Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.
I find so many professionals are so busy, they forget to ask this critical question. It’s very easy to be so focused on getting work done that we forget to be strategic about positioning ourselves within our organizations for future advancement. Beyond the obvious answers — which often include taking courses and gaining additional skills — I have a few other ideas for you to consider.
Take a moment to think of yourself as a marketer — and you’re in charge of marketing you. Look at yourself and the work that you do as a very valuable product. This is the concept of personal branding.
Start by thinking about what you are currently known for by your peers. If your peers were talking about your strengths behind your back, what would they say? This is most likely your current personal brand. Now, think through what you want people to say about you. Once you get clear on this message, it’s mission critical you start talking about your desired personal brand to your boss, colleagues, mentors and any other career advocates you have. Marketing is about reaching as many people as possible with the same message to grow awareness.
Now think of yourself as head of sales for the product of you. In step one, you should have already figured out what you are selling, so you can focus on who you should be selling to. Make a list of the key relationships that will influence your next career move. As you list these people out, make notes on the current state of the relationship. Have you spoken with them recently or do you stare at the floor when they walk by you on the way to a meeting? When is the last time you had a conversation with them sharing a bit about your brand and what your career ambitions are? Consider taking this list of important relationships to a mentor or trusted colleague to get some advice on how to make a positive impact on each of these critical key players. As time goes by, they might start to lobby for you for future opportunities to advance.
Anyone can create a great brand or work to sell people on the fact they are ready to advance, but we all know that we’ve got to back those claims up with some hard proof. So, while you are reaching out to peers, colleagues, bosses, mentors and advocates, we encourage you to ask for special opportunities to showcase your genius. Do you see an exciting project coming? Raise your hand and offer to help. Do you see a way you could add more value? Don’t be scared to propose it. Remember that each person you work with is busy and focused on their own objectives and deliverables, so these special projects and opportunities often come to those who not only have the skills to deliver, but who also have the skills to spot the opportunity to add extra value. And once you take on a special project, never be scared to share with others the great things you are working on to develop yourself. People need to know what you are up to so you can make it easier for them to brag about you to others.