You’re going about forging your career path and personal reputation in one of two ways; by design or by happenstance. Which is it?
If you go about your career and building your personal reputation by happenstance you get points for being genuine and authentic, but you score low on forward-thinking, long-term planning and most importantly putting yourself in a position to seize opportunities you want as they arise. People who come into contact with you in your business or work life will form opinions of you based on their interactions with you and by observing your actions with others.
Now that’s not bad actually; people forming their opinions of you based on your actions. However, with little forethought for future planning, you may be viewed as perfect for the job you currently hold while on the downside not being seen as having upward potential within an organization. The next job or two on the career ladder no doubt require additional skills and subtle changes in behaviour, thinking and/or actions, and you may not be communicating to others that you have the additional skills, motivation, leadership etc. that is required.
If we turn and look at forging your career path and personal reputation or branding by design, how you go about things changes.
Take a Lion Tamer in the circus. You and I might not intimately know the person but we can imagine the job and the job description; essentially demonstrate to the audience how you can direct the Lion to do certain things and do it safely while appearing to do so with a great deal of danger and risk. Wow them with entertainment and survive the encounter with the ferocious King of the Jungle!
Okay, a little dramatic but that’s essentially the job. For a time, the Lion Tamer may be happy and content to play the role from town to town, from month to month, even year to year. At some point, the Lion Tamer might say to her or himself, “Is this all there is? I want to do more.”
The others who surround him in the circus may look at him as simply, The Lion Tamer. She or he’s been doing it for years, they do a great job of it and they’ve built a reputation so well amongst their peers that no one sees them as doing – let alone wanting to do – anything else. What then of the ambitions of the Lion Tamer who grows increasingly hungry for a change? Maybe they want to take on a role as Master of Ceremonies or Business Manager for the circus. Suddenly those around her or him are challenged to see the person who is the Lion Tamer in a different light. This can be a huge challenge if they’ve never seen or been exposed to seeing the Lion Tamer any other way.
What if however, the person who tames the lions indicated an interest in learning the business side of the Circus and routinely split her/his time between working with the big cats and on their own time read business publications and journals, befriended the Accountant, talked long into the night over drinks with the current Business Manager and saw what went into moving the Circus from town to town with audiences lined up and ready to invest their entertainment dollars.
If the Lion Tamer got around to applying to be the Business Manager down the road, it wouldn’t come as a surprise because those around him would say, “Not a surprise. We all saw it coming. Good for her/him, we’re in good hands!”
Okay enough about Lion Tamers. (Why Lion Tamers came into my head this morning is beyond me.) What about you? You might be pretty good in your job; maybe we could go as far as saying you are wonderful in your job. At some point it’s conceivable that no matter how happy and challenged you are, you just might want an additional challenge, an increase in responsibilities and pay, or a shift in your responsibilities.
Does that make sense to you? I think most of you will agree the job you’re in now isn’t the job you want to retire from; depending of course where you are on the age scale. Now then is the time to start doing a little forward thinking. What positions within the organization can you identify that might be of interest to you personally? Would applying for those positions be something you’d like to do this year, next year, 1-3 years from now? What can and should you do therefore to position yourself to take advantage of the opening when it comes about?
Positioning yourself is done in two ways; ensuring you gain the skills and qualifications to apply with confidence and ensuring others in the organization perceive you as having the interest, skills, qualifications and personal fit for the role. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can acquire the skills and qualifications alone and advance. It’s often who in the organization knows you and sees you as being a strong candidate.
You might want to have a low-key conversation with your Supervisor and express your long-term organizational goals. Maybe you ask for learning opportunities, temporary assignments, mentorship, additional training etc. Maybe a conversation with someone in Human Resources would be helpful or with your bosses permission, an introductory meeting with someone in the role you’re after to get their insights.