How to Get Ahead Fast. Even If It Feels Like You Are Late In The Game
If you met me when I was 28, you might have thought I was a failure, at least in comparison to what most people define as success.
I didn't have a "traditional" start to my career:
1. I started college 4 years later than every one of my friends
2. I spent the first 7 years of my career in a job that had nothing to do with marketing (my profession)
3. At 28, I took an entry-level job, just to get into marketing
It took me a while to figure things out, but once I did, I got ahead faster than most people around me.
I didn't become the world's best marketer overnight... I just followed a strategy.
Follow this strategy to get ahead faster:
1. Start your job thinking about the next level in your career.
I know, it sounds counter-intuitive. Shouldn't you start by demonstrating you're good at your current job? Absolutely! But you can do both.
Starting with the next level in mind means having a strategy at hand, so you can make better decisions as you navigate your day-to-day.
For example: if an opportunity comes along to join a new project you can easily decide if you want to spend your time on it. You'll just have to ask yourself: will it move me closer to my goal? If the answer is yes, go for it. If the answer is no, spend your time elsewhere.
2. Define your goal.
Getting ahead is very vague. Would a 3% increase in pay be enough? Would added responsibility feel like you are getting ahead? Do you want to level up, pivot, or move horizontally? Getting ahead can mean different things, depending on your definition of success.
Be very clear about what you want: what is the exact role and title, and what is the salary you are looking for? What type of responsibilities will constitute getting ahead.
My advice: write it down in one sentence:
I want to be a [role, seniority], at a [company type, size, industry] and make [salary expectations].
3. Make a plan.
Having a clear goal is the first step, but how do you know what you'll need to do to achieve your goal? How do you plan your work and create opportunities?
Simple. You reverse engineer the steps required to get to the next level.
By reviewing job descriptions
By talking to people who are already at the next level to learn from their experiences
By asking your manager or looking at your company's levels guide
You'll end up with a list of 3-7 skills and experiences you need to gain. Now you'll need to create opportunities to gain those skills.
4. Understand the business, not just your discipline.
This is a game-changer in driving growth. When you understand how the different parts of the organization work, the business model, and the company's goal, you can make decisions that will have a greater impact on the company. For example, when I worked for Microsoft I got very curious about the organization I was part of (a division within Microsoft). As a marketer, I didn't have revenue goals, but I got acquainted with our sales targets. I asked myself, how could I impact those goals with my work? The answer was sales training. This project wasn't listed as one of my responsibilities but initiating it helped me get valuable experience, and made a big impact on the business.
The more value you add, the more valuable you become. If you can make a bigger impact, you'll get ahead faster.
5. Dig for opportunities
I didn't stumble on that idea to impact sales by mistake. I used a monthly routine to review my plan and ask these questions to see if I could identify opportunities to make a bigger impact:
What gaps have I identified through my interactions with others?
Is there an opportunity for me to innovate or initiate a new process?
Are there any tasks I can take from my manager?
Are there any changes in the industry that we can capitalize on?
6. Strategically go beyond your job description.
That means saying no to things that don't move you toward your goals and saying yes to things that will contribute to your goal, even if they scare you.
7. Have a conversation about leveling up
Closed mouths don't get fed.
If you want something you need to ask for it. While you may be doing an incredible job, your manager probably has 698 things to think about that has nothing to do with you. Make their life easier and tell them what you want. Share your goals with your manager early, so it's not a surprise. Keep them updated about your progress and every now and then remind them about your goal.
Following this strategy helped me receive multiple promotions.
Even with the best efforts, there are some elements that are not in your control.
Does that mean you shouldn't even try?
You just need to reduce the risk.
1. Verify there is a business need for the role you want to level up into (not necessarily headcount, but need).
2. Share your plans with your manager and agree on the KPIs that will justify a promotion.
3. Look at the people around you - who is getting promoted and why? If it's not the people who add the most value and actually do the work, you may have to level up elsewhere.
It doesn't matter where you are starting from, being more intentional about your career will help you grow faster.
Don't worry, I've got you. I have a full guide that will help you define your goals and create your plan.
Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:
1. Accelerate your career growth with the 3-step success formula - enroll here.
2. Design a career and life that you love with my live course - check availability here.
3. Work 1:1 with me to get unstuck and level up your career (3 & 6 months packages).