The Rising Star: 5 Ways to Get From the Job You Have to the Job You Want
If you’ve been in the working world for a few years, you’ve probably figured out what it takes to get ahead. Do good work; your boss will notice; then perhaps at the end of the year you’ll be rewarded with a promotion or pay bump.
That’s generally the trend—until, well, it’s not. At the mid stages in your career, it can be harder—and take much longer—to climb the ladder from the rung you’re at now to that next-level management position you have your eye on.
So, what does it take to stand out among the others at your level, both in and out of your company, and for your company to realize that you’re management material? Hint: At this stage in your career, it’s not just about doing a good job, it’s about strategically positioning yourself as a leader.
Read on for a few things you can implement, starting today, that’ll show the higher-ups you have what it takes for that next big step up (and get a chance to win a career-boosting prize from The Muse and TUMI).
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1. Know Your Niche
You’ve heard the term “personal brand” ad nauseam, but it bears repeating that you should know—and be able to communicate—what makes you stand apart from others in your line of work. What you’re best at, if you will. Serial entrepreneur Tina Roth Eisenberg has a theory that all successful people know their “superpower,” or exactly what they’re best at. Explains writer Sarah Chang: “John Maeda, who led the MIT Media Lab and Rhode Island School of Design, responded with ‘curiosity.’ Maria Popova, who curates the popular Brain Pickings blog, said ‘doggedness.’ Eisenberg’s own superpower is enthusiasm.”
You can learn more about how to find your own superpower, here, or work through this comprehensive personal branding workbook from Pricewaterhousecoopers. But beyond that, it’s important to think about what your career values are. As you aim to move on to the next stage in your career, what are you looking for in terms of personal impact? Culture? Co-workers? Finding your sweet spot in both your personal niche and your external environment is key for your long-term career advancement—and most importantly, happiness.
- Personal Brand Rehab: How to Redefine the Way You’re Perceived at Work
- The One Question All Successful People Can Answer Immediately
- Know Your Niche: 4 Secrets for Finding Your Career Sweet Spot
2. Become a Leader in the Office
Getting promoted to a high-level management position means that you won’t necessarily be knocking your own to-dos off a list—you’ll be motivating, inspiring, encouraging, and helping others in their work. So, whether or not you’re technically a manager now, it’s important to show that you’re ready for the responsibility and opportunity of leadership.
How do you, well, do that if you don’t currently manage people? For one, look for ways to show that you’re capable of more. For example, if you currently manage one or two interns, volunteer to run the department’s full-blown intern training program. This applies to projects or clients, too—if you’re currently running smaller monthly donor events for your nonprofit, pitch your boss on planning the annual gala.
Furthermore, look for ways to step outside your role and show your team that you can think beyond just your duties and department. “Leaders don’t just wait to be told what to do—they think strategically about what needs to be done, and then they do it,” explains PR professional Heather Schlichting. “So, next time you’re faced with a challenge, don’t just tell your boss about the problem and wait for a solution. Instead, tell him or her how you’re going to fix it.”
- 6 Ways to Prepare for Your Someday Promotion Now
- 3 Ways to Prove You’re a Leader No Matter What Your Position
- 4 Ways to Show You’re Ready for Management
3. Become a Leader Outside of the Office
Along similar lines, you want to show the people you work with that you’re not only a leader within your company—you’re seen as a leader in your industry, too. Yes, this is easier said than done, but you can start small. Attend conferences and industry events. Better yet, ask to speak on a panel or take on a leadership position at one of those conferences or industry events. Author an article or white paper on something that’s interesting to you, or start a blog where you regularly weigh in on interesting things that are happening in your field. And definitely—we know, you’ve heard it before—work hard to expand your network. Having a group of people who know you, respect you, and are willing to vouch for you goes a long way. (More on that in a minute!)
- 4 Easy Ways to Become an Expert in Your Field
- Professional Organizations: More Valuable Than You Even Knew
- 3 Ways to Build Networking Into Your Daily Routine
4. Get a Sponsor
“If you want to advance your career, having a mentor isn’t enough anymore,” writes leadership coach Jo Miller recently. “If you aspire to climb higher in this modern and competitive climate, you’ll need a sponsor as well.” Sponsors, she goes on to explain, are people who will stick their neck out for you in the business world: offering you up for promotions and prime projects or opportunities, getting you in front of decision makers, and generally making things happen for your career.
While, unfortunately, you can’t exactly ask people to become your sponsor, there are a few things you can do to position yourself well as the kind of professional that influential people want to help. Miller suggests knowing who the good sponsors in your company are and finding ways to connect with (and impress!) them, making your value as an employee visible by taking on high-profile assignments and talking about your results, and sharing your career goals with your manager and other higher-ups. By showing others that you’ve got what it takes to become a leader, they’ll want to be the people who help you get there.
- The People Who Can Open More Career Doors Than You Ever Thought Possible
- The Lazy Way to Get Ahead at Work
- Don’t Have a Higher-Up Opening Doors for You Yet? That’s OK
5. Build Executive Presence
Our final tip has very little to do with the work you put out and everything to do with the leadership potential you exude through the rest of your actions in the workplace—think how you speak, interact with others, even how you stand and walk and what you wear every day. It’s called “executive presence,” and while some people (think Sheryl Sandberg, Barack Obama, or your CEO) just seem to have it, it’s more than likely something they’ve worked years to develop.
Start paying attention to how people you admire act at work—when they’re leading meetings, listening to their team members, conversing with executives—and look for small ways to mirror their moves. It’s also helpful to look outside of your company: Watch a few TED talks to see how truly influential people command a room and convey their message, and see if you can pick up a few pointers.
And—of course—start dressing for the job you want. To get you started, here are TUMI’s suggestions for bags, supplies, and accessories that will take you from where you are now to exactly where you want to go.
Photo of man on stairs courtesy of Shutterstock.
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