I had a boss, who used to say to me, “The big decisions about you are not made when you’re in the room. You are never in the room where big decisions are being made about your career.”
Let me tell you, as a senior leader, I can let you know it is very true. You are not in the room when the decisions about your career are being made. That is why it’s so important that you learn how to shape those decisions. If you can’t be there, you could at least be in a place to influence what’s happening in the room.
I’m going to share three actions that you need to take to shape your career. These are things that I had to learn, and I learned one of the hardest ways.
Tip No. 1: You need to be a rockstar.
You really need to be delivering. You have to knock it out of the park and have high-quality work. There needs to be no doubt about how awesome you are as an employee.
Tip No. 2: You need to be very clear on what it is that you want.
Not what the company wants for you, what you want for yourself, what you want for your career. You have to be clear on that because once you’re clear on that, you can articulate it, you can share it and you can start to sway where your career goes.
Tip No. 3: You need to let the right people know what you want and why you should get it.
You need to let the people who are making the decisions, who are in the room where it happens, know what it is that you want and why you should get it. They can help to pound the table for you and they can help to steer your career in the direction that you want it to go.
I made the mistake of not doing this, not letting the right people know what I wanted out of my career. I got to a point where I had a lot of ambition but I didn’t see room for growth. I ended up leaving my company and working for someone else. Not too long after that, they called me back and said, “Hey, we’ve got this more senior position. Would you want to come back and work in this role?” And I was like, “Well, but why did you let me leave at first?”
A part of it was that they just didn’t know. I had the ambition to move in that direction but I hadn’t let the right people know. You’ve got to let the right people know.
So who are the right people?
That’s the big question. It is your immediate boss. It’s your boss’s boss. It is any senior leader who has a stake in the area that you are interested in. It’s also your influential peers, the people who sit on your left and right, those lateral folks who are influential in the organization – let them know what you want.
There are always people in the organization who have the ear of senior people. They should also know what you want. When those groups of people know what you want, it’ll most likely go your way even when you’re not there.
You have to let them know that you want to grow in the organization, or that you want to pivot, or that you want to shift in your career. You have to let them know that you have bigger ambitions, to do something else, or to do something more.
And that doesn’t have to be a promotion. It could just be that you’re interested in a different area of work. It could be that you’re interested in managing more people. So get clear and let that group of people know what you want.
There’s a trick to using the right words.
You can set it up so that others benefit when you share what you want.
Let’s say that you want to get promoted. How is the company going to benefit from your promotion? How is the person you’re talking to going to benefit from your promotion? You need to plan that.
When you talk to people, understand that you are giving them the bullet points that they need, the talking points that they need to express about why you should get what you want.
If, for example, you really want to work more in strategy, you can say to your boss or peers, “Hey, I would really like to work more in strategy. I’ll be able to bring (this past experience that I have). I’ll be able to bring (this outside experience that I have.)”
It’s going to help them see things in a new way. When you know no one else has this experience and what you can bring to the table, you can share how the company is going to benefit and how they, as individuals, can benefit too.
If you tell them bullet points, they’ll walk away and think you’re great for that role. You’ve planted the ideas in their minds, so you come up when opportunities open up.
The key thing is that if you’re talking to a lot of different people about what you want, they’re going to have the same talking points when they get together. They’re going to have the same ideas about you and that’s just going to build. This is how you start to shape the decisions that are happening when you are not in the room.
So what I want you to do at this moment, because if you are only reading this and you’re not actually taking action, you’re not going to benefit from it.
First, I want you to write down what it is that you want next for your career. How do you want to grow? What do you want that’s different? Then I want you to write down 10 different people in your organization who should know about this.
Next, I want you to write five separate bullet points that you can share with them about why you should get this thing that you want for your career.
Lastly, I want you to share it with them TODAY. Don’t wait, go ahead and share those bullet points with the folks on that list. Take the initiative to share with at least one person today.
These are just some ways you can maximize and find purpose in each interaction in your workplace.
If you want to learn more ways to advance your career without working more hours, my Get Ahead Without Staying Late masterclass, you’ll learn to work intentionally using my easy-to-follow 7S Framework.