How do you get from where you are at work to the upper management-level position where you want to be?
We should all be aspiring to take that next step up if we are on the career ascent or returning to work after a long pause or reinventing ourselves in a new field or after a life change. Here’s the rub: Moving up in management involves more than the broadening responsibilities entailed. It also includes a subtle lifestyle change, shift in alliances and mindset and it taxes our bodies and emotions in unexpected ways.
We need a plan, a holistic strategic plan for moving up in executive leadership as we plot to thrive our way from point A to Destination D.
Here is a starter list of questions I’ve gleaned from the experiences of thousands of other “up and comings” and, of course, my own career trek, including some I wished I’d asked myself:
- What skills will you be needing? Read the job descriptions of positions similar to ones you aspire to in and out of your company. These include analytical skills, skills in public speaking, crisis management, change management, or a host of implied skills you may need to consider.
- Who do you need to be “politically” connected to? Pay attention to alliances and who jumps the chain of command. Unfortunately, it is “who you know” far too often. Choose your friends wisely and listen more than you gossip even before the big move up.
- What credentials do you need; what tests or certifications are required? Beyond post-graduate degrees or technical certifications there may be additional requirements like management training attendance and continuing education units.
- Are you prepared to work longer hours, have less down time to see your friends and loved ones? Maybe you’re the lucky person who will move up and work fewer hours but that’s doubtful. If this seems daunting, look for executive level gigs with flex time options. If you’re poor at balancing work and family now, it will only get worse if you move up the ranks.
- What networks or task forces should you join now in order to make the connections and raise your visibility for later? You don’t have to already have the Social Work degree before you join professional associations with Social Workers or at least attend their meetings. Find networks that welcome people on the ascent as well as seasoned veterans. Perhaps in your field you need to be an established blogger or published book author. You can get started on that right away, even in a small way.
- Have you been a good financial steward (debts low, good credit score, save more than you spend) before the salary increase you are hoping to get? If you are “faithful with little, you will be faithful with much”. But if your finances are a hot mess now, it will only get worse with even more money to blow.
- Are you the kind of person who relies on “That’s just the way I am?” when you are called out for lacking in certain leadership or managerial skills like diplomacy, team building or ging out of your comfort zone? Unless it’s your own company, staying “just the way you are” will keep you stuck just where you are indefinitely.
- Are you prepared for the schmoozing? (i.e. at the after-work cocktail/golf course/boardroom/gym ?) You may find it distasteful (I hear you!) but there is a point when the soirees in the executive wing will no longer be optional. If you haven’t mastered the art of small talk, now is the time.
- Are you prepared to deal with possible resentment and passive aggressive responses of your current colleagues and work friends once you make that leap? Are you prepared for friendships to go sour and people you trust to turn on you from jealousy? Do you have a significant other who is secure enough to handle your change in status and income? Someone who won’t resent the times you are on call 24/7?
- Have you been taking care of your body (diet, exercise, doctor visits, wellness care) so that you be fit for the demands the new job will make? Do you have good sleep habits and satisfying non-work related hobbies and friendships? Stress leads to weight gain, poor eating habits and lack of sleep. These factors can make you miserable and prone to illness just at the time when you need to summon up your stamina for the long haul.
Seek out a trusted mentor if you don’t have one already and ask them to be honest about how they see you measuring up in these 10 areas, Prioritize one issue at a time and make a plan to be able to have affirmative, concrete answers for each one. You will be setting yourself up to succeed.