Giving yourself the best chance … achieving your next career step

Have you been in your current role for a few years, grown in role, and feel that you are ready for the next step? Are you wondering why it hasn’t happened yet? How actively are you setting yourself up for future career success? If your answers to the above are ‘Yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘what does that mean?’ (or similar!) then read on.

While there is a form of mutuality between an organisation’s needs in terms of successors for key roles and an employee’s need for career progression (i.e both need the other), it is not enough as an employee to sit and wait to be noticed by those who make choices on career progression.

Ultimately, we are responsible for our own careers; we may get help from mentors, coaches, line managers and others but we need to help make our career progression easy for others to facilitate.

How can we give ourselves the best chance of success? 

  1. Clarity

    We need to have clarity on what we are looking for in our next step. If we don’t know, it makes it much harder for others to consider us as successors for roles or likely next candidates. This means having an understanding of the types of roles you would consider, their location (if relevant), and why we believe it is a good role for us as well as why putting us in it would be good for the organisation.

    If you can’t say that you have this clarity now, take time to consider your longer term career aspirations (say 10 years from now), then consider that you might have say 3 roles in that time (3-4 years each), and work out what skills and experiences you need to acquire in readiness for the long term aim. What is the next best role to help you on that journey?

  2. Advocates

    If you want to be considered as a compelling potential successor for your ideal role, you’ll need advocates. These advocates need to be ‘sold’ on you as someone with a high personal brand equity – they recognise your value and promote your name.

    If you are someone who is highly networked and provides value to lots of people, you probably already have a number of advocates. For those of us that don’t form networks automatically, it can require some proactive focus by considering who our stakeholders are and creating a stakeholder map.

    Stakeholder mapping is often used in project management – who are the stakeholders in the project? Do they have high or low influence on its outcomes? What’s their attitude to the project? Supportive or unconvinced? In this case, you are the project. Who are the stakeholders who have a stake in you? Some will be more obvious. Some may only become clear when you have clarity about your ideal next step. Who are the people that have influence over who is selected for that role? Do you have a relationship with them? What would your communication approach be with them?

  3. Messaging

    Assuming you have clarity and understand who your stakeholders are, what will you share with them if you secure time with them? How do you ensure that you are authentic and considering their needs as well as your own? My recommendation is to be open and transparent.

    Part of your messaging will explain what you are asking them for (E.g. “I would really welcome your support and advice in relation to my career aspirations. Could we discuss?”).
    You will need to be clear on what role(s) you are interested in, why you feel you would be able to add value in a role like that, a summary of the value you are adding in your current role (if this is relevant to your currency in the future role) as well as openness about your development areas and how you are working on these in readiness for the future role.

    Be open to learning from them (e.g. “what do you feel I need to focus on to prepare me for such a role?”) and, if they have a stake in you because they have some responsibility for filling the type of role you are hoping for and need to be aware of future potential candidates, ask them if it would be helpful for you to keep them informed of your progress and if so how often and in what way.

Managing stakeholders in you can feel uncomfortable for some. Our inner critic likes to tell us ‘they are too busy to have time for you’ or ‘connecting in this way makes me look like I am trying to ingratiate myself with these stakeholders’. If this is your inner voice, remember that organisations need talent and it is not always easy for those managing talent pipelines to understand who might be ready and motivated for particular roles. Your proactive career management helps to make their job easier and puts you in a better position to attain the role you seek.


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