That entry-level job you started 13 months ago has become second nature to you. In fact, you’ve got it so wired that your boss has to come-up with creative, new ways to keep you challenged and interested. She asks you to do things like training new employees as they get hired, or representing your group on a cross-functional team that is working on a high-visibility initiative. Whatever the circumstance, you sense it’s time to make the leap and take on a mid-level position that will help you grow professionally, personally, and financially.
However, getting promoted may be easier than managing your new responsibilities. According to the Diane Egbers and Karen Schenck, “40% of newly promoted leaders fail in new roles within 18 months.” Why? Lots of reasons: from over-estimating your readiness to not clicking with your new boss.
Here are three ways to think differently and be successful in your first mid-level job:
1. Look Up (Not Just Down)
Your first position involved managing details and tactics, problem solving, and completing tasks that were mostly short-term. These are “looking down” tasks. More advanced positions involve detailed tasks and tactics too, but these positions also involve being able to “look up” so you can see how all the tasks connect to one another to form a whole plan.
The most important tasks managers face take more time, input, and consideration to solve. For example, being a contract administrator or project accountant are jobs that take super “look down” skills, involving managing details and sweating the small stuff. But when people in those roles get promoted to being an assistant project or contract manager, they may become accountable for all of the budgets and expenses on the job—not just the ones associated with one element of the project. Knowing how to manage groups of functions falls into that category.
Before jumping to solutions like you might have done before, make sure you’re seeing the whole picture and how each piece connects to the others.
2. Learn to Embrace “And-Both” Thinking (Instead of “Either-Or”)
With your new responsibilities, do you focus on short-term issues like reviewing expenses on a routine basis or long-term needs like re-vamping important policies? If you had to make a choice between doing what is best for the shareholders (like taking a new contract with a high-paying customer, who complains about everything and is demoralizing to work with) and what is best for the employees (like, saying “no” to this kind of new business) how would you decide?
Every option and every answer to a problem usually come with a downside that is a trade off to its upside. Be curious and investigate all the angles of important decisions. You’re not just the person charged with executing the task: You’re charged with developing the best plan. You’ll need to see the validity of all points of view, even if they’re contradictory. Start by noticing your tendency to want to oversimplify things or to become uncomfortable in complex situations.
Some of the best answers you will land on will take into account the grey areas of a situation and find new and creative ways to accommodate multiple interests. So, in the situation above, you’d want to consider both your shareholders and employees by agreeing on clearly defined quality standards that your team can live with as a condition of taking on the client’s new business.
3. Make the Shift From “Me” to “We”
OK, so it sounds sappy, but it’s true. Entry-level employees have to take care of business and become successful as individual contributors. When you move up the ladder, you have to be a team player who isn’t as concerned about getting high fived because you did a good job. Your focus should be on supporting everyone’s contributions.
Since your new job is more closely hooked to the work of others, work on really developing the skills that go into being a great team member. These include listening with empathy, defining accountability and authority clearly, having difficult conversations, and knowing yourself better.
Mid-level employees are the heartbeat that drives execution in organizations. They are the critical link in the chain between the “doers” on the front line and “strategizers” at senior levels. Of all the “leaps” you’ll make, the most profound one is the leap of mindset from being satisfied with your own individual contributions to broader sources of satisfaction in the collective accomplishments of groups and teams.