In my first week of work at my summer internship between my first and second year of business school, I received some of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten from a boss.
“You’ll never get promoted just for doing your job. You’ve got to go beyond your job description and proactively solve problems that we don’t even know we have.” Thanks Jeff, you were right!
Building upon that great piece of advice and a couple of decades of experience, here are some observations of what works to get promoted faster:
1. Recognize that everyone is hired to solve problems
Your job is to figure out what they are, and then solve those problems, proactively. For example, if you are a marketing manager, your job is to grow revenue profitably. This means you need to identify all the strategies and tactics you can use to grow revenue, and identify all the ways that you can cut out inefficiencies and costs — without waiting for someone to tell you.
We can get so caught up in the day-to-day pressures and busywork of our jobs we forget the fundamentals. Revisit the core building blocks of your job, then develop a plan to do them better.
Like the NBA star who practices free throws after every game, when you continuously connect to the fundamental skills that lead to the results you were hired for, you build habits that lead to success.
2. Approach your work with a positive, can-do mindset
Attitudes are contagious and shape cultures. Be the person who sets the positive tone and pace for the group.
People feel great when they see results for their efforts and feel they are part of a high-achieving team. Results are achieved by those who believe they can be achieved.
Be known as the can-do person on the team. Ask yourself “How can we?” instead of “Why can’t we?”
3. Have a bias for action
No matter how lofty the goal, start small. Chunk it up into smaller, achievable pieces and just begin.
Get momentum on your side. Sometimes the toughest part is getting started. For example, if you are given a challenging assignment, get out a piece of paper and diagram what you think the steps in the process are. Then schedule and do one small action. It’s doing this last part consistently that separates those who advance more quickly. More action, less talk. You can adjust along the way.
4. Play to your strengths, but stay accountable for the entire outcome
There is a wealth of research that proves why developing a few profoundly powerful strengths leads to greater leadership effectiveness than trying to be decent at everything, and therefore mastering nothing.
A key distinction of leaders who ascend quickly, though, is that while they play to their strengths, they don’t just leave it at that. They ensure the job gets done completely and with excellence by shoring up areas in which they are not as strong.
Great performers don’t just take accountability for the things they’re naturally strong at; they figure out how to do a good job at all of it by leveraging others’ talents, strengths and knowledge.