How to build a career you can be proud of

Get a little uncomfortable, and learn how to stand out!

This week’s Q&A:

“I feel like I’m ready to do something new at work. How do I take that next step in my career?”

To really know what’s best for you, you have to look at where you are in your career. Have you stalled out, or are you eager to move up the ladder to get to your dream job?

Stalled out

Have you noticed that you’ve been in the same position in your department for several years with very little change? If your department is small, you may not really have anywhere to grow to. If that’s the case, you should be actively working with your manager (or others) on preparing yourself for a new position on another team. Otherwise, nothing’s going to change. Finding a mentor is a great place to start.

If there’s room for growth in your department but you haven’t been promoted, honestly evaluate your performance as objectively as possible. Are you consistently improving, growing, and asking for new projects so you can broaden or advance your skills?

If you’re not, how will anyone know you’re ready for a promotion? A promotion requires you to work harder, accomplish more, and do better. If you don’t show your manager in advance that you can do all of those things, then don’t expect to be going anywhere anytime soon.

The bottom line in either of these situations is: You have to be willing to move out of your comfort zone and do something different if you really want growth.

Eager to move up the ladder

If you haven’t been in your job more than two or three years and you think you’re ready to move to the next level, great! That’s always exciting.

The best way to get there from here is actually quite similar to what you’d do if you’re stalled out—but you do it at a deeper level.

You still want to ensure your manager—and others—see you working harder, accomplishing more, and doing better. This is important whether you’re staying at your current company or not. If you’re not willing to do the work wherever you are, you’re not ready for that next step. Plus, you never know who’s watching that might be a great recommendation for you.

The key to job growth: Differentiate yourself

In order to be seen as the right candidate for a new position, though, you have stand out from the competition! How is your performance different and better than other people’s?

How do you figure that out? Think about what you’re good at. What are your unique skills? What do you do better than everyone else? It might be presenting, project management, being detail oriented, writing, being proactive, providing exceptional customer service—anything at all. Even if you think it’s small, it’s yours and you need to own it.

Find at least one thing you do differently and nurture it. Ask for more projects you can do that will show off that skill. Develop it so that it becomes exceptionally valuable to others.

Once you get known for being great at what you’re great at, everything gets so much easier. Then you can start to prove how your unique greatness makes a difference. Your goal is to be so great at what you do that your manager would be devastated if you left because it will be a struggle to find someone who can truly replace you.

And most importantly, don’t forget to ASK for the promotion! You should consider bringing up the topic with your manager about six months before your review so you can be working toward it.

Remember, you don’t have to be great at a lot of things. You have to work hard and be great at a few things. If you take jobs that let you focus on those skills, you’ll excel in your career because you’re in your zone, providing massive value to everyone you work for and with.

About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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