Most people in their career will fall into one of a few categories. Being ambitious, not overly ambitious though perhaps want change or are subconsciously going through day to day without thinking about the future, though still interested in the future. Across all these scenarios there is one common thing that people should be thinking about. It is “positioning” yourself well enough to either go up the ladder or move into a new function.
There are several aspects to this and it will vary from person to person. This might involve leadership, technical knowledge, more or a specific type of experience in the role or simply becoming more involved with people around you. The last point we’ll look at first.
Ultimately if you are looking at staying with your current company then the key piece of advice would be get involved with the colleagues around you. They can be part of your engagement in day to day scenarios and relationships ultimately enhance our time at work. They also can form a bridge of sorts whether it be a direct job offer internally, become an advocate or a source of information in the internal (and external) network to help position your career. If this is done well and genuine relationships and respect begin to form, it will make the process of positioning your career much easier and more fulfilling.
If the direction you want to head involves a new technical understanding, then start using that network and be proactive with management to work towards this. It might be to move into a secondment or onto a project which provides exposure you need. You might overlay this by also looking at external training and development. In todays world of online training “micro-learning” channels are prevalent. If moving from a process or client facing role into a technology role then access to education has a huge variety of channels. If looking to move into a client facing role then positioning yourself in that environment to begin with, most likely in a support role, is the move to make. Supporting a sales manager to the point you deal with the customers, the product and learning about how to handle the wide variety of scenarios will hold you in good stead. Though you will have to be prepared to stay in this role for some time.
The aspect of leadership is a little different. There are some great managers who find their way into a leadership role, and then there are people who probably should not be in a management or leadership role. When it comes to “positioning” your career for leadership you really need to start consciously being aware of how you communicate with people and how you honestly think you are perceived. This is not a simple process! It can get complicated and will involve you building out emotional intelligence. The concept of self-awareness and how behave in an emotional sense. This can be achieved but you need to approach this with a realistic sense of learning. It could be identifying certain people around you (think back to the first point) and observing how they might handle situations involving managing and leadership. Putting your hand up to run projects, team initiatives or even social aspects of work can help you get started. As for education here, it is not as clear cut. Normally an organization will put people through leadership training but only if they have become a leader. The key is to understand the behaviors behind being recognized and display them early.
All in all, if you are wanting to get from point A to point B then start consciously thinking about it and what it might take. Sometimes it may involve more time, a few deviations and some learning. Most certainly though it will involve the relationships and connections you have made in the workforce.