You successfully navigated yourself through school. You mastered the art of getting by the recruiter-gatekeeper to tell your story and convince someone that you were worthy of employment; that you could add value to their organization over the long run.
You landed the job you were after. Congratulations. You’re in.
But recognize that you are entering a new era of your life and career; a period where success and fulfillment depend not on what got you to this point, but on acquiring new skills and competencies necessary to get you where you want to go.
Your past achievements are irrelevant to your future success; they may have influenced you getting through the door, but they guarantee nothing in terms of what happens from here on in.
Your past is merely table stakes to play the career game; you need good credentials to play the game, but you won’t win unless you build on them and become a different person.
In no particular order, here are the actions I took to move from my entry-level job as a systems analyst to the president of a major data and internet organization.
Know the Strategy of the Organization Better than Everyone Else
Treat learning what the organization must do to survive and thrive in uncertain markets as a high priority. What challenges does it face over the next five years or so.
Your opinion on any matter is a function of whether or not people believe you and trust your judgment. This takes time but be diligent and patient and watch your internal currency grow.
Establish a Strong Internal Network
Connect and engage with people who are viewed as movers and shakers within the organization. You want to be recognized as a member of the “young and restless” crowd who are impatient with the status quo and who show significant potential to move around and up the ladder.
Go Beyond Your Current Job Responsibilities
Excel in your current position but be seen as someone who is not limited by their existing role; who is looking for more and who wants to make a difference in moving the organization from the bottom to the top.
When you spot an opportunity to go beyond what your boss expects of you, do it. And don’t ask permission; empower yourself to have a go at something you feel will add value to your organization. Be known as that person who is motivated by taking a risk to do the RIGHT thing as opposed to merely following what the job outline dictates.
Look for Every Chance to Be Different
To be successful in any organization requires that you must stand-out from others; that you are perceived as that special person who can make a difference . Do whatever it takes to avoid being described as a bland commoner who fits into the herd and does things the way everyone else does.
“How can I do this differently?” should be the question that drives every action you take and every project you are involved in. Be contrarian. Do the opposite to what others are doing. Resist the temptation to benchmark best practices for opting them will only consolidate your position in the crowd.
Accept Recognition and Pass It On
Pass recognition for a job well done on to your colleagues who were with you in whatever achievement attracts attention. Give them the plaudits as team heroes rather than taking all the credit to feed your ego.
You never want to be perceived as the narcissistic “I person” who wants all the accolades and who wants to constantly be in the spotlight.
Read Everything You Can
Voraciously consume what thought leaders are saying about the matters relevant to your organization and learn from them.
Your favorite authors can also be your most impressive mentors so find people and material who can guide and enable you to apply new thinking to the business problems of the day. Even though I have never met the man, the marketing legend Seth Godin has always been my virtual advisor through his writing.
Hone Your Communications Skills
Make your communications skills an important element of your brand.
It’s one thing to think differently, but if you can’t effectively communicate your thoughts to others and hook them with your passion, nothing happens and your brave idea dies.
Get on the internal speaking circuit; talk about where the organization is going and the opportunities presented for people. Stir people’s emotions; establish your currency as one who is an activist and catalyst for change.
Declare Your Loyalty to the Organization
And do it through what you say and what you do.
This is a challenge for the individual who views their first job as one of many and who don’t plan on working for anyone organization forever.
My advice to you is this: be loyal to the organization while you are with them; do everything to get “loyal” integral to your young brand. Get recognized as someone who seriously cares about adding value to the organization and who doesn’t constantly have their eyes on their next personal career horizon.
Be comfortable with the notion that IF better opportunities present themselves, fine, but don’t spend every day looking for the greener pasture. Others will see you for what you are and you will not move ahead.
Once you have landed a job the really tough work starts for those who want a career studded with gems of experience and advancement.
Success isn’t rocket science; it’s all about pounding on the basics consistently and with passion all day every day to reach from the bottom to the top.