Written by Bianca Pickett, Head of Technology Services, People and Culture, Kiandra IT
The career advice that I have received over the years has consisted of: be more like that guy over there; dress for the job you want and make your boss look good. All valid pieces of advice, but I have never been very good at the “fake it ’til you make it” thing. My career has taken some interesting turns, and has taught me a lot…so I thought I would share my five top career tips:
1. Fill the gaps
In any company, all the people in all the roles never meld perfectly together to meet all the required needs and tasks, there are always gaps. Being a person that fills those gaps is one of the best ways to advance your career. Never be that person that thinks or says ‘that isn’t in my position description’ because you are only limiting yourself. Those people that put their hand up and volunteer; that step in and fix a problem outside their purview; that stay back to help with an urgent request; they are the people that when the time comes are naturally first in the queue for the next opportunity.
2. Quiet achievers often go unnoticed
It is a common misconception that you will be noticed for all your hard work. I will be honest and say one thing, I have been awful at singing my own praises throughout my career. I loathe taking credit for things, especially ones that are a shared effort. I am often reminded every week that I need to start speaking up for myself, as I watch ‘that’ person that is faking it, and managing their perception get the accolades. I wish I could say managing your career was fair, but life and work is full of unconscious biases, politics and most importantly in this case, perception management. It is something you are both responsible for and need to actively manage; because the reality is often what someone perceives, not the real truth behind it.
3. Show real value
Ever heard of the squeaky wheel getting all the oil? There is nothing more frustrating than watching that annoying person in your team, that guards their knowledge like gold bullion, and constantly complains, getting that promotion. Although these people often get a pay rise or a promotion, they will only go so far. Showing real value to your team and your company is the best way you can demonstrate why you are the one for that promotion—this means sharing your knowledge, helping those around you, helping fix things, build better processes and coming up with solutions rather than problems. It should not go unsaid, but enormous value is also placed in those people that are great to work with, they are funny, tell a good story, or they are the one that quietly listens to everyone and helps them get through the day.
4. Know who you are, and what you want
It seems simple right, but you often find those people in life that are so clear about what they want, are often the ones that get it. Intention setting is a powerful and real thing not to be underestimated. The best piece of advice I can give you is being very honest with yourself, about what you are good at, what you like, and what you are known for. Do those personality surveys, understand how to get the best out of you and put yourself in scenarios that make you shine. Solicit and welcome feedback on how you can improve, and really listen to what people say. The classic one I often hear is people telling me they want to go into Management. I am always fascinated by this, because when really questioned the people don’t often want to go from being a Software Developer to a Manager, but that is what they perceive they need to do to advance their career. I assure you that the two disciplines are worlds apart, and the unpredictability of managing people, as opposed to the relatively logical engineering world, can be a challenge. Do what you like, ideally do what you love, and be one of those lucky people that gets to do that for a living.
There are many strategies to career advancement, but one of the best is to be a great communicator. We are often prized for our technical knowledge, but if we can’t communicate effectively with those around us, that technical knowledge means nothing. The soft skills behind our disciplines has been the main reason I have progressed throughout my career. I was able to talk to all levels of people, write clear and concise documents, explain what I mean in an email and be heard and understood. There is SO MUCH training available in the world to develop your soft skills and your self-awareness, find them, take them with both hands. The nuances of human beings is not something many people will ever master, and in the end, the majority of careers in this world require us to deal with humans all day every day.