Having hands-on brokered the careers and promotions of countless candidates through my experience as a headhunter for positions at the Chief Executive level to analyst positions, the ONLY way to get promoted in the modern corporate world at any career level and industry is: MANEUVERING* effectively.
*This is assuming you do your job at the technical skill rate of 50%+ percentile. You can’t really maneuver consistently and successfully in the long run if you’re incompetent. This requires a minimum of at least knowing what you’re doing every day and doing a decent job; more power to you if you do an excellent job.
In today’s corporate environment, the modern day “jungle” if you will, you can no longer rely on “working hard” and just “doing a great job” or even “outperforming”. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Well, it’s true, at least from how I see it having personally helped people maneuver in their careers to greener pastures.
What about performance reviews? Well, they’re not the best predictor of promotions because people influenced this evaluation. The review process is inherently tainted by unconscious bias of varying degrees, largely dependent on your manager’s style and fairness (or lack thereof). That’s why employees are always mad or disappointed about reviews not reflecting “reality”.
Here are a few ways I’ve seen people maneuver in their careers:
- Use another company’s job offer or threat of leaving to a competitor to force their current company’s hand. In other words, “If you want to retain me, promote me. Otherwise, I’m going to competitor A, with a promotion anyways.” This is a natural phenomenon called COMPETITION. If you won’t give me a promotion, someone else will. This threat is real. As the employer, you either acquiesce or you get ready to backfill the position (potentially costing more money due to time lost, and recruiter/HR costs to interview, etc.)
- Maneuvering a promotion from an outside company by leveraging your current employment and salary. You don’t need to wait for internal promotions anymore in the modern day jungle! This is not the 1950’s. For the tigers and lions out there, you take what you want, and you procure a better meal when your current meal isn’t up to snuff. Same with job offers. You don’t wait and see when the promotion brick will land on you. You go out there and you get one for yourself! That takes work, education, and some courage.
It’s an art: I’ve made careers for people, jumping years ahead of their colleagues by leaving their current organization. A little risk goes a long way!
- Pro-actively maneuvering internally. This means, lunches, coffees, volunteering for projects, happy hours, initiatives that are ideally high-profile. In other words, reach out to upper management (managing up), colleagues (managing across), and start role modeling to those under you in the hierarchy. This does require schmoozing, maneuvering relationships, and cozying up to the right people (however you want to define it)! Yes, if you don’t like it, corporate is not for you.
That’s why people leave the corporate world at an increasing rate! In the modern day jungle, you can set up your own business, join a startup and get into other industries/passive income streams, thus lessening the dependency on the traditional 9-5. However, if you need to succeed or stay within a corporation with more than 50 employees, you got to play by the rules. There are too many lions and tigers who are higher up on the pecking order, so you better make sure you stay on their good side.
TIP: This post is a blunt reminder of the importance of social skills, communication, and networking. Invest in relationships today, internally and externally to start getting ahead in the game.
Fortune favors the brave – the tigers and lions who choose to maneuver reap those rewards. The deer who prefer to sit quietly, listen meekly, while burying hard in a corner working all day, unfortunately don’t take the selfish time to invest in maneuvering until they’re forced to do so (by way of a surprise layoff).
You can succeed any which way in your career, so choose whatever strategy works best for you!
Dandan is an ex-headhunter, retired 9-5’er, Founder of Dandan Global, a coaching company helping you achieve the life and career you envision.
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