. This is an important hurdle to clear because this is one of the most effective ways to get a real handle on the jobs that are available, along with first-hand knowledge about who you should contact.
  2. Keep your resume up-to-date – Think of your resume as your calling card. It’s a quick way for you to introduce yourself and make a good impression. It certainly isn’t as effective as a face-to-face impression, but a well-presented and well-planned resume can get your foot in the door. I’ve seen resumes that are so out-of-date that you don’t know who you’re speaking to. Other resumes are unappealing in their format. They may be too long (try not to go past 2 pages) or use fonts that are hard to read, or they might just be poorly designed. Always have a copy of your resume saved on a USB stick, on hardcopy and in the Cloud in the event that you’re called upon to send one at a moments notice.
  3. Be open to different possibilities – You may have your sights set on a particular position at a certain level of responsibility. The reality, however, is that there are more people vying for fewer positions. If you find that the opportunities for certain positions are drying up, it might be time to consider another possibility. Ask other people you know about the profession they’re working in. They can give you insight that you otherwise might not have gotten. Perhaps you have to make a lateral move, or even a downward move to get your foot in the door. If your end goal is to find a job, then this is still a success. It’s not easy to change careers, but there are many resources to help career-changers through these transitions and you just might find that this new avenue is exactly what you wanted.
  4. Don’t burn bridges – When you leave a job, it’s always advisable to depart on good terms. Try to avoid office drama as much as possible. It also pays to maintain connections with key decision-makers in the event that you have to make a return. Keeping your name fresh in their minds will prevent you from having to re-tell your story again in the future.
  5. Work on your elevator pitch –  When attending networking events, it pays to prepare your introduction or elevator pitch in advance. It’s similar to the interview question “Tell me about yourself.” Practice it in front of a mirror until it becomes second nature and rolls off our lips with ease. A good elevator pitch includes who you are, what you’re known for and the service you can offer. My pitch would sound something like “My name is Gail and I am Project Management Professional. I am known for planning projects that come in under budget, on time and in scope. Come to me if you need direction on starting a project or if you need to get an existing project un-stalled.”
  6. Ask friends for job referrals – Once you know what jobs are out there and if you’re in the running for one, don’t be afraid to ask your friend to put in a good word for you. Recruiters and HR essentially go into hiring blind. They can hope that people are giving accurate and honest information but even with background and reference checks, they might not always get the complete picture. The first-hand referral from a trusted source can put a recruiter’s mind at ease and also save a lot of time in the search process. Many companies also provide a cash incentive for employees who refer a successful hire, so this definitely a win-win for everyone involved.
  7. Use Linkedin – Don’t think of Linkedin as just the Facebook for job seekers. It’s much more than that. It can be an extremely powerful networking tool. I’ve had a recruiter reach out to me because she saw that a former co-worker of mine (listed among my connections) was working in a certain industry. She was recruiting for a position that required a very specific skill set, and she could see from my friend’s profile that she would be a great fit. She asked me to put the two of them in touch and this networking connection resulted in a new job for my friend that paid more money and was a step up the ladder.
  8. Do pro bono work  – Think of pro-bono work as a donation of your professional services to an organization that wouldn’t normally be able to afford them. Pro bono isn’t just reserved for legal services anymore. Organizations such as Taproot and CatchaFire connect a variety of professionals with pro bono opportunities. It’s a great way to build experience because you’re actually working in your area of expertise (just for free). Most times, you’re donating your services to a cause you believe in strongly so the amount of passion and effort you put in will be seen by the organization and they will most likely keep you in mind if a paid opportunity opens up.
  9. Volunteer for charitable and community events – Volunteering for a cause you believe in is a good practice because it helps your community, is a way of giving to people in need and it benefits you as well. Often times, volunteer efforts continue for a period of time and this gives the team time to get to know each other. Being connected by a common cause creates trust and as a result, makes people more likely recommend or refer you to a position. Additionally, volunteering for an organization gives you insight into company happenings (ie job openings).
  10. Attend industry-specific events – Even if you hate to network, you should attend at least one industry-specific event a year, such as a conference or a networking luncheon. They’re one of the best ways to stay on top of industry trends, and they also keep you aware of the top people in your field. If you want to get the most out of these events, then you need to add networking to the mix. Having so many people from your field in one place increases your odds of finding someone who needs your specific set of skills.

Networking has gotten some bad press, but it’s time for that to change. Networking is best when it comes from authentic relationships that can be leveraged to the benefit of all parties involved.

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The Job Interview isn’t about You – How to ace the job interview and get the job.

In an increasingly competitive and challenging job climate, it’s very important to differentiate yourself from other equally qualified candidates. Even an incredible record of achievement might not be enough to help you get a job these days. You need to show your prospective employer how your experience and training align with the goals and objectives of the organization.

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Ask not what the organization can do for you…

Before you go for the job interview, do as much research about the company as you can. Go beyond the job description and determine how you can become a meaningful contributor.

  1. Learn about the organization’s values, mission statement and guiding vision.
  2. Research any ongoing stalled projects and figure out ways to get it unstuck.
  3. Investigate a problem they’re trying to solve and come up with a solution.

Your key objective at the interview (outside of landing the job) is figuring out how you can add value to the department, division, and organization.

Play for the name on the front of the shirt and they will remember name on the back of the shirt.

Typical Interview Questions

Imagine that you’re applying for a VP, Innovation role for a large corporation. Think about some common interview questions that you’ve been asked in the past and frame them in terms of how you can add value to the organization. Here are some answers to typical interview questions keeping the company front and center.

Tell me about yourself.

I currently work as a Learning and Development Director. Here I manage the Learning and Development program for the companies 10000 employees. While I really enjoyed all of the aspects of this role, I would like to move my career forward in a leadership role. The VP Innovation role sounds like the perfect culmination of my past experiences and current skill set. I know it would present the type of challenge that I’m looking for at this stage in my career, specifically as it relates to putting your organization on the map as a leader in innovation. 

What is your greatest strength?

My greatest strength is my ability to mobilize people and maximize resources. I recognize talents, skills, and knowledge in people, and that awareness helps me get the right people in the right spots. I really enjoy setting others up for success and I believe this strength also helps me to build effective teams where people are engaged in their work, operating in their strengths and actively working to achieve company objectives rather than focusing resources on fixing development issues. 

Name one of your weaknesses.

My greatest weakness has always been my reluctance to delegate. Early in my career, this was borne out of a desire to prove myself at all costs. As my area of responsibility grew, this was a result of a poor use of resources. I’ve learned that effective delegation adds value to the company by balancing workload, increasing efficiency and building stronger teams allowing everyone to remain mission oriented. 

Why should we hire you?

I think what sets me apart from other candidates is my ability to combine my professional experience with my people skills.  Strong working relationships are very important to me and I actively seek to engage all stakeholders. Research has shown that companies that innovate are able to hold onto a greater share of the market for a longer time that competitors. Once you know how to find exactly what it is they need, you can more effectively engage your stakeholders. In an increasingly competitive climate, all stakeholders need to innovate and that is the service we want to provide them.  For these reasons, I am confident that I can help your organization achieve its purpose of creating a culture of innovation among employees. 

Value Added

To recap, you want to present yourself as someone who will contribute to the success of the company.

  • Show them that you know about their organization. Taking the time to research who they are as a company and what they stand for goes a long way in the eyes of a potential employer. Be sure to tie the vision statement, mission statement and company goals back to the job interview in a meaningful and sincere way.
  • Align yourself with company objectives. Make the interview about them.
  • Show how you can be an asset in the fulfillment of their goals. For example, show them how your strong communication engagement skills attract more customers to the company. BONUS – Do you have stats to back it up from previous roles?

If you take the time to learn about the company and align yourself with their vision, mission, and organizational goals, they will more readily see you as the asset that you already know you are.

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Sponsorship -An Essential Tool for Career Success 

Whether you’re building your entrepreneurial empire or scaling the corporate ladder, there are essential tools that you will need to ensure career success. At the minimum, you should know how to work your network, communicate effectively and exhibit emotional intelligence. Those skills will get you in the door, but if you truly want to differentiate yourself from the rest, you need to find a sponsor. 

What is sponsorship?

People are under the wrong impression that coaching, mentoring and sponsorship are interchangeable, but they differ in form and function. They are all important to your career development, but sponsorship is more powerful. All three have career advancement as the end goal, but where coaching and mentoring involve the planning, sponsorship is about the doing.

“A coach talks to you, a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you.”

A sponsor is a prominent person who uses their strong influence to increase your visibility. Think of a sponsor as your career champion who can open closed doors and put you in front of the right people.

Strategies to attract sponsors

An overarching theme of Partnhers is being strategic and intentional about your own career and success.

PartnHER Strategic Life Plan

  1. Think about what you want.
  2. Develop a plan of action.
  3. Go after what you want.
  4. Have fun while you’re doing it.

Strategic Sponsorship Plan

In the same way, you should be strategic about finding a sponsor. In most cases, it doesn’t just happen. You are responsible for increasing your own visibility and profile. Your plan can look something like this.

Strategic Sponsorship Plan

  1. Research SME’s or Thought Leaders in your field. Learn from them.
  2. Reach out to them.
  3. Put yourself in front of them.
  4. Let them see you in action.

If all goes well, your sponsor will have seen enough potential in you to endorse you to other power brokers. The rest is up to you. Just remember that this is a two-way relationship and it works best if both parties benefit. The sponsor should treat this relationship as they would any investment – with great time and care. Likewise, the protégé should be enhancing their sponsor’s reputation and not draining them.

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No matter where you are in your career journey, it’s never too late to find a sponsor. The most successful people have had more than one sponsor throughout their careers. They see this as a valuable tool that can open doors and increase their visibility to the people that matter.

Create A Recruiter-Friendly Resume

The majority of recruiters use Applicant Tracking Systems (“ATS”) that search resumes for keywords, automatically discarding all resumes that do not meet specified keyword criteria and forwarding those that do to the requesting recruiter. They require the resume to be created using a standard application like Word or PDF, or created using online entry to their database. Even if they don’t immediately use an ATS, the recruiter will scan resumes for keywords.

A recruiter typically spends about 10 seconds on each resume, so if you don’t grab their attention at the top of the first page of your resume, you are toast. Standing out from the crowd has just become that much more difficult. Remember that a resume is just a door opener to getting that interview.

Here are five edits to create a recruiter friendly resume.

1. Refocus your formal resume.

Most resumes are boring and generally focus on data irrelevant to your objective of being selected for an interview. So a resume should be one or two pages at the most, with the first page a big push for attention.

A recruiter wants to know your skills, and the benefits you will bring to their organisation. That is where the focus of the first page should be. You should attract his interest quickly.

Before each application, review your resume and create a resume specific to that application highlighting just what a great fit your skills and experience are for the post. The summary in particular should have the keywords from the job advert for the ATS to find.

2. Make your resume short and standout:

· Use sections. Have about 4 sections – Summary, Personal Details, Employment History, any other relevant stuff.

· The ATS will prefer a standard font like Arial or Helvetica. Comic Sans and other funky fonts are a no-no.

· Align left to make it more easily and quickly read by the recruiter.

· Use bullets, italics, bold and capitals to highlight material. Draw the recruiters eye to important key facts about your skills and experience.

· Take keywords from the job advert. This helps ATS software select your resume.

3. Use a snappy summary.

· This is probably the most important section, and key to you getting to the interview. Put all the important stuff relevant to the job application near the start in a short snappy summary.

Set out a summary of your application, precisely tailored to show how your skills and experience meet the requirements as set out in the job spec. Use keywords from the job spec. Use power words. Some people use the same text as they use in the covering letter.

4. Precision and numbers.

Recruiters like numbers and figures. It gives them a better grasp of what they are reading. “Reduced wasteful expenditure by 15%” is far better than “Reduced wasteful expenditure significantly”.

5. Check, check and check again.

· Check your writing with Grammarly or Language Tool, use a professional resume edit service. Sloppy grammar and bad spelling will have your resume thrown out immediately. Do not under any circumstances use SMS speak.

· Have someone else read your resume. A second pair of eyes can often see things that you don’t.

This article was prepared by CraftResumes Community.

4 Ways to Increase Visibility at Work (#4 is sure to get you promoted)

As women, we often have the tendency to believe that being excellent at our jobs and working extra hard will automatically lead to career achievement. Hard work and skill are only two of the ingredients needed for career success and in fact, they may just be the baseline. A person won’t last long in any job if they can’t perform the basic functions – especially if they’re lazy.

The reality is, to really stand out among our competition, we need to increase our visibility. Seems obvious, but not enough women are doing the things they need to do to become more “seeable”. Just how do we increase our visibility?

(1) Break free from your desk

To start with, you may need to step away from your desk to get noticed. Some of us think that one day we’ll feel a tap on our shoulders and it will be the Company President acknowledging all of our hard and handing us our well-deserved promotion. The odds of this happening are pretty slim. In a sea of cubicles, we need to find ways to stand out. Our work should speak for itself. Good work shows work ethic, but it doesn’t necessarily show who we are. We need to understand that an office is more than a collection of cubicles and offices. It is an organism made up of diverse personalities which you happen to belong to. Create some buzz about who you are by presenting the best parts of yourself to your coworkers.

(2) Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want

I started my very first “real job” as a Benefits Administrator at age 23. I graduated with a business degree two years prior and then travelled for about a year right after graduation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning how to be unapologetic in communicating my desires. I worked for a company that had just merged with a larger subsidiary. In celebration of the merger, the Executive Team had planned a reception in a hotel. As we mingled, a man in a suit approached my group of three colleagues, asked how we were doing and if we needed anything else. My colleagues politely declined, but I said, “I really love those shrimp appetisers. Would you mind bringing some more?” to which he replied, “Let me see what I can do”. Minutes later, he was back with a tray of the shrimp. Shortly afterwards, the same man who brought us the shrimp was on stage welcoming everyone. Either this man had a catering side hustle, or I had just asked the CEO to bring me shrimp. My friends laughed throughout the entire presentation, especially after he said, “I hear the shrimp is amazing!” The lesson I learned from this “mishap” is to never be afraid to ask for what you need/want in that moment. As it turns out, I wanted more than shrimp. I formally introduced myself to the CEO/Waiter and spoke with him in detail about my career aspirations. The following Monday, I received a call from HR telling me that I had been selected for the Work Acceleration programme. It definitely pays to ask the CEO for more shrimp.

(3) Take on Extra Projects

Often times, we choose a career because we are interested in it, we have a passion for it or we’re really good at it. To become skilled, we need to spend the time cultivating that career and moving from generalist to specialist. This strategy makes sense, but most times we find that isn’t the best way to get noticed. Pigeon-holing ourselves in just one job function might end up backfiring. If you want to get noticed by all levels of the organization, volunteer for any project that needs to be done – not just the exciting ones. Broadening our skill-set gives us perspective into the organization as a whole and is also a way to get more training and development (on the company’s dime).

(4) Offer to help your Boss

“Is there anything I can help you with?”
“Are there any tasks I can take off your hands?”

Two simple questions that can give your career instant momentum. I recommend asking your boss these questions first thing on Monday morning. One caveat. Don’t expect to be given anything glamorous or even interesting. If your boss takes you up on this offer (the likelihood is very high), be prepared for tasks such as filing or making phone calls. Grunt work may seem like a necessary evil, but in this context, it is much more than that. It’s a way to ease your boss’s workload allowing them to focus on the things that are most pressing. It not only clears the clutter in their physical world, it also clears the clutter in their minds – something they will appreciate you for. When promotion time comes around, the likelihood of your boss remembering you will be much higher than the others who didn’t extend themselves.

If you are serious about advancing your career, it’s time to get out of the shadows and let your light shine by intentionally increasing your visibility.