I spent twelve years of my career in Human Resources without a performance evaluation or any kind of feedback from my managers in that time. The Executive Vice President let us know very clearly that we wouldn’t be doing regular performance evaluations and if we were screwing up, we’d be told (no news is good news?).
His directive didn’t provide is any guidance on a replacement for annual performance evaluations, or information on what it took to get promoted. I and my colleagues flailed around with our best guesses on what would make us promotable: we took classes and grasped at opportunities to show what we were made of. We did the good work we were expected to do.
Yet we all missed the importance of “broadening” ourselves to include learning about the wider company. Broadening means learning to see a bigger picture; understanding company initiatives, products, people, organizations, and processes that impact the work a leader does and ultimately helps them to understand the meaning of their work within that bigger context and sets them up for future promotions and success.
If you’re serious about getting ahead, you will need include ways to broaden your outlook and the way you view and speak about your larger organization before you can be considered to have the potential to move up in your organization. That takes initiative and work on your part. Start here by considering:
Developing relationships: Who can help you to broaden? Find out who might be able to tell you more about their areas of responsibilities, including those who might be outside of the organizational area you work in. Get known by those who can help, listen to their advice and develop relationships with them so that they can advise you on what you need to learn. And when the time comes, they may be willing to sponsor you for promotions and other opportunities that can set you up for a promotion.
Your interests and skills: What are you interested in pursuing, and what are your skill sets relative to that? If you are in a large enough organization, the higher up the career ladder you go, the less important your technical skills become. So, although the pipeline for executive talent can require expertise in specific specialties (R&D and Finance are examples), your opportunities may increase if you target areas that don’t require technical expertise that you don’t have. Learn where your interests lie as well as your strengths and gaps and work hard to fill the gaps. Get training, hire a coach, take classes offered internally, and get that degree to learn more and set yourself up for success.
Actively seeking opportunities: Promotions don’t often come knocking on your door all by themselves. You may need to make a lateral move before you are ready for a promotion above your current pay grade/level. So actively seek out opportunities through job postings, cross-functional projects you can work on, or by asking those you are networking with about upcoming possibilities and let the responsible parties know of your interest. Seek out mentors who can sponsor you in your areas of interest.
As you do the above, you’ll learn and broaden your knowledge about the areas you have interest in as well as what skills gaps you may need to fill.