Make a plan
Too many people bounce through their career like a pinball in a pinball game, but in order to achieve your full potential, every person needs a plan, some sort of road map or blueprint. A smart person will have a long-term career plan, which focuses on where they want to arrive at the pinnacle of their career, as well as the interim steps they’ll need to take in order to get there. Make adjustments as you go, but implement the plan early on in your career.
Get an education
Get the best possible education and training you can, as early as you can. No matter what has changed, there is still no replacement for getting a head start with a great education.
Use all your resources to get into the corporate world. Leverage your network to get in at the best possible starting point. Networking doesn’t stop once you have the job. The more people you know and who know you, and like you, the better is!
Don’t just put in your hours. Do more than most people, and work harder and longer. Treat everything with urgency and volunteer for high-visibility projects. Always seek to contribute more, and be known as the go-to person or the get-it-done person. Arrive earlier and leave later. There is no replacement for hard work and smart work.
Dream beyond the job description
Don’t let yourself be limited by what you are officially assigned to do. This does not mean ignoring present responsibilities: it means working beyond achievements that are obvious or expected.
Develop an “I will do whatever it takes to get the job done” attitude
Your work attitude is just as important as your work aptitude. Most people work hard, but if you’re the one with the can-do attitude, your supervisor will certainly recognize and appreciate it.
Become a resource
Continue building your own skill and knowledge outside the job. Keep growing your expert status and credibility in your field, not just within your company. Become an industry expert. Read, study, follow industry leaders on social media outlets, and attend industry conferences. This helps you grow beyond your job to know the industry and others in it. These relationships can open up tremendous possibilities for mentoring and advancement.
Dress for success
Don’t look at how your peers are dressed; look at how the top executives are dressed. Dress for the position you want, not the one you have.
Get to know your company and your boss
Understand the company’s values and your boss’s priorities, and align your efforts with their goals and objectives. Know your boss’ top personal and professional goals, then do all you can to help him or her advance their priorities. Every leader needs lieutenants, and when you serve them their favor toward you will increase and they are likely to pull you in and up to more responsibility and opportunities for quicker advancement.
Keep an ongoing success file
Record and file all of your achievements, especially those that align with broader company priorities. Find ways to keep your boss and others informed of these achievements so you are recognized increasingly as someone leading company success beyond your own responsibilities. This list is especially helpful at annual review time. Bosses like measurable, quantifiable results. If you can’t provide that in your review, you’re just another employee begging for a raise or promotion.
Be keenly aware of broader company goals
Know which projects are being funded, who is in charge of those projects, what priorities are high and which ones are low. Align yourself with the people and projects at the highest levels of attention and expectation. This gives you visibility and the chance to shine more quickly.
Think and act a level above
This means operating like someone in a position higher than you already are, without losing sight or attention to current responsibilities, but conveying the confidence and intent to be someone who has potential for promotion and leadership. How can you achieve this? Pay attention to those at the top. If you work for a public company, listen in on quarterly analyst calls. This is a great way to hear what top company leaders are saying to Wall Street and learn about how they think and respond to shareholder interests and concerns.
Be an initiator, not just an executor
90% of employees are executors, but it is the other 10% who initiate, who do things that they are not asked to do, who move up the ladder the quickest.
Be a team player
Supervisors look very carefully at how employees work with the rest of the department and other departments. If you are seen as a team player and can work well with others, this will definitely help your career. The ability to win friends and influence others is a skill needed increasingly as you move up in any organization.
Consider yourself a free agent.
Every person needs to think of himself as an independent agent. Whether he stays with one company or jumps around, he needs to keep his options open. Someone who is fully in charge and fully responsible for his or her own career is more likely to make good decisions and succeed.
This sounds so simple, but I’m amazed how seldom junior professionals articulate their gratitude for the opportunities and guidance extended to them by more senior leaders. I learned the value of this one time when I saw our CEO walking through the atrium at lunch. He did not know me but I thanked him for his weekly voicemails that I knew he intended to be informative and encouraging to the workforce. Not 30 minutes later my boss told me the CEO had asked what my name was, and I realized my simple gesture of appreciation had left a positive impression. From that point forward the CEO called me by name.