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The aspiration to take one's career onto the next level isn't wishful thinking. People who plan to accelerate their professional development can position themselves to move ahead of the pack. Once they figure out how to stay ahead, they are more likely to be the ones picked for leadership positions and promotions.
The question is where to stay. What can you do to be this one person who stands out? The answer is to work on all areas that position you for leadership: knowledge, interpersonal skills and promise. When you always present yourself as the best candidate for advancement, you will be able to move forward within your organisation, or get jobs higher up on the corporate ladder.
The key is to do so through hard work, learning and concentration in improving your professional skills and abilities. In many situations, you will need to be able to evaluate your position, know where you want to go, and draw some sort of a road map that covers the requirements to reach the destination.
Here is how you must think of the three main areas.
To set yourself apart, you need to have some knowledge that is unique to you, but relevant and critical to the employer. Think of what you can offer others can't. Is it something in your background or past experiences?
If not, mull on how further education or additional experience can help. Be realistic about how far newly acquired knowledge will be valuable before you pursue any.
If you detect a need within your organisation for some particular knowledge, have a plan for how to acquire it and apply it to your job. This plan can be worked out with the supervisor and the training department, if there is one in your company.
If not, ask yourself if you're willing to do this learning on your own free time and on your budget. In some cases, this can be a reasonable investment in the current and future jobs. Having said that, if your employer is willing to invest in learning and training, that is a good sign you are on the right track in terms of seeking education relevant to the employer's needs.
Advancement requires the ability to demonstrate your leadership skills, including your ability to work with others, communicate, motivate and simply be an effective employee and team leader. People who struggle in social situations can be easily passed over for the next person, even if they are better qualified technically, because employers simply look at the whole package.
If being considered for a position where you may work with different teams, be part of the decision-making process on critical matters and so on. Your supervisor and management probably will take interpersonal skills into consideration.
If you know these are not a point of strength for you, consider ways to hone your abilities. There are all sorts of training programmes that can help with whatever area is the most difficult for you, whether it is verbal communication, teamwork, public speaking or whatever. Although these skills are closely impacted by our individuality, they still can be improved on to help you advance in the workplace.
People are often offered higher positions based on promise and potential. That is not to say your qualifications don't matter. In addition to all the experience and knowledge you bring to the table, employers want to see that your advancement will allow you even more room to grow. This growth is in this interest of the organisation.
So just like in job interviews, demonstrate how and why you can help with the employer's long-term goals. Try to align personal goals as much as possible with the company's, and have a clear, concise description of why they are realistic and achievable in your thinking — of course, if they are.
This is not a random elevator speech that you should come up with on the spot. In fact, that description should be the bottom-line of how you see career advancement in the organisation as a win-win for you and the company.
How to get ahead
Have a plan for advancement.
Set yourself apart with knowledge.
Improve your interpersonal skills.
Show potential for growth.
Find out why you should switch career options with due care
Source: Rania Oteify, Special to gulfnews.com
The writer, a former Gulf News Business Features Editor, is a Seattle-based editor