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7 ideas for maximising your career

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Now, I mentioned that I’ve recently been promoted. I don’t think that any of these ideas are the reason why I was promoted. I was told that I needed to develop a certain skill, I was given the opportunity to do so and I proved that I could, simple as. On the other hand, careers can always be maximised further.

Here are some ideas, plus how I’m currently trying to apply them to my own career.

Understand the bottom line

Whatever organisation and department that you work for, it has an underlying motive and key task. In the private sector this is usually making money by… [fill in the blank]. In the public sector, it is usually providing value for money by….. In the voluntary sector, the aim of the organisation is always stated explicitly.

1. work out how you contribute to the bottom line

In what way does your work assist with the task and fulfil the motive of your organisation? How do you make money? How do you provide value for money? Understanding why someone should employ you is key to working out why they should pay you more money, or develop you further.

How I’m applying this: I work for a private sector company so I need to try and make money. When I pitch ideas to my bosses I make every effort to think through the commercial angles as much as possible.

develop skills

Skilled employees are paid more providing they have the skills that employers want. The easiest way to work out which skills employers want in your area is to look at job ads in the trade press. Get a pen and paper and make a list of all the skills that are mentioned at which levels of employment, and you’ll see the skills you need.

2. develop sought after skills

Some skills pay well because they are scarce. Often these are skills in software packages, and usually employers want you to demonstrate experience in them. The best way to develop skills like these is to get your employer to pay for a course, or to wangle an opportunity to develop through on the job training. Be prepared to put in some of your own time though.

How I’m applying this: Well, this is something that I did previously. I noted that skills in statistics were going to become more important in my business area, and put myself on an Open University course in statistics. It’s certainly paid off in terms of getting my name known within the company (in a good way).

3. develop transferable skills

These are all the soft skills that are not directly related to your job, but that all employers want. Half the battle here is working out what you’ve already got. Stuff that translates to anywhere includes finance and budget management, people management, report writing, giving presentations, project or programme management, training others. Some analytical skills are also transferable, as are some software skills (Java programming for example).

These are important skills because you may well need or want to move sideways at some point in the future and your transferable skills are what will make this possible.

How I’m applying this: Mainly, I’m trying to improve my finance / budget / project management skills.  Not what I think is fun, but something that should help me get to where I want to be in the future. I’ve put my name down for a couple of courses at work, and flexing my mentor network with help whenever I’m thrown in the deep end.

market yourself

It’s absolutely no good having great skills and stupendous results if no one knows about it. At least from the point of view of maximising your career. Without marketing, Heinz wouldn’t be the *best* brand of tomato ketchup, and without marketing yourself, you won’t be considered the *best* widget seller (or whatever it is that you do).

4. make friends

You know that happiness at work is greatly enhanced by having a friend. In addition, having people that you will help because you like them and who will help you because they like you can be invaluable. They will act as your advocates because they believe in you. They will suggest ideas to you because they think you might be interested in the ideas. And you will do the same for them. Friends are to be cultivated for their own sake - it will work out in your favour in the end.

How I’m applying this: Currently I’m trying to keep up with the friends that I’ve made that have moved into different companies, or different areas of my company. I’m also on the look out for ways in which I can help other friends around the place - passing on bits of news, or contacts that I pick up.

I usually acquire new friends slowly, I’m not going to force the pace, but just try and remember to be nice and friendly to everyone regardless of whether they obviously can help me or not.

5. share knowledge

In the information age, knowledge is power. But, the power comes in the sharing of it. No one will know that you know things unless you start sharing the stuff that you have now. Take advantage of any forums offered for passing on knowledge - maybe through an intranet, through discussing trade news with colleagues, writing papers for conferences, organising or presenting at lunchtime seminars.

You know stuff that other people don’t - share it.

How I’m doing this: I have an active goal to write papers for conferences - it’s usually a matter of identifying a suitable conference and then targetting it. I’ve also organised and presented at a lunchtime seminar, and joined a couple of in-company technical networks. Finally, I’ve actually contributed to wikipedia on work-related topics. Every little helps, right?

6. tell people about your work

Having an description of whatever it is that you do, in a way that people who work in related areas will understand is useful. You stick in their minds more (especially senior management). It also forces you to edit your role into the most useful soundbite.

If you are small cog in a large wheel, it’s helpful to demonstrate that you understand the big picture as well as your own contribution (see also 1 above).

As far as possible, discuss your work. Just because the connections to someone else aren’t obvious to you, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, or that they won’t be there in the future.

How I’m applying this: At the moment, I have no major brainwaves, I’m am literally telling as many people as possible about some of the things that I’m involved in. Will the scattergun approach pay off? Who knows, but it is fun.

7. dress to impress

The rule of thumb is to dress at the level of the job you would like, rather than the job you are in. Smart, tidy, and with at least some sense of current fashion is probably the minimum, how far you need to take this depends on your industry and job.

How I’m applying this: Where I work, men wear shirts but not necessarily ties, women wear tops and trousers or skirts. I’ve taken to wearing a suit most days with a fitted t-shirt top.

I normally take the jacket of the suit off when I get in, so I don’t stand out too much from other people, but I put it back for a meeting or any other time that I need a little false confidence. Dress down Friday I wear smart dark blue jeans and try and avoid slogans on my tops.

Does anyone have any opinions or ideas? Is there anything I’m obviously doing wrong?

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10 comments for “7 ideas for maximising your career”

  1. Excellent post plonkee.
    I work for a private company and it was important for me to realise early on, that if I wasn’t doing No 1 then all the other things were not applicable. Sad but very true!

    Posted by Laura | October 10, 2008, 1:55 pm
  2. Skills and updating them are very important. You have to stay relevant in your industry to make money.

    AND be willing to learn above and beyond what is required.

    Posted by Fabulously Broke | October 10, 2008, 5:01 pm
  3. Great post ! Thanks for the ideas. They are definitely useful to me. Personally, i feel that point 3 is the best.

    Posted by Roger Hamilton | October 11, 2008, 10:21 am
  4. Great post! I’m currently looking for a job in the private sector so this post is really useful.

    Posted by jill | October 12, 2008, 2:00 am
  5. Sounds like you have this down rather well. I am interested in this post because of how well you structure and outline the importance of the workplace dress and manner. I can’t tell you enough how important it is to create friends in the workplace. No wonder so many politicians start out as business people. Politics has so much to do with business. Very interesting post. Thanks for the topics.

    Posted by Jerime | October 13, 2008, 3:11 pm
  6. great tips! i would definetely agree with you!especially about the dress part!

    Posted by koko | October 13, 2008, 4:53 pm

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