You know that go-getter who became the head of her department in three short years? The one you regard with admiration and—if you’ll be honest with yourself—a bit of envy. How can someone so young accomplish so much has in such a short span of time, while you’ve been quietly laboring away for years without any notice from the boss?
“If you want to excel and win, you have to play the game,” says Flor Molon, a senior consultant and business leader responsible for the information solutions of the Philippine unit of international consulting group Mercer.
It’s difficult to get noticed in an offshore company because of the sheer number of employees, but Jam Mayer was able to capture top management’s attention. She started out as a call center agent, and in a few months was promoted to the next level. She is now the regional performance director at one of the leading global business process outsourcing companies. Her advice: “Be visible and make some noise,” she says. Make an effort to mingle at company functions, and introduce yourself to the higher-ups. “If you have a suggestion, don’t be afraid to speak up. It might just be what they were expecting at that moment.” She cautions against speaking up simply to get their attention. Make sure that whatever it is you have to say has substance. “Real ideas and solutions will make them stop and hear you out.”
You can’t expect to fast-track your career without showing any enthusiasm for it. Molon says that you have to be a self-starter, and have the zeal to excel and stay focused. Mayer likewise counts passion, dedication, and focus as important elements. “Ambition is not even in the list,” she says. “If [you are] passionate about the job and dedicated to making things better, then you are on your way.”
NIX THE DAMSEL-IN-DISTRESS ACT.
Mayer says women should avoid being timid and acting helpless at work. “You live in the 21st century and being the damsel in distress in a corporate setting just doesn’t cut it.” This includes crying in the workplace. Rather than gain sympathy, you end up making people around you uncomfortable, so try to keep the waterworks in check. While the day may come when the situation at work is so overwhelming, don’t make a spectacle of yourself. “When you do cry at work, immediately ask to be excused. Don’t sit there bawling,” advises Lois P. Frankel, author of the book Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office.
To put you in the higher-ups’ radar, it’s not enough to turn in work that you’re required to do. “Ensure that you are performing consistently well in your current role, and always aspire to go beyond duty and exceed your superior’s expectations,” says Molon. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking on additional work can get the bosses’ attention—it makes it easier for them to picture you in a bigger role. Frankel offers, “If you live your life within the boundaries circumscribed by others, you’ll never know the full scope of your potential—nor will anyone else.” By demonstrating that you have the skills to assume greater responsibilities, the powers-that-be will feel more confident about moving your career forward.
“The appetite for learning and the ability to apply knowledge and analytical skills are very important,” says Molon, who thinks that broadening your technical competencies can give you an edge. Whether you read more books related to your field or decide to pursue further studies, additional knowledge could only help you reach success.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE.
Frankel says that women, more than men, seem to attract and tolerate workplace jerks longer and make excuses for them. The instance you detect a jerk, distance yourself from him or her. “Don’t be found guilty by association,” she advises. On the flip side, if you surround yourself with good people, you may just improve your performance. Molon believes that such people could be good mentors—you could learn from their example, and they could “help you improve your self-awareness and keep you motivated.”
Stay focused, deliver more than expected, and you too could soon find yourself in an enviable position of influence—and others may soon look up to you as their own mentor.
(First published in Marie Claire, September 2008; photo source: sxc.hu)