I was at a networking lunch recently with a small group of women of various career tenures. The woman hosting had brought us together to learn our thoughts on leadership and growing our careers in what for many of us are male-dominated above the mid-manager ranks.
A common thread emerged. Those of us around the table all expressed a level of assertiveness and drive that at some pivotal point had us taking our careers into our own hands and not waiting for someone to come and tap us.
Waiting to be tapped means you are waiting for someone else to recognize your brilliance, tell your story and leverage your potential – in their own timeframe, from their lens, in the box they think you might fit.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a good plan to me. Given how fast business moves today, it’s easy for good talent to be missed even with the best performance management systems and processes in place.
So what’s the alternative to waiting to be tapped? It’s taking the lead in tapping those who need to know you are interested, letting them know you’ve done your homework and you are ready.
Below are some tips that make you the T.A.P.P.E.R. of your career.
► Think big:
Identify where you want to grow and what you need to learn about that role. Is it within your organization or do you need to build a skill that will take you somewhere else? Do you need additional education or credentials to accomplish your goal?
► Act now:
Create your own professional development roadmap. Look to platforms like Coursera or Lynda.com for inspiration and information. Follow thought leaders or subscribe to podcasts. Look to someone who you can shadow or ask to be your mentor. They don’t have to be within your organization either. Sometimes the outside perspective is better.
► Ponder your accomplishments:
Make a list of the skills you have already acquired that will serve you well as you grow. I suggest keeping a journal or a document you can easily reference and add to over time. Given the years go so quickly, you will be amazed at how much you’ve accomplished when you look back.
► Present it and communicate it, consistently.
If you have regular 1:1’s with your boss (weekly bi-weekly, monthly) make sure this is an agenda item. If you don’t meet regularly, then ask to schedule a brief meeting (15-20 minutes) to let your leader know where your interests stand and the plan you have started. And remember to deliver relevant progress updates during each meeting.
► Email a summary note immediately afterwards.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this step.. First, people are busy and you don’t want this to be de-prioritized. Second, when you put it in writing, it makes it real and hard for either party to ignore. Third, it reflects your commitment to your professional growth and career direction.
► Reflect and reiterate:
Schedule self-check-ins along the way. Keep track of what you are learning, who is (or isn’t) listening and what you need to evolve in order to drive your career goals.
Leveraging these tips will help you see your value and set you up to effectively communicate what you want. Is it possible you’ll run across a boss who is a jerk and doesn’t care? Yes. Will it happen more than once? Possibly.
The real question you have to ask yourself is this:
Would you rather sit back and let someone else determine your value, potential and future when they think you are ready to be tapped? Or do you want to be the one doing the tapping?