The secret to leveling up

January 26, 2022 · 3 min readPeople Management

Any new year is a great time to reflect on where you are in your career and how you’d like to see it level up. Throw the Great Resignation and the War for Talent into the mix of an erratic labor market, and many workers are seeing productive changes in pay, flexibility, benefits, and career mobility due to the need to keep businesses operating. In this post, we’ll discuss some high-impact strategies for how to level up your career in 2022.

Whether it’s a promotion you’re after, a different position, or some more flexibility within your current position, the enduring pandemic has choked many archaic practices of the old working world, allowing employees to harness more control over their professional development. So, carpe diem.

Use transparency to your advantage

Most people would love to see their career progress, but few actually sit down to make a plan for how it will happen. Silently working extra hours and waiting for a decision-maker to notice does not guarantee you a promotion. Instead, be clear and confident in what you hope to achieve and voice this to your supervisor or manager. This is an incredibly effective strategy for a number of reasons:

  1. Having a conversation with your manager pushes you to do the planning/strategizing in advance. If you come armed with a vision, you and your manager can share a clear understanding of what you hope to accomplish.

  2. Accountability— Let’s say you want a promotion. By telling your supervisor, you are naming your goal out loud, not only to yourself but to someone else who is likely to remember, making you feel more accountable for reaching your goal. Additionally, if you play your cards right, it makes your supervisor equally accountable for outlining your path towards achieving said goal. Even a manager you don’t particularly jive with is still obligated to let you know what they’d need to see from you in order to earn a raise (and if not, leave).

In what feels like an ever-pandemic world, conserve your energy, and don’t work extra hours only to hope someone notices your loyalty. Opt to have a conversation with your supervisor instead and discuss how you’d like to grow. And, get clarity on what you need to do to make your growth happen.

Co-author a plan

Take initiative and offer to schedule time with your supervisor where the two of you can discuss your career aspirations. Do your best to take any extra “lift” off of your supervisor’s shoulders by offering to book time on their calendar and create an agenda with clear aims for the meeting. That way, your manager just has to show up to the conversation.

Make the meeting clear and quick. A sample agenda for a 15-minute call might look something like this:

  1. Goal setting: I [your name] hope to earn a promotion at [company name] this fiscal year (1-2 min)

  2. Feedback: discussion on my current performance and advice for next steps on how to achieve my goal. (10 min)

Start the meeting by letting your manager know you appreciate their time, and then waste no time in stating your goal, letting them know you want to make them aware so they can plan ahead for what is best for the team. Next, ask your supervisor to provide some honest feedback on your performance and how it matches up to your foreseeable goal. Note— their response here will be insightful, and you need to listen carefully.

For example, maybe they praise your strengths and can clearly outline steps or moves to make to advance in your career (great)! However, if they punt the responsibility (e.g. “I am just not sure we have the headcount for that”), it might be an indication there is little growth opportunity for you within the company or there is an underlying issue your supervisor is avoiding communicating with you. In this case, it’s best to ask them to clearly outline what they need to see from you in order for you to have continued opportunities for growth at your current company. Here, the ball is in your court because your supervisor has to respond in some way, and you have the ability to put that response in writing.

Regardless of whether the conversation is positive or troubling, your supervisor now knows what you seek to accomplish, and you have your supervisor’s response in writing. Follow the meeting with a recap email of what was discussed (written record), outline what you intend to do as your next step forward (accountability), and reiterate gratitude for their time (professionalism).

Bookmark your success

Being the salesperson of your own potential can be uncomfortable. Avoid discomfort and gain confidence by keeping a paper trail of your accomplishments and contributions. Document these accolades in your performance reviews, create a spreadsheet of metrics aligned to your work, and start an email folder dedicated to collecting inbound praise from your coworkers and clients. Documenting your worth validates your goals, picks you up on a rough day, and serves as impartial data to make your case. When the time comes to market yourself as the best choice for “x project” or a new role, you have the receipts to show your talents.

Make yourself seen

The last two years have been a period during which we have literally seen people less. This applies to our visibility at work too, meaning it’s hard to stand out from the crowd right now, and you’ll have to be intentional about making sure this happens. When opportunities to grow new skills or showcase current ones exist, seize them. Challenge yourself to work cross-functionally, to give a presentation, or to lead a new initiative. It doesn’t always have to be project-based either. Consider stepping up to plan team gatherings, or build in an extra hour each week to connect with a new colleague 1:1. Give upper management the gift of seeing you thrive in a variety of capacities, and it will be hard to ignore your name when a growth opportunity arises.

Keep perspective

Workers have an upper hand in today’s job landscape. While not everything is within your control, some things are, and you should capitalize on the moment. Small steps can have a big impact— make a plan, have a conversation, document your steps, and try a couple of new things here and there. Hopefully, these efforts lead to accomplishing a career goal within your current workplace. If not, then you’ll still have the tools, the insight, and the paper trail to help you level up, elsewhere.

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