By John Fidler
CPAs, like most business professionals, believe that the keys to succeeding and being promoted within one’s company are hard work, technical prowess, leadership ability, and strong communication skills. This is true, of course, but there is a lot more to it than that. Below are my thoughts on how to most effectively position yourself to succeed and move up the ladder in your organization.
Stay Close to Your Boss
Your direct supervisor is your biggest advocate within the company. He or she spends a significant amount of time mentoring you and preparing you to sit in their chair at some point. Focus on building a strong relationship and rapport with this person, stay on their hip, communicate regularly, and talk about any issues as soon as they come up. Remember, if you and your boss have a problem, you have a problem.
Make a Formal Plan
Work with your direct supervisor to put a formal development plan in place, establish goals and timing, and set a cadence (perhaps monthly) for meeting to discuss your progress against plan. Keep in mind, though, that while your boss serves as your mentor and advocate during this process, you are responsible for managing and owning the process and ultimately determining how successful you become. If you don’t manage your career, nobody will.
Embrace Your Company’s Culture
For the most part, those who succeed and are promoted within their company are those that best fit the company’s culture, collaborate with their colleagues, and play nice in the sandbox. Talent, skill, intelligence, and technical ability are important, but nothing trumps a good culture fit. Regardless of the strength of your work product, if you’re finding yourself at odds with your company’s culture then you either need to make the adjustment or move on to another company. Otherwise, you run the risk of investing a lot of time and energy and not seeing any forward progress in your career. The company won’t adjust to you.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
Never be shy about making others aware of your accomplishments. While modesty and humbleness are positive traits in general, too much of either can be detrimental to career progression. If people are going to support you moving up within the company, they need to hear about your successes. Your supervisor and other superiors may not always think to highlight them as much as they should, so a bit of shouting from the rooftops is certainly warranted.
Be a Resource
If you’re going to be promoted and continue to move up within your organization, you’re going to need the support of colleagues and superiors. There is no better way to gain their support than by serving as a resource for them. Whether you’re assisting with a project, offering advice to help solve a problem, making an introduction to a service provider within your network, or simply listening to a colleague that needs to vent about an issue they’re having, making yourself available and branding yourself as a resource will help you build trust, strengthen relationships, and gain the support of others. In general, the most successful business professionals are those who focus just as much on helping other people as they do on helping themselves. That sounds a bit corny, but it’s true.
If You Want Something, Ask for It
This is the simplest and most important piece of advice you’ll receive in this post. Oftentimes, you won’t get something unless you ask for it. Don’t be shy about asking for a promotion, asking to take on more responsibility in your current role, or asking to get yourself better positioned to progress within the company. Again, it’s on you to manage your success.
The advice provided in this post has been drawn from my own personal experience as well as years of observing my friends, colleagues, and clients operating within their companies. Those who are most successful are those who do the things I’ve mentioned above. The through line is that you personally need to take responsibility for your success and progression within your company and in your career. Others will mentor, guide, and support you along the way, but the most influential person in this equation is you.
John Fidler is a business development executive for CBIZ Inc. in Plymouth Meeting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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