Whether you are a recent grad or you’ve been in the workforce for the past few years, if you expect to move up the career ladder, you have to be the one to make it happen. No one will come up behind you, tap you on the shoulder and say, “Okay, you’re next.” You have to have a plan and be actively involved in your career success. And to do this, there are five core qualities you should consider building: knowledge, credibility, relationships, commitment, and visibility.
1. Building Knowledge
“Knowledge is the only meaningful resource,” according to Peter Drucker, writer, management consultant and university professor “knowledge belongs to each of us – It’s mobile and it’s for sale.” What you know is what makes you valuable to an organization.
Build your career by developing your expertise. Build a broad base of knowledge about a wide variety of organizational activities, while developing expertise in your specific area of interest. Continuously enhance your knowledge and communicate it effectively.
Read. The benefits of reading begin when you are small. It increases your vocabulary. It peaks your interest thereby inviting questions about the world around you. It encourages creativity by introducing new and different points of view. It stimulates independent thought.
Listen. You’ll get nowhere and learn nothing if you do all the talking. Focus on other people, not yourself. Build your career through alliances, networking and by paying attention. Listen to what people have to say.
Ask questions. Be curious. Gather information by asking those in the know. Build your knowledge and your career by seeking information about all areas within the organization.
2. Building Credibility
To build your career and gain credibility within an organization, understand the company culture. The company culture is based on the values and mores of the organization. Values help to socialize employees to the accepted mode of acting and thinking.
Formal values define an organization’s role in business and industry; its goals and the method by which it will strive to achieve success. Informal values can be seen in company traditions, the source of organizational pride, or by asking “what’s the quickest way to get into trouble?” Learn both.
It’s okay to challenge the prevailing culture and norms once you’ve built credibility. Sometimes challenging current beliefs contribute to the company’s successful adaptation to changing conditions. However, one of the quickest ways to gain credibility is to have people know they can depend on you. Say what you’ll do and do what you say.
3. Building Relationships
Develop your career by building relationships. The best ways to build relationships is through networking, mentoring and consulting.
Networking is critical because no one person has all the necessary tools and resources, so it can provide you with access to vital information, important people and interesting projects. Meet and greet people at every opportunity both within and outside your organization.
A mentor can also provide you with access to information and projects, but while networking involves a large group of contacts, a mentor is one individual who cares about your career and will show you the ropes or be a sounding board. A mentor can be someone who works either inside or outside your current organization.
Acting as an internal consultant means seeking out ways to improve methods, systems, and processes. A consultant seeks to understand what the customer wants, then assists them to get what they need.
4. Building Commitment
To be committed to your career you need to be motivated and flexible. Improvise, innovate, and demonstrate initiative. Take on new projects or assignments that make you indispensable.
In Corporate America, you will be a subordinate, even if you are in management. Subordinates are in a position to increase their power by working hard on important assignments. Think of it as a domino effect. Take on a project. Do it well. Gain knowledge. Get rewarded with another project. At first, these may not be the choicest of projects but remember: there are no small roles, only small actors. Take advantage of every opportunity to build your commitment and your career.
While change can be good, only seek opportunities to make suggestions to do things differently after you have a thorough understanding of the situation. Improve operations by determining how to automate, eliminate or outsource current tasks.
5. Building Visibility
Grow your career through the number and scope of projects or assignments in which you are involved. These determine visibility. Whereas networking provides you with the tools to tap into a large group of contacts and resources, visibility is the outcome. When you become more visible, your accomplishments become more visible leading to more desirable assignments or promotions.
As you get the opportunity to choose whom to network with, what cross-functional teams to be on, or what department to work in, consider the visibility of the project, individual or department in relation to the future direction of the organization.
Participate in team projects and present the findings to management. Acknowledge and congratulate others. Share ideas – even those you’ve only read about.
As you focus on your career, remember these five winning qualities. They’ll go a long way in helping you to build a successful career.