Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
Moving up the ranks: how to show you're management material 09/03/2011
How can professionals build enduring success and advance their careers to the next level - and keep rising? Tiffany Wong provides her insights into some of the burning questions.
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- Take control of your career
- What do leaders look out for?
- What actions should I take?
- How long should I wait before going for manager?
- Avoiding peer envy
- How can I be a better manager?
Take control of your career
Besides being a highly competitive environment, the corporate world could be pretty volatile and unpredictable. If you have been working hard and not reaping the rewards you rightfully deserve, it would be wise not to leave your career in the hands of fate and hope it intervenes.
Set your career on the right path and push it along, ensuring that it continues to grow. The secret in scaling that corporate ladder is to move up one rung at a one time so that you can manage each step effectively.
What do leaders look out for?
Bosses ultimately want someone they can trust to do a job for them. If they know the individual is professional, credible and works in the best interests of the organisation, then they will rely on them to take on managerial positions. Most bosses also want to ensure that the people who are looking to rise up the ranks are able to deliver and have a track record of success.
Management is also about inspiring, leading and retaining the leaders of the future, so bosses will want to ensure that their own management structure is able to groom those underneath them to provide a pipeline of future management talent.
Just being good in your job does not necessarily mean you will be a good manager. This requires a different skill set and relies very much on your softer skills, so bosses will be assessing future managers on their potential people management and leadership skills as well as their performance in their current role.
What actions should I take?
It's not necessarily about shouting from the rooftops proclaiming all the extra work you have done to get noticed, but making yourself indispensable.
- Does your boss always rely on you?
- Do they turn to you frequently for help and suggestions?
- Are you making them look good?
Remember that if you are being assigned specific projects, it's probably because your management feels that you are the most capable person for the job. So all you really need to focus on is proving that your boss is always right (about you), and adopt a positive attitude at all times. Learn to take credit when it is due will help you climb that ladder more quickly.
However, you also want to avoid being the person who they are constantly delegating work to, or you may start to feel that you are doing all their work or being taken for granted. You need to be having regular ‘career chats’ during appraisals and showing you are ambitious by asking your boss what you need to achieve in order to move on to the next level.
Ask for milestones so that once you have achieved them, you are able to point out that you have successfully accomplished what has been tasked to you in order to achieve that promotion. You should also work on your softer skills by interacting, grooming, training your colleagues and new recruits as this will help hone your management skills and display your ability to take the next step.
Last but not least, you need to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. A management role not only requires you to have sharp business acumen and interpersonal skills, it also stretches your problem solving and analytical capabilities. Take initiative to offer valuable insights and solutions to current organisational issues and demonstrate your commitment and enthusiasm in contributing to the company. Career advancement is usually not handed out to anyone on a silver platter so knowing how to take advantage of potential opportunities and going that extra mile will be key in moving you rapidly up the ladder.
How long should I wait before going for manager?
You really should not feel that promotions are due to the time you have spent in a role but rather, whether you have deserved it. It's not advisable to rush into a managerial position simply because it adds another glamorous badge to your resume or for the sole reason of more money. Management often comes with serious responsibility. You would be in charge of other people’s careers and you need to be equipped with the right skills to manage and lead others.
We have all seen examples of bad managers and sometimes this is down to quick promotions or a lack of understanding of what it takes to be a good manager. Sometimes it's better to stay at a certain level to gain a thorough understanding of a role rather than look for quick promotions and set yourself up for failure. You always want to feel challenged, but you do not want to be put in a position in which you could not cope.
Avoiding peer envy
If your company’s promotions are based strictly on merit, than your peers and subordinates should not be in a position to be jealous if you are promoted. If they had performed as well as you had, then they would also be in the running for the promotion. As long as you are not advancing your career at the expense of your colleagues, you should be scaling that ladder with confidence and pride, and focus on delivering one success story after another.
That said, it's always difficult when you have first started off as peers but have now become their manager. Thus, it's important that you lead by example and make yourself approachable so they will come and discuss issues with you. You need to be sensitive to their feelings and be aware that although there might be some jealousy, you still have to do your job. An attitude of arrogance or indifference is not going to win you any friends, but you also have to keep in mind that you are not paid to be their friend but rather, to be their team captain and lead them to achieve your organisation’s business objectives. It is indeed a delicate balancing act.
How can I be a better manager?
Learn from your mistakes, as well as from those around you and above you. It's important to recognise that mistakes will be made but as you gain more experience, you will learn from them and make fewer errors or bad judgement calls over time, which will ultimately make you a better manager.
Identify others who you feel are good managers, observe them and emulate the behaviours of leaders you find inspirational. Be confident about where you want to go so that your subordinates have clear directions about your vision, and constantly share your ideas, thoughts and opinions with your people to motivate them to work at their peak. The golden rule for management applies: Be quick to compliment, and slow to criticise.
Most importantly, spend time with your direct boss and ask for feedback regularly so that you can identify areas for improvement.
Tiffany Wong, Manager (HR division, Hong Kong), Robert Walters
Tiffany has over five years’ recruitment experience and specialises in placing mid to senior level professionals. Since joining Robert Walters in 2009, Tiffany has been recruiting for senior HR roles within the banking and commerce industries.