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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Career—Getting Ahead in Your Organization

My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there.

No one can manage your career better than you can. But if you wait for opportunities to present themselves, you may sit around forever. You must be pro-active. You must be assertive. The following ideas will improve your chances of moving up the corporate ladder.

  1. Make yourself indispensable. Create a niche by doing things that others can't or may not want to do.

  2. Go the extra mile. Help out in a crisis. Put extra effort in if a project is late. Be seen to be helpful. Help during emergencies.

  3. Make your boss look good. You will be valued and appreciated. And if you do enough good, the favours will be returned, sooner or later.

  4. Know what your boss's goals are, then modify your behaviour to do things that will advance your boss's goals.

  5. Work more effectively when you're not supervised. The next time your boss is out of the office, such as when she is on holiday, exceed her expectations by having projects completed. Leave a note on her desk or on her voice mail, so that she has the assurance and peace of mind that things are in good hands.

  6. Exceed the specifications of your job as laid out in your job description. Regularly document the things you are doing that are not described. At your next performance review, make your boss aware of your extra work, so your job description will be updated. Your boss will then be forced to acknowledge your growth.

  7. Do something special and have it published. Document your success and write an article about it. After passing it by your boss, find a publisher or a magazine you support. A published article will add to your credentials as an expert.

  8. In a team situation, be a player and give your best efforts to meeting goals on time and within budget. Encourage other team members to do the same.

  9. Be a willing volunteer, especially for projects that will let you prove your abilities to senior staff and key decision-makers.

  10. Avoid politics. You cannot expect to exert more than minimal influence on the people you oppose. If you are pushed to take sides, hold off until you can pick the likely winner.

  11. Understand the big picture. This will give you a sense of where opportunities are developing.

  12. Find out how people who have been promoted did it.

  13. Become the most technically competent employee in your area. Have your peers cross-train you. If necessary, do it on your own time.

  14. Focus on excelling in your existing job. Don't obsess about looking for opportunities outside the organization. If you must, read the Career Planning section, quit, and find another job!

  15. Project a positive attitude at all times.

  16. Volunteer for task forces, particularly those that have a high profile in the organization.

  17. Train, train, and train some more. Get as much education as you can to enhance your ability on the job. Take courses that might be useful to your peers, then offer to present a summary of what you have learned to them. Offer to cross-train others.

  18. Teach, teach, teach — become a mentor to someone else and help that person grow.

  19. Be assertive in getting your career goals known. Ask for promotions and opportunities whenever it feels appropriate.

  20. Develop a picture of what you want to be doing five years down the road. Make a list of roadblocks that might prevent you from being successful. Develop action plans to overcome these obstacles over a period of time. Communicate these to your boss.

  21. Be honest. Your reputation for integrity will compensate for the occasional awkwardness of telling the truth.

  22. Collaborate with those around you. Co-operative people are more likely to get promotions than those who are constantly in conflict with their co-workers.

  23. Focus on the big picture. Be aware of important current issues and industry trends, and find new ways to help your organization succeed. Identify obstacles to corporate performance, and make suggestions on how to overcome them.

  24. Seek out a mentor, a respected person in your organization whom you see as a role model. Choose someone whose skills and personality will give you an opportunity to learn different approaches and techniques. Consult your mentor for advice and feedback, especially when you have difficult decisions to make.

  25. Discuss your career goals with your boss so that you agree on both their suitability and the route by which you plan to achieve them. Ask for feedback on whether your plans are realistic, and for advice on what training you might need to gain the necessary skills.

  26. Set goals and develop your career action plan around them, using mini-goals to track your progress. Review goals regularly, and make adjustments to your plan if you get off-track.

  27. Be positive. If you have doubts about a project, don't present them as impassable obstacles. Maintain the position that there are no problems, only opportunities and solutions. Optimists achieve more because of their "can do" attitude, while negative people rarely succeed.

  28. Dress for success. Dress for the role you want, not for the one you have.

  29. Follow up on your promises. Underpromise and overdeliver.

  30. Put your energies into projects that

    • use your skills;

    • are likely to succeed;

    • require major effort and resources.

  31. Work visibly to help your organization succeed.

  32. Be generous with useful tips and sales leads.

  33. Research and report on ways to reduce costs.

  34. Be the person who knows what's happening. Become a source of information on current trends by reading trade and business-news publications and passing on useful material to your colleagues.

  35. Take on projects that others don't want to do. Your boss and your associates will appreciate you.

  36. If a situation is occurring that might embarrass or anger your boss, be the one to break the news as soon as possible. Your boss will appreciate being prepared for unpleasant outcomes.

  37. Maintain up-to-date information about your boss's expectations of you. Make sure that performance goals can be measured, so your achievements will be clearly perceived.

  38. Request increasing levels of authority and autonomy, and then prove yourself worthy of them. It may be a stretch, but you will be able to prove how capable you are to yourself and others.

  39. Do better by competing against yourself, rather than your peers. Competitiveness breeds resentment. Strive for your personal best, and let others judge you against your peers.

  40. Ask key people for feedback. Listen to them without being defensive. Show your appreciation by demonstrating improved performance.

  41. Take a positive approach when criticized.

    • Be as objective and unemotional as possible. Avoid defensiveness.

    • Consider the critic's point of view.

    • Use criticism as a learning opportunity.

    • Reflect on the criticism. If you think it unfair, defend yourself.

    • Thank the critic, even if you disagree with the evaluation.

  42. If you are fired or demoted, learn from the experience. Rather than trying to establish blame, find out what went wrong. Try as hard as you can to be objective, fix the problem if you can, and make sure you don't make the same mistake again.

  43. Win support by thanking in public those who help you.

  44. Learn to get what you want without alienating the people you meet. You never know who might affect your future career path.

  45. Take advantage of a possible upcoming job vacancy and put yourself in the lead by

    • taking on extra work that will demonstrate relevant skills;

    • letting key people know you are interested;

    • making sure your skills are updated to match the vacancy.

  46. Take the initiative. Go beyond the "normal" course of duty and do things that make a difference.

  47. Gain a larger perspective. Look at your organization from the viewpoint of the customer, the owners, and the staff. Try to balance often-conflicting needs.

  48. Take responsibility. Show leadership. Identify yourself as one who will demonstrate the values of your organization. Project a "can do" attitude.

  49. Be a team player. Work collaboratively. Help others to excel. They will return the favour when you least expect it or when you might need it.

  50. Present your ideas with panache. Tell your story with enthusiasm, always taking into account the needs of your audience.

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