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1. Own your career: Your boss is not responsible for your career; he/she will at best be able to help you manage it in the context of the organization. Define your goals clearly and determine what is it that you want to do, by when, how you plan to do it, and what resources you require.
2. Share your development plan with your manager: Seek their guidance and input before you proceed. They will help you do a reality check and set your goals in perspective.
3. Mind the gap: If your manager thinks you will not be ready in the timeline you’ve predicted for yourself, be prepared to hear what he or she is saying. Acknowledge the gaps in your experience and seek help and suggestions toward filling them. Recognize that this is positive: If your manager is invested in your development plan, then you already have a strong advocate for your next level/role.
4. Understand the official assessment process: Who is involved? Who should know of your work? Where available, learn about the performance and promotion metrics. What will you be evaluated against in addition to your job performance? Understand the various metrics and how much each consideration weighs.
5. Partner and win stakeholder buy-in: Many companies solicit peer/360 degree feedback. Maintain cordial and professional relationships with your stakeholders. Even small gestures, like helping a partner with their project when they are crunched for time, speak volumes about your work ethic.
6. Identify a mentor: Preferably a tenured senior in your field, but outside of your reporting line. It helps to understand what the expectations are at various levels and how to go about meeting them. Plus, it's good to have another endorser in addition to your manager. While a mentor is not generally involved in the performance management process, they can advocate for your strengths and endorse your skills.
7. If all fails, don’t panic: Stay persistent and realize how the organization operates. If there are genuine gaps in your performance, work toward bridging them. If there are budgetary cuts or other operational organizational factors, evaluate the situation and try and gauge if this is going to have a short-term or long-term impact. Network with people and subtly assess their responses. Make your call for the future: do you want to stay or move on?
Also, understand that office politics is a reality that may or may not work in your favor. If you are able to understand the dynamics and work to your fullest despite it, great job; otherwise, take a deep breath, think, and decide on your next step, because after all, it is your career.
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