10 Strategies for Moving from Entry-Level to Management
Today’s guest post is from Alexia Vernon, a leadership and millennial coach, trainer, speaker, and owner of Penelope Trunk points out in her book Brazen Careerist: The New Rules of Success, most young professionals have had 8 jobs by the age of 32, and this predilection for job hopping has allowed us to advance our salaries and job titles more efficiently than most preceding generations. But unless millennials want to indefinitely live at home with ma and pa, the days of moving out (as in to another company) when we can no longer move up have been put on hold.
Smart companies, which really are the only ones you want to be working for, recognize that young professionals bring with them a lot of energy, fresh thinking, and technological savvy, and they will consider us for leadership positions. However, as promotional opportunities are harder to come by not only externally but also internally, emerging leaders must be more strategic about proving their leadership potential. Following these 10 tips will enable you to quickly and creatively close the gap from entry-level employee to manager.
1. Show Up with a Smile. Humans, even your supervisor, enjoy sharing their days with happy people. While many young professionals kvetch about the weather or their exhaustion as a way to make small talk, this persistent drizzle of complaint can taint others’ perceptions of them. Learn how to shift limiting beliefs into possibilities and a snarky attitude into a positive, inspiring one. Plus, happiness is contagious. It’s great to be remembered as the person who started the chain reaction of positive employee energy.
2. Provide Value. One of the most important things a young professional can do is be of use. It enables you to develop the value of service, learn new things, and make a positive impact on your staff. Identify the needs of your teammates and supervisors, and figure out how you can play a supportive role in helping them get their jobs done. Sometimes this means lending a hand before you’re asked on such unsexy things as direct mail campaigns or by overseeing the company potluck food sign-up list. Other times it means sending along an industry article or recommending a colleague for an internal position s/he would be right for. Try providing value both ways to prove that you are a team player AND a rising star.
3. Ask Questions. Many young leaders believe that leading others is about telling them what to do. A good leader whether in management or executive leadership strives to develop more leaders not more followers. Hone this important skill now by being curious, empowering others to find their own solutions, and resisting coming to a premature conclusion before all facts are known and ideas are tested. A good question asks for one piece of information, enables respondents to draw on their beliefs, experiences, and knowledge, and encourages people to transfer their insight into action.
4. Balance Long-Term Vision with Short-Term Objectives. Successful leaders must do this 24/7. Most entry-level employees not only have no clue about their companies’ long-term visions, but also have no clue what projects they’ll be working on six-months to a year from where they are. Cajole your supervisors and colleagues to give you a hint of what lies ahead for you and your company. And in the meantime, as you keep ticking away at your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, find opportunities to show that you see what they all add up to. This will also help you stay engaged in your work.
5. Under Promise and Over Deliver. This is a central tenet of pleasing clients, but it’s as useful for pleasing colleagues. In our desire to please others, professionally and personally, we often say yes to things we can’t do. Rather than agree to meet a deadline or attend a meeting that isn’t feasible, train your supervisor(s) to have lower expectations for you and then step up your game, get your work done faster and at a higher quality, and make sure you point out how smart (not hard) you worked to make it happen.
6. Spearhead a Project. One of my favorite sayings about leadership is that leaders are made not born. Create opportunities to flex your leadership muscles both so that company leaders see you as management material and so that you’ve buffed up by the time your desired, more permanent leadership opportunity presents itself. Regardless of your specific job responsibilities, capitalize on your strengths- the specific task-based activities that you do well, enjoy, and make you feel strong- to show that you can handle additional responsibility, supervise others (as appropriate), and marry vision with mission. I’ve seen successful entry-level professionals implement such projects as company newsletters, new staff meet-up groups, and cross-departmental strategy sessions to great effect.
7. Recycle the Box. For a while, a leadership cliché was to think outside the box. Then it became think without a box. I like to take it one step further and encourage folks to recycle the darn box, in other words take their values, beliefs, projects and programs, throw them up in the air, catch them, throw them up again, and not hold onto them until it’s clear that the product, process, or service in question serves all of its stakeholders better, provides more value, and generates more enthusiasm and buy-in.
8. Use Communication Appropriately. One of my favorite quizzes from Lindsey Pollak, a career expert and author of Getting from College to Career: 90 Things to Do Before You Join the Read World, goes like this.
Kylie is stuck in traffic, running late for a meeting with her supervisor, Danielle. Danielle is a pretty mellow boss, only a few years older than Kylie, but she is strict about the importance of being on time.
a) call Danielle’s office phone
b) call Danielle’s cell phone
c) text Danielle
d) send Danielle an e-mail from her iPhone
The answer is….. whichever is Danielle’s preferred communication style. Communication is always about ensuring that the person you are sending the message to is able to access it as easily and enjoyably as possible. Make sure you know whether the people you work with prefer face-to-face communication, email, Twitter, texts, phone calls, etc. and how this preferred method of communication shifts according to the subject and its urgency.
9. Network Outside Your Department. A lot of the action items mentioned above and below touch on this, but networking is such an important and effective skill it warrants its own number. Networking works best when it’s a mutually beneficial activity, in other words you are sharing knowledge, skills, enthusiasm, and resources with others just as they are sharing these things with you. It’s important to meet people outside of your department to get a more comprehensive understanding of your company, how others approach their roles within it, to put yourself in a position to capitalize on the maximum possible opportunities, and to show others that you are comfortable stretching beyond what feels safe and familiar.
10. Find a Mentor, Advocate, and Coach. A mentor is someone, often times outside your company, who will share with you his/her experience and knowledge, introduce you to other leaders in your field, and support you in setting goals for your career. An advocate, usually a more seasoned employee in your company, will be your greatest cheerleader and have an ear to the pavement listening for opportunities that can benefit you. A coach will help you harness your values, strengths, and enthusiasms and design a professional and personal life that enables you to live your purpose. S/he will help you develop a strong personal foundation and hone your leadership skills so that you are successful, resilient, and derive the maximum possible satisfaction and success from your work and play. While these roles don’t have to be mutually exclusive, it’s important to make sure you have someone in your life that fulfills each of them. Excellence is contagious. Surround yourself with the people you respect, can learn from, and who inspire you to perform at your best.
Alexia Vernon is the owner of Catalyst for Action, a leadership development company that empowers emerging and evolving leaders to build careers and companies that are successful, sustainable, and make a positive social impact. Alexia is the Newark Examiner's Corporate Leadership columnist and her blog, Musings from the Generation We Coach, is on blogs.com's .