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04/05/2013

8 Career Tips for the newly employed Graduate.

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Adapted from Harvard Business Review Blog: If you want to become a leader, don't wait for the fancy title or the corner office. You can begin to act, think, and communicate like a leader long before that promotion. Even if you're still several levels down and someone else is calling all the shots, there are numerous ways to demonstrate your potential and carve your path to the role you want. Not only does the planning help you develop the necessary skills and leadership presence, it also increases your chances of getting the promotion because people will already recognize you as a leader. The key is to take on opportunities now, regardless of your tenure or role. Here are several ways to start laying the groundwork.

1. Knock your responsibilities out of the park
No matter how big your ambitions, don't let them distract you from excelling in your current role. Focus on the present as much as — or more than — the future. "You always need to take care of today's business so that nobody — peers, direct reports, or those above you — questions your performance." That's the first step to getting ahead.

2. Help your boss succeed
"You have to execute on your boss's priorities too". "Show her that you're willing to pick up the baton on important projects." "Lean more towards yes than no" whenever your boss asks you to help with something
new. Find out what keeps your manager up at night and propose solutions to those problems.

3. Seize leadership opportunities, no matter how small
Make sure your "let me take that on" attitude extends beyond your relationship with your boss. Raise your hand for new initiatives, especially ones that might be visible to those outside your unit. "This will give others a taste of what you'll be like in a more senior role". It doesn't have to be an intense, months-long project. It might be something as simple as facilitating a meeting, offering to help with recruiting events, or stepping in to negotiate a conflict between peers.

4. Look for the white space
Another way to prove your potential is to take on projects in the "white space." These are problems that others aren't willing to tackle or don't even know exist. "Every organization has needs that nobody is paying attention to, or people are actively ignoring." For example, you might be able to identify a customer need that isn't being met by your company's current product line, and propose a new one. Or you could do a quick analysis of how much a specific change would save the company. When you take on a task that no one else is willing to do, you make yourself stand out.

5. Don't be a jerk
There's a fine line between being ambitious and acting like you're too big for your britches. "Don't try to exert authority when you don't have it," Practice "humble confidence," showing appropriate modesty in your role, while having the self-assurance to know that you will rise to the next level.

6. Be cautious when sharing your ambitions
It's appropriate to raise your ambitions with your manager if you have a trusting, solid relationship, but frame them in a way that focuses on what's best for the company. If you have the kind of boss who may feel threatened by your aspirations, it's better to keep your ambitions quiet and prove your potential.

7. Find role models
Look for people who have the roles you want and study what they do — how they act, communicate, and dress. "Pick someone at the next level, someone similar to you, and find a way to work with them." Identify behaviors that you can emulate while being true to yourself. "You don't want to fake it."

8. Build relationships
There's an old adage, "It's not who you know, it's who knows you." When you're evaluated for a promotion, it's unlikely your boss will sit in a room alone and contemplate your potential. She'll rely on others to assess your ability, which means you need supporters across the organization — people who are aware of the work you're doing. Treat every situation as an opportunity to demonstrate the value you bring to the organization and your knowledge of the business."

Principles You should Remember.
Do's:
  • Look for every opportunity to demonstrate your leadership potential, at work and outside the office
  • Support your boss in reaching her goals
  • Find people in positions you aspire to and study what makes them successful
Don'ts:
  • Let your ambitions distract you from doing your current job well
  • Exert authority where you don't have any — use influence to prove your leadership chops
  • Openly discuss your ambitions — it's safer to take a "show, don't tell" approach

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