As a consultant, I facilitate numerous career development workshops. I will often ask the participants about their expectations for the day, and almost invariably someone makes the statement: “I want to know what it takes to get promoted around here.” Although I emphasize that career development is much more than getting that next promotion, there’s no denying that most of want to know what will move us to the next rung on the ladder.
My experience is that those who usually get promoted have, in some fashion, expanded their influence and visibility beyond their immediate work group. Being good at what you do is critical but not enough. The foundation of technical credibility has to then be followed by letting others know what you have to offer, and sharing your expertise in some fashion. Put succinctly, become a ‘go-to’ resource.
What is a ‘go-to’ resource? I would define it as someone who knows her stuff, is widely recognized as knowing her stuff, is highly trusted and can be counted by others on to deliver in a crunch. Most people leaders can easily identify who these people are.
So, what does it take to become a ‘go-to’ person? I offer some suggestions below:
- Get very clear on what your manager values and expects of you. Rather than seeing your manager as someone whose direction or opinion must be politely acknowledged, recognize your role in helping your manager and team succeed. There will never be enough resources to do all the work your manager is charged with. How does your manager define success? Find out what’s important to him or her and then organize your priorities in ways that helps him or her be successful.
- Consistently deliver high-quality results. Consistent delivery will build trust more quickly than almost anything else. Establish a reputation for doing your work extremely well and having an in-depth knowledge of your technical field. Don’t do the bare minimum to get by. Don’t make excuses or blame others for a lack of results on your part.
- Learn to effectively operate in the culture of your organization. Every organization has ‘unwritten rules.’ What are the unstated values? Long hours? 24/7 email responsiveness? Creative ideas? Analytical skills? In an organization I used to work for, being able to effectively deliver a simultaneous three-screen PowerPoint presentation was a hallmark of current or future leaders. If you couldn’t put together a coherent presentation and withstand withering challenges to your rationale and content, your future was not bright. If the cultural aspects of your organization don’t fit with your values or interests, you may be in the wrong place.
- Gain visibility. Find ways to share your expertise and knowledge with others—this may mean joining teams or projects that are beyond your day-to-day work. Don’t wait to be asked to participate, seek opportunities to contribute. Help on-board new employees; take the time to coach others who need help, or find something that needs to be done and do it.
Of course there is not a magic formula to becoming a ‘go-to’ person. If you are following the above steps and feel you’re still not making the progress you’d like, then seek feedback from someone you trust and take action.