Today, we’ll look at six key steps in career management that Google senior executive Mike Abary discusses in the Mentorforce University video course, “Navigating Your Career.”
Mike will share all he has learned about advancing through an organization and help guide you to where you want to go in your career. He’ll share his best advice on how to successfully navigate your way up the corporate ladder, whether you’re just starting your career, or have already advanced to a certain level but feel stuck and need help getting to that next step. He will discuss concepts like creating a solid career foundation, how to successfully transition from a subordinate to a leader, and share the most important skills that mid-level managers and above should develop to help get to the uppermost echelons of any company. The lessons you learn from this course will hopefully be a roadmap to your successful career progression.
Lesson 1: Knowing Where You Want to Go
Where do you see yourself in five years? It’s an age-old question asked by many job interviewers. I start here because it’s so relevant and such a fundamentally critical question you need to ask yourself before starting your career journey. It’s OK to be unsure, but even having a rough idea of how you see yourself 5 years from now is better than not having any idea. Without a concrete idea of what you want to do, what industry you want to be in, or imagining what your future career will look like, you’ll eventually run into a career rut. Maybe you’ve reached the ceiling at your job. Maybe you’ve seen colleagues around you get promoted. Maybe you feel your career is adrift with no particular destination. This type of career dilemma is more challenging to work yourself out of when you’ve already invested years into your job without first envisioning where you saw yourself 5 years earlier. That’s why it’s so important to know where you want to go in your career so you can plan your journey and focus on getting there.
Lesson 2: Prepare for Advancement
For those in their early career, it’s important to develop a strong base of capabilities. In addition to doing your job well, there are basic factors to consider that will help you strengthen your career foundation and better prepare you for advancement. Those factors include knowing how your role fits within the organization and being the best at it, exhibiting signs of potential growth, and clearly communicating where you want to go.
Lesson 3: You got promoted! Now what?
Congratulations, you got promoted! After the glow and celebrations have subsided, it’s time to get ready to perform at the next level. But what does that mean and what does it entail? Well, you don’t magically become smarter or better the day after getting promoted. It requires acquiring and developing new skills and a different mindset to perform at the next level.\
Lesson 4: Developing Skills for Advancement
There are a set of skills that you’ve likely learned and developed as you’ve become a more experienced leader. Those skills are what have gotten you to this point. But as your career and leadership evolve, there’s more to learn and develop if you want to keep growing.
Lesson 5: Leading in a New Environment
In this section, Mike shares a personal experience of leading in a new environment.
“During my tenure at a large tech company, I was tapped to lead a new product division. This division was struggling. It had negative sales growth, was losing money, and had shrinking market share. Although I had no prior experience with the products of this division, management felt my track record of success could produce a positive turnaround. In my first 60 days, I did a comprehensive analysis of the business, identified critical areas to improve, and began putting a turnaround plan together. Over the following few months, results didn’t improve. I felt confident about the plan, so I struggled to figure out why the results weren’t happening. I gathered my direct reports to understand theirs and the team’s point of view for the poor results.
And their responses were pretty revealing. While the team felt my plan made sense, they didn’t buy in. There were a few reasons why but the most significant was because they lacked trust in me and questioned if I had their best interests at heart. The history of this division was that it had struggled for some time. It had gone through a merry-go-round of new leaders, all making promises to improve results but never getting the job done. So it was natural for them to be skeptical of me, yet another new guy who would likely fail like the others before him, and not trust what I was promising. I realized that I focused all my energy on the turnaround plan, and not what was most important, which was establishing trust and credibility with the team, and inspiring them to achieve. So I owned up to my mistake and started over.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I pretty much shut up and listened. I held one-on-ones with my direct reports to understand their needs, what motivated them, and what their expectations were of me. I conducted “fireside chats” with small groups of the team to get to know them on a more personal level, and for them to do the same with me. By listening, I understood what mattered most to them. So I changed my strategy to include a broader mission that went beyond producing business results. I made it clear how accomplishing our goals would contribute to the company’s financial goals, which in turn would lead to new opportunities for our team. Instead of swinging for the fences trying to hit home runs and achieve big results, we went after a series of “base hits”, small wins to establish confidence in the team that the plan could work. And not too long after, we started “scoring a few runs”, producing results that started turning positive. This led to increased belief within the team in the plan. Which soon snowballed into a strong belief in themselves and their value to the organization, and inspired them to go after even bigger achievements.”
Lesson 6: Life long improvement
Test your values and keep your ego in check
You’ve advanced to senior levels in the company. You’ve received industry recognition. You’re a rock star in your field. Many look up to you with tremendous admiration and respect. You’ve worked hard and made big accomplishments. At this point, it’s easy to develop a healthy ego.That’s OK, a healthy ego is often a natural outcome of successful people. But in my experience, I’ve seen too many highly successful people allow their egos to become their identity. They start believing that they’re untouchable. They believe they’ve reached such a high level that nothing they do will have consequences. They stop practicing good judgement and start neglecting what matters most. This is the point where ego becomes a detriment to your career. And we’ve all witnessed the epic crash and burn of a number of high profile corporate executives over the years. Most of their failures were attributable to lack of a good moral compass and allowing their egos to take over the values that brought them success. That’s why, as you gain more clout and authority in your company, it’s critical to continuously test your values and keep your ego in check.
To see what Mike has to say about career management and to learn more about building your leadership skills, visit Mentorforce University.