This means operating like someone in a position higher than you already are, without losing sight or attention to current responsibilities, but conveying the confidence and intent to be someone who has potential for promotion and leadership, Lewis says.
10 Strategies on How to Move up in an Organization
Our careers tend to have different stopping points and various twists that get us to where we currently are. If you take a peek at some of the various Linked-In profiles you’ll see a fascinating record of where people have been and what level in the organization they are in. Some might stay at a company for years and move up within that organization, while others bounce from company to company looking for the next opportunity. When I was promoted into management I found that one of the most important topics my staff wanted to discuss was career growth and how to move up in the organization. As someone with a passion for career development and that had experience moving up, I was more than happy to share my strategies and insights. Ideally you want to be in your current company and role for some time, have developed a solid reputation within your organization, and are contemplating your career path. Listed below are 10 strategies I recommend both as someone that has moved up in an organization multiple times and also from being a manager and understanding how these opportunities come about.
1. Be Dependable/Reliable– This is #1 and it is probably the most basic concept and it’s also the most important. Whether you believe it or not, your word and actions are being kept track of by all of your superiors and just to let you know that all of those sick calls, excuses on why you were out, and late tallies are not forgotten and do even get brought up at meetings. Sorry but the promotion you wanted will go to someone else because if you can’t be dependable, then no one will trust you or believe in anything that you’re capable of, even if you think you deserve it and are in line for the job. This also means following through with your commitments and performing at the expectation required when trusted with a responsibility. Being dependable is the first step in an assessment of an employee and I’ve actually seen this work in reverse as well where an employee was being considered for termination but because they were dependable and reliable, another manager spoke up in their defense and was kept because of the value they brought. Even if you are the most wonderful person or likable soul, if you can’t be dependable no one can believe in your capabilities.
2. Your opportunity will come from someone believing in you and championing your development- This is extremely important and one I find the biggest hurdle. Moving up in an organization is not only about your degree, experience, expertise, and skills. A huge part is having trust with the right person for when a position is vacated; they leverage for you to have it. It’s extremely difficult to get that opportunity without someone believing in you and even then there are politics that might prevent that from happening. The best thing you can do is position yourself by building up that trust, so that when the opportunity comes, the politics are in your favor. This kind of aligns with the “who you know” concept but the key is that they trust you and will vouch on your behalf.
3. Step up, when others run- There are two types of people. Ones that step up when it hits the fan and ones that run away and expect someone else to deal with it. How you handle yourself in those stressful urgent situations will provide others a view of your leadership capabilities. Remember this- People will not forget when you leave them hanging or drop the ball for them to clean up the mess and as a result trust will erode. Managers and upper management will not forget and even bring up that time someone didn’t step up and helped out when called upon, and if a promotion came down to you and another candidate and you have a reputation for dropping the ball, it’s probably not going to be you getting the job.
6. Take time to better yourself– This means attending that training, going back to school, or just continuing to develop yourself. Knowledge truly is power so never stop learning and think you’ve got it all figured out, because you don’t! Also by acquiring more skills and knowledge means having something very important called “diversity”, and having that one extra skill might set you apart and provide an opportunity to get to the next level. I know for a fact having a special skill no one else had did wonders for me in my career growth so this is something I cannot preach enough of, is to make your-self valuable to the organization by having the skills and being capable.
7. Emulate what others are doing– If you ever wonder how someone got to where they are in their career, just go ask them. Then map out the steps and understand the process that got them there. It might not be the exact or best road for you to follow, but you can learn from their experience and adapt a strategy that will work for you. Everybody has had to start somewhere and most leaders are totally willing to divulge their growth strategy, so go ask and in the process you might build that connection or mentor that will help you get there. In fact, mentors and teachers are extremely wonderful resources full of knowledge and experience and have been exactly where you’re at, so utilize their wisdom whenever you have the opportunity.
Strategy: Invest in Your Abilities as an Employee
Taking the time to develop the qualities valued by employers will help you advance more quickly in your role. Work on improving your “soft skills,” such as communication and writing, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities, as well as more general qualities that make an employee easy to trust, work with, and rely on.
One way to improve these skills is by earning a bachelor’s degree. According to a 2018 study , “nearly half (47 percent) of seniors said their college experience contributed ‘very much’ to their critical and analytical thinking abilities,” for example.
If you’re looking to develop your soft skills, your best classroom may actually be your existing workspace. Look to leaders on your team and observe how they handle conflict, organization, and prioritization of tasks.
Also, consider observing your colleagues’ daily practices and learning from how they deal with conflicts, problems, or success in the office. If you’re looking to become better at inter-office communication, for instance, pay extra attention to the format and style of the emails you receive from coworkers daily. Or, if you’re hoping to become a better problem solver, pay close attention to issues that your colleagues—or, even more beneficially, those who currently work in the role you wish to advance to—face daily, and the methods they use to overcome them. One of the best ways to learn is through real-life, relevant scenarios like these.
If you still find yourself struggling to understand someone’s thought process or tactical approach to resolving a problem, ask them about it. As long as you do so from a place of kindness, respect, and a genuine desire to understand and improve in your work, they will likely appreciate that you noticed and acknowledged their successful resolution of the problem, and may willingly share their approach.
When asking questions to leaders, always be sure that the inquiry is appropriately within the scope of your role. As long as you do that, your leader will likely both answer your question and positively note your observation and interest in understanding something new. Asking questions demonstrates your desire to learn and improve—qualities you’ll want them to remember when considering candidates for future advancement opportunities.
Strategy: Develop Your Leadership Skills
Employers promote or grant new career opportunities to workers who have shown they can handle being a leader because the higher you move up in an organization, the more people you will likely have to oversee. For this reason, one of the best approaches you can take to set yourself up for career advancement is to embrace and hone the tactics successful leaders utilize.
Some adult learners acquire these coveted skills by earning a relevant bachelor’s degree . This is a popular option for professionals who already have some work experience, as these programs can provide leadership insights specific to the industry in which they work. Making such a major investment to improve your leadership skills will prepare you for a more advanced role while also demonstrating the effort you’re willing to put in to qualify yourself for such a position.
For those that are not interested in completing a full leadership degree, however, there are ways to embrace leadership from within your organization to show your employers that you have what it takes to thrive. Many leaders are collaborative, inspiring, and inclusive—all qualities you can work on within yourself as a team member even before getting the opportunity to apply them as a leader.
Successful leaders also are known for making their own opportunities. Join a new team or committee within your organization, or take it upon yourself to identify a part of your company that doesn’t have proper leadership, and volunteer to assemble a group to oversee it. Even simply spearheading the organization of the company holiday party or volunteering to help organize a company outing can go a long way in showing your employer how well you handle leadership responsibilities.