Most employers tend to be focused on your current job, not your career trajectory.
I have a technical job at my company but would eventually like to become a manager. I know I need to prove myself as a good engineer in order to win a promotion—but if I’m only viewed as a technician, the company may be reluctant to elevate me to a managerial role that is based on interpersonal and leadership skills. How can I balance the need to brand myself for my current position, while still preparing to move up in the future?
Most people—including your employer—don’t spend a lot of time thinking about your career trajectory. They’re focused on whether or not you’re succeeding at your current job. It’s up to you to ensure they’re seeing beyond the easy caricature (good engineer equals bad people skills) and recognize your unique professional strengths. Here are three strategies to help your company understand your real potential.
Cultivate the right brand
It’s true that to advance at your company you’ll need to be a good engineer. But that doesn’t mean you need to overemphasize your technical side. Instead, think about your strengths that apply both in your current job and as a manager—a great work ethic, keen problem-solving abilities, or skills as a mediator between departments. Those are the areas you’ll want to emphasize.
Showcase your skills
Most of your workday will be consumed with the technical projects you’re being paid for. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate—and showcase—new skills on your own time. You can volunteer for workplace committees that allow you to make new contacts and demonstrate your expertise, or sign up for classes in salient topics like leadership or strategy. You may even want to link up with a trusted colleague and become each other’s “booster”, committing to sing each other’s praises in conversation with co-workers.
State your intentions
If you have a professional goal, don’t keep it a secret. Of course, you’ll need to wait for the right moment (your boss will surely look askance if you announce on Day 1 of a new job that what you really want is a promotion). But once you’ve developed a solid relationship and demonstrated your abilities and commitment to the company, enlist the help of your boss or trusted colleagues in your organization. Tell them about your ambition, seek their advice on the skills you’ll need to develop or the relationships you’ll need to cultivate—and then follow their counsel. When you show you’re prepared to work hard and do what it takes, you’ll earn their respect—and often- times, their assistance in moving up the ladder.
Most people aren’t focused on drawing out your leadership abilities. You have to take control of your future by doing great work at your current job, learning new skills and demonstrating them to your employer, and then being clear about your goals.
With that kind of focus and determination, you’re well on your way to a promotion.
This post originally appeared on the Mint website on September 2, 2012.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.