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I coach MBAs in career planning and leadership development at the University of Minnesota. If you are an MBA or one of your friends is one, you know they are determined to advance their careers as fast as possible. When I worked in Human Resources for a major medical device manufacturer, MBAs would come into my office on a somewhat regular basis and say something to this effect:
“I’ve been here for 6 months. How come I haven't been promoted to vice-president?”
Now, you don’t have to be an MBA to crave a role where you get to set strategic vision, manage a large team, and be included in the exciting and confidential things that happen in those rooms with big conference tables. You don't even have to want to be a people manager to want to play a strategic part in your company.
The question is how do you prepare yourself for a higher-level strategic role?How do you make sure you are the one who is considered for the next promotion? How do you plan your career so you end up where you want to be, no matter the level?
The truth: patience is key.
Also key: visibility, your relationships, seeking new challenges, demonstrating your growth mindset, and finding a mentor.
Here's what I mean:
- Visibility: Toot your own horn. I know, it feels vain to do so. And you must. No one is paying attention to your accomplishments like you are. Make sure those with the ability to influence your career know what you can do.
- Relationships: Most opportunities come through relationships, from people who know, trust, and respect you. Make sure lots of people know, trust and respect you by growing and maintaining your network.
- Seek new challenges: Keep your eyes open for ways to get involved in the hot strategic initiatives for your company. (This is also good for your relationships.)
- Growth mindset: Be someone who supports change and progress. Never let the words, "that's the way we've always done it," fall from your lips. (I mean this so seriously that I've said it for 2 weeks in a row!)
- Find a mentor: Work with someone who has a broad perspective, who values what you value, and who is a few steps ahead of you on the career path.
These 5 steps will have you on the path toward strategic influence in your job whether you are a business analyst or a vice-president.
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