Career Advancement: Hard Work Is Not Enough

Brendan is an always-on, can-do person. His work-from-home day begins early and ends late. He makes himself available for video calls, replies to emails quickly, and delivers his work assignments on time. While senior leaders at the healthcare company where he works compliment his strong work ethic and the quality of his work, he was overlooked for a recent promotion to director of web development — an opportunity Brendan actively sought out.

While Brendan’s work environment may have changed significantly this year, the more things change, the more they stay the same: being a hard working person is valued and respected, but it is not enough to move your career forward. The executive coaches at Arden Coaching understand that in order to earn a promotion and move forward, you need to be regarded by the organization’s decision-makers as “being ready.”

Effort, reliability, and quality work are foundational. But the leadership at your company must be able to visualize you successfully stepping into a new role. The challenge is that a promotion almost always involves new roles and responsibilities — and the person being considered rarely has a track record specific to those new roles and responsibilities. It’s up to you to show that you are ready.

Modifying the old cliche, “dress for your next job,” to something more powerful for 2021: “think and behave for your next job!”

Think Strategically

As the director of web development, Brendan would have taken on a bigger role in branding and aligning company products with their target markets. But was he “seen” as a strategic thinker? A big part of being perceived as a strategic thinker is to actively show that you can apply your expertise and day-to-day work at a higher level — connecting the dots between your work and industry trends, organizational mission, and company profitability.

It’s also valuable to ask questions and engage your superiors. Asking questions is a great way to express your interest and enthusiasm for your work in ways that connect to your company’s mission, vision, and business strategy. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog “Five Ways to Progress From Worker Bee to Strategic Asset.”

Behave Like a Leader

Seek out opportunities in your day-to-day work to display leadership traits. Avoid office gossip and the negative personalities who tend to complain and tear down any new initiative or company direction. Take every opportunity to inspire and motivate those around you to help build a thriving organization, including direct reports and  colleagues. Take the higher ground, whether making a presentation in the board room or talking about a new initiative with colleagues in the lunch room (virtual or otherwise). 

Your superiors must also view you as trustworthy — confident that they can confide in you, and share a higher level of organizational access and information.

Prioritize and Delegate

Show your readiness for a promotion by making every effort to do work that really matters. Brendan was working on tasks and projects that were essential, but they were not necessarily moving the company forward. In fact, Brendan had turned down an opportunity to be on a team looking at how online strategies might better align with the company’s brand and strategic goals because he was too busy with his day-to-day work.

Also, while tempting, never make yourself indispensable! Making your job lay-off proof may offer comfort and security, however, if you are the only person your senior team thinks can perform a certain task, you’ll be pigeon-holed: forever stuck in that role. Part of thinking and behaving for your next job means that you are delegating, cross-training, and seeking opportunities to be ready and available for bigger things. For more, read Arden Coaching’s blog “Hard Work is Crucial (But Not Enough to Earn Your Next Promotion).”

Think and behave with the higher levels of the organization in mind, and the path to your next promotion will become much smoother.

To learn more about developing higher level strategic thinking and behavioral traits, contact the executive coaches at Arden Coaching at [email protected] or 646.684.3777.