There are lots of tips and tricks out there to help you advance your career. But, take it from an old HR broad who’s watched hundreds of up and comers advance, there’s one thing they all have in common and it’s not that they were the best and brightest, most productive or hardest working. I bet there’s been at least one person you’ve seen advance that you can’t believe actually got promoted – the guy all your passive-aggressive peers (not you, of course) talk about.
Here’s the answer – if you are perceived by others, especially someone in a position of power, as being valuable to the organization, your chances of career advancement increase substantially. In business, as in life, perception is reality. I’ve seen quite a few average, and some below average, people advance their careers. The one thing they all had in common – someone thought they brought value to the organization or their job, regardless of whether or not it was true.
So, that begs the question, “How do you increase your perceived value?” There are three fairly simple strategies which are particularly effective for women to not only increase your perceived value, but also your real value.
1. Help others be successful.
Truly great leaders understand that their value and success comes from helping others – offering quality products and services that customers need or want, increasing value for investors, and creating opportunities for their employees. In a recent study, High Potentials in the Pipeline: Leaders Pay it Forward, Catalyst reported that women leaders who “pay it forward” by developing and helping others advance are rewarded themselves with greater career advancement and higher compensation.
I’ve been a big fan of Zig Ziglar for many years. I was sad when he passed away recently, but grateful for all that I learned from him. One of his many memorable quotes is, “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”
By helping others, you help yourself. If you can find out what someone else needs and figure out a way to help them get it, you will become an invaluable asset to that person. Ask your boss or other influential people in your organization what challenges they’re struggling with, then look for ways you can help them overcome these challenges. Your value quotient will go way up as a result.
2. Be a problem solver, not a problem maker.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Come to the table with solutions, not problems.” You may have even been told that by someone at some point in your career. While it may sound like a cliché, the fact of the matter is it’s true. People who are known as problem solvers are more valued and advance faster than those who aren’t.
Bridgett Webber opened her recent article, The link between problem-solving ability and career advancement, with, “Employees are not equal in the workplace. Some are considered to be of more value than others because of what they bring to the table.” Webber credits increased value to problem-solving ability. She states, “There is a definite link between problem solving and career advancement, as individuals who are at the head of companies and earn the most money are effective solution finders…”
Every organization faces its fair share of problems, some more than most. Use your skills and creativity to develop solutions for the problems your team, boss or organization is currently dealing with. The more problems you help solve, the more valuable you’ll be.
3. Expand your skills and knowledge, and be willing to do something new.
There’s nothing that irks me more than when I hear someone say, “That’s not my job.” My response is always, “Then make it your job.” By making it your job, even if it’s not, you increase the perception of your value.
While specialization is still highly valued, in today’s business environment more and more employers are looking for people with broader skillsets who can be leveraged in multiple areas. I benefitted greatly in my career by having operational business experience in addition to my HR expertise. In fact, I was told on several occasions that I was selected above other candidates because of my business experience. In other words, I was perceived as being more valuable because I had a broader skill set.
There’s a great article on foxbusiness.com by Andrea Murad, Creating Your Own Luck: 12 Steps for Advancing Your Career, which is about taking control of your career advancement by creating your own luck. Murad quotes Nicole Williams, connection director at LinkedIn who says, “The person who’s lucky is able to take an opportunity to the next level. Real luck happens when you’re prepared to take advantage of an opportunity.”
Having transferable skills and being willing and able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise will help you increase the value you bring to your organization. Look for ways to develop both your subject matter expertise and other skills. Volunteer for projects that give you the opportunity to expand your breadth of experience into different areas. And, don’t be afraid to take on something new.
How valuable are you to your organization or your boss? If you don’t know or you want to increase the perception of your value, find ways to help others get what they want, build a reputation as a problem solver, and broaden your experience set so that you’ll be ready when that promotion or opportunity to advance your career comes along.
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