Monday, December 21, 2015

Getting To The Next Level

Over the several years I've spent a lot of time mentoring, managing, and leading teams. For most of my career I was unclear what it meant to get to the next level. I thought that as long as I did a good job I would be recognized for my accomplishments in the form of career advancement.

While my career has advanced well, I missed several opportunities to move up simply because I was unaware of what it took to get to the next level. So here are some helpful tips that you can use to advance your career.

Make it known you want to be there

This sounds obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many people never let their bosses know they're looking to move up the career ladder. In the fast paced world we live in, you're not going to get something unless you ask for it. Taking this step is pretty simple. It just requires the courage to say you want it.

Identify Your Gaps

This is more difficult. Not because it's hard to figure out where we need to grow, but because it's hard to hear that we do need to grow. Even the most self-aware people I know can tend to gloss over the areas they need to grow in. When you sit down with your manager to let them know you want to get to the next level ask them these two questions:

What am I doing now that I need to stop doing?
What am I not doing now that I need to start doing?

Take the Opportunities presented to you

Getting to the next level is not just about skill. It's also about taking advantage of the opportunities presented to you and applying your skill, or learning new skills. The latter is more important because most likely, you need to learn a lot in order to start functioning at the next level. Every opportunity you take gives you a chance to both learn new skills and hone the skills you already have.

Look for opportunities that will stretch you in an area you're not comfortable with.

Be a Mentor

The best way to learn something is to try to teach it. You'll learn where the gaps are in your knowledge or skill set very quickly. A great way to do this is to start mentoring others. You'll be asked lots of questions you have no idea how to answer. But you then have an opportunity to get to the right answer and learn a new skill or some new knowledge along the way.

Get a Mentor

Having a mentor who is at or above the level you're trying to achieve is important. Having already achieved the thing you're trying to achieve makes them a good resource for you. Ask them that their hurdles were to getting to that level. Ask them what areas you should focus on and how to practice working at that level. Talk through situations and opportunities you currently have and see how they would respond or lead.

Most importantly listen. Being mentored isn't about showing the mentor how much you already know. It's about being humble enough to be teachable.

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