Blog contributed by Pamela Jett, communications skills and leadership expert
Have you ever wondered why some people’s careers simply seem to skyrocket? Or, wondered how some people seem to get more attention and opportunities than others? Have you ever wondered if there was some sort of way you could launch yourself onto the fast-track? If so, take heart. There are ways you can be your own career superhero and “save the day.” All you need are a few simple strategies to unleash your own inner superhero.
For over 20 years I’ve been speaking about communication, leadership, and career advancement. One of the most common comments from audience members is something along the lines of “I work hard and yet I don’t seem to get promoted.” My follow up question is typically “what opportunities have you put yourself forward for recently?” The response? Crickets. It seems that many professionals are waiting for their good work to get noticed or for their leader to suggest they apply for an opportunity. That RARELY happens. Professionals who want to get on the fast-track know they need to make it happen themselves instead of waiting for their leader to place them there. Stop waiting for your good work to get noticed and appreciated. Start taking proactive steps to be your own superhero right now.
Here is some common advice “you want to uncover your weaknesses and shore them up.” Good advice? Not really. Of course we want to improve if we are weak in crucial areas. However, if we place all of our efforts on getting better at something we are not good at, the best we can hope for is mediocrity or being average in most cases. Why not take that same effort and energy (or at least a substantial portion of it) and look at what you are good at… really good at and figure out how to use that to make an extraordinary contribution to your organization’s success? THAT will get you noticed.
Research reveals that we tend to remember our mistakes 7 times (yes, 7!!!) longer and with much more intensity than our successes. Think about that. If I were to ask you to “share your biggest win this quarter” it might be rather hard to come up with something immediately. Some of you might not come up with anything or if you did you would immediately downplay your success in your mind or even feel guilty – as if sharing it would be bragging. However, “share where you really botched it recently” would likely generate an unlimited stream of mistakes, missed opportunities, and other errors. This is human nature (seriously, there is neuroscience which backs this up.) A great way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you at a crucial time (like a performance review) is to keep a “glory file.” Whenever you have a “win” record it in your “glory file.” When your leader compliments you, make a note for your glory file. If you receive a complimentary email, print it and file it! Track the good things you do so that you can review it when you are feeling low or before a crucial conversation. Trust me, you are letting a lot of “wins” slide right past you. By tracking them you increase your ability to recognize them, remember them, and leverage them.
While keeping a “glory file” is a great practice, professionals who are their own super heroes are doing something proactive with that information. One strategy is to send regular “I’m Great Updates” to your immediate supervisor or executive leader. Of course, you don’t have to title them that. However, that’s what they are. They are a tool to update your leader on all you’ve done well. It’s a brief email focused on the highlights of your accomplishments over any given any period of time. You can send one once a quarter or once a month. One a week might be too often. Sending this written update is helpful in many ways:
Know how what you do on a regular basis makes an impact on your organization’s big picture goals and strategic vision. Take a moment to determine what you do on a regular basis and then draw a straight line from that activity to a big picture goal or objective. If it is something that can be measured or expressed as a number of some sort, that is even better. Use this strategic language “what this means is…” to point out the impact of what you do. Place these impact statements in your “I’m Great Updates.” Use them in your conversations with your leader. By pointing out the impact of what you do, you show not only awareness of your contributions, you also display awareness of the bigger picture, a crucial component of career success.
Stop waiting for someone else to boost your career. Take a proactive approach by using these strategies.
Pamela Jett is a communication skills and leadership expert who knows that words matter! In her keynote presentations, workshops, books and online learning programs, she moves beyond communication theory into practical strategies that can be implemented immediately to create the kind of leadership, teamwork, and employee engagement results her clients want.