Q: I’m about to start a new position that took me a long time to find. I want to get off to a great start and develop a long-term career with my next employer. Based upon past experience, it seems doing a good job isn’t enough. What am I missing?
A: Most people assume hard work and dedication equal success. However, unless you are totally on your own, communication is equally important. Here are some tips to help you stand out in your new position:
When you begin a job or project, identify the key people who will have an impact on your mission. Make it a point to get to know them. Establish a relationship by discussing each other’s philosophies, perceptions of company issues, role interactions, collaborative and potentially conflicting goals and expectations of each other.
When you have a new manager, schedule an appointment to find out her priorities in terms of what you should learn and do first, second and so on. Go over the company’s performance appraisal form to discuss how she interprets each section. Solicit specific examples of her perception of superior work, great attitude and other listed criteria. Ask about promotions and raises and the process for achieving them. Then develop goals and action plans together to benchmark your ongoing activities.
To enhance your communication, put together a schedule for regular meetings with your management, peers and employees to review progress, solicit feedback, learn skills and information, set new goals and solidify your relationship. People need to know what’s going on and what you’re doing and thinking. They value the opportunity to offer input on projects that affect them and will back you, if given a chance to “own” your strategy. While wildcatting a project may seem to be the fastest, easiest road from point A to B, it can be a lonely, hostile journey. On the other hand, keeping everyone informed may take more time, but it promises a friendlier trip.
Always know where you stand with the people who have the power to give you raises, promotions and feedback for your permanent record. Because most managers hate reviews, even positive ones, they rarely schedule periodic informal conversations about your performance, and they may put off your formal review until the last possible moment. This avoidance behavior leaves you wondering how you are doing and puts you in info limbo. To make sure no performance appraisal — good or bad — is ever a surprise, take the initiative to plan regular discussions about your career with your manager.
Set aside at least one hour per quarter to ask for feedback on your individual performance, point out your strengths and accomplishments, evaluate your progress and develop goals together. Make sure your manager knows what you expect in return for exceptional work. Don’t assume he can read your mind and will intuitively move your career along the path you’ve chosen.
Remember: your career is your own responsibility. While this has always been true, organizations have finally owned up to it. With rampant re-engineering, rightsizing and reorganization continuing ad infinitum, professionals who know where they want to go and how to get there will certainly be most likely to fulfill their expectations with a little help from management.
Don’t confine your communication only to those with whom you work from day to day. Making contacts throughout your organization can be most beneficial in:
- Establishing your worth to the company at large
- Giving you a broader perspective on your job and how it impacts the big picture
- Staying appraised of opportunities for interesting new projects or positions
- Offering information on the state of the organization
- Helping you to deal more effectively with political situations.
Professional career coaches will tell you, “The best time to network is when you’re employed.” Networking inside and outside your organization are equally important.
Get involved in a professional or community organization. This offers you the chance to develop contacts and skills that concentrating solely on your job and company cannot. Usually volunteer groups encourage their members to try a greater variety of positions and move up the ladder faster than a paid environment will. You can expose yourself to a rich array of experiences that look good on your resume and will be useful in your current job, if you seek camaraderie and experiences beyond your immediate family and colleagues.
As you hone your communication skills in a variety of venues, you’ll increase your recognition as a key player within your company, industry and community. Eventually, people will think of you as an “executive with portfolio,” the go-to person when an important job needs to be done.
Taunee Besson, CMF, is president of Career Dimensions, Inc., a consulting firm founded in 1979, which works with individual and corporate clients in career change; job search; executive, small business and life coaching; college major selection and talent management.
“One of the smartest minds in the career field,” according to Tony Lee (VP of CareerCast Operations at Adicio and former publisher of the Wall Street Journal’s Online Vertical Network), Besson began writing for the Dallas Times Herald in the early 80s. Having read several of her columns, Lee asked her to contribute regular articles to the Journal’s National Business Employment Weekly (NBEW) as well. Since then, she has been a triple award-winning columnist for CareerJournal.com and Senior Columnist for CareerCast.com, as well as WorkingWoman.com and Oxygen.com. At Lee’s request, Besson authored five editions of NBEW’s Premier Guide to Resumes and three of its Premier Guide to Cover Letters. She has also written articles and/or been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Business Week, Time, Smart Money and Yahoo among others.
Taunee has worked on community nonprofit boards and committees for over 30 years including Girls Inc., Women’s Center of Dallas, Girl Scouts and Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Volunteers of America and Mortarboard, among others. She was a member of the Leadership Dallas in 1987 and Leadership America in 2003.
In 1994, the Dallas Chapter of the American Society for Training and Development chose her as its “Professional of the Year”. Her NBEW columns were selected for the “Ten Best Article Award” in 1990, 1994 and 1997. In 1999, Alpha Gamma Delta, a 200,000 member fraternal organization, named her as one of three “Distinguished Citizens” at its biannual international convention.