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It’s good to be the boss. People in charge of an organization not only make more money, but they also have happier family lives, are more satisfied with their work, and worry less about their financial futures, according to a2014 Pew Research report. Those in the top levels consider their employment a “career,” not just a job that pays the bills.
Here are 5keys to career success
1. Evaluate Corporate Opportunities
The more opportunities available to you, the better. For example, a rapidly growing company depends on numerous managers to implement its strategies, whether that’s introducing new products, expanding into new geographic territories, or capturing a larger market share. At the same time, a growing company typically takes risks to meet profit targets or expand into new markets.
Successful small companies can become acquisition targets for larger competitors. If their efforts are successful, the acquirer typically cuts redundant staff and replaces poor and average performers with their own people. In other words, the choice to work for a small growing company is a high-risk, high-reward proposition for an ambitious employee.
On the other hand, mature companies that already dominate an industry may have slower career paths but provide valuable experience and security for those willing to wait for their turn in corporate leadership. If the company chooses to blend acquisitions and internal growth to achieve profit targets, the opportunities for advancement can exceed those of a smaller company, with less risk.
That said, many mature companies have policies aimed at inducing turnover at the top levels. They may offer early retirements, buyouts, and titles with higher compensation but no authority or responsibility — a kind of in-place retirement — to retain younger, aggressive managers who might otherwise leave the company. Your selection of an employer is a critical element in how fast you climb the ranks.
Identify the most important aspects of an employer for you. For example, do you seek financial security or the opportunity for rapid advancement? Are you willing to sacrifice leisure time for a promotion? Are you competitive or more passive? Do you work best as an individual or part of a team? Where does work fit into your priorities?
Gather as much information about potential employers as possible. Public companies’ required disclosures are easy to access, newspapers and magazines often run articles on local companies and businessmen, and most companies have websites with information on various facets of the company. Review comments about potential employers on sites likeGlassdoor ,Vaults , andPayScale, remembering that some reviews may be negatively biased. If possible, talk to current and former employees. If you find anything that concerns you, ask the company’s recruiter for an explanation. After all, you’re making one of the most important decisions of your life.
2. Get the Lay of the Land
Every company has a culture, whether intentionally or informally developed. It’s the company’s personality and includes shared values, ethics, and expectations that govern employee behavior. Ignoring an established culture is one of the worst errors a new employee can make; it’s effectively inviting battles without knowing your foes or having a battle plan.
A company’s public statements and recruitment conversations can vary significantly from acceptable day-to-day behavior. As a consequence, new employees eager to make a significant impression may be admonished with the comment “That’s not the way we do things around here.” Before implementing your plan to get ahead, take the time to understand the rules of the game you’re playing.
3. Avoid Company Politics
Company politics are a fact of life in any organization, especially businesses. According to research published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, the desire to climb the corporate hierarchy stems from an innate need for power and control found in all humans. As a consequence, cliques and factions arise, especially around those contending for the corner office. Participating in company politics is always a risk since being associated with the wrong side invariably leads to career setbacks.
Some years ago, I advised a newly hired CEO of a major public company, who had been brought in from the outside due to the board’s unwillingness to choose one of two senior vice-presidents vying for the position. Enmity between the two officers’ supporters was overt and destructive. Despite the reputations of the two rivals — both were considered highly capable in industry circles — the CEO replaced both men, sending a message to the remaining officers that results, not politics, would be the basis for future promotion. The executives lost their positions, and their perceived followers’ careers also stalled. If you want to get ahead, avoid unhealthy alliances and personal conflicts with other employees. Treat all people with respect and courtesy.
4. Get Noticed by Those Who Matter
It doesn’t matter if you’re an expert in a particular field if no one knows who you are. Companies are filled with nameless employees who spend years toiling in the trenches without recognition. To ensure you get the recognition you deserve:
Seek Employer Feedback. Many employees passively wait for their annual or semiannualemployee reviews. Unfortunately, these reviews are often merely attempts to justify terminations or avoid lawsuits. Develop the habit of seeking feedback from your direct supervisor regularly, especially after every project. Take note of compliments and criticisms, modify your performance where necessary, and involve your boss in those efforts; your achievement reflects well on them.
Volunteer for Extra Work. Look for ways to make your superior’s job easier. Employees who help their bosses stand out become visible to other supervisors who may have opportunities as well. When you take on extra work, be sure you complete the assignment on time and as expected.
Participate in Company Activities. Being active in company social events, sports teams, and sponsored charities exposes you to more people who can help you on your climb to the top. Whenever possible, do favors for other employees without any expectation of a quid pro quo. Over the course of your career, you never know who might help you with a recommendation, introduction, or valuable advice.
When employing these strategies, be sure to proceed thoughtfully. They can easily be misunderstood by your superiors and resented by your fellow workers if done inappropriately. Remember, it’s important that your efforts be sincere and not viewed as attempts to fool colleagues or ingratiate yourself with a boss. Toimpress your superiors, seek to convey an attitude of selflessness, not selfishness.
5. Find Mentors
Business mogulRichard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group Ltd., has said that mentoring is the missing link between a promising businessperson and a successful one. Headvise that success takes “hard work, hard work, and more hard work. But it also takes a little help along the way.” Even geniuses need help now and then; in a letter to fellow scientist Robert Hooke in 1675, Sir Isaac Newton wrote, “If I have seen further [than other scientists of the time], it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
A mentor is someone who has traveled the path before you, knows the ins and outs of an industry or organization and its people, and is willing to give you authentic, unvarnished assessments and advice. Mentors may be within or outside your own company. A good mentoring relationship can speed up your progress, smooth bumps in the road, and help you avoid the obstacles that can derail or destroy a career.
Finding a mentor is more than identifying someone you can exploit for their contacts and sponsorship. Mentoring is a two-way relationship, much like that between a pupil and teacher. Find mentors who recognize your talent, genuinely care for you, and expose you to other successful people. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance and advice; the most successful people had help along their journeys, and many of them are willing to give back.
Consider having several mentors at once, much as a CEO works with a board of directors. In my career, I’ve been fortunate to have the advice of many wiser and more-experienced businesspeople. In most cases, our relationships spanned a lifetime — hopefully, a mutual pleasure, but certainly to my great advantage.