Success in professional life is rarely accidental. It is the result of a well thought out plan carried out to perfection as one moves from rung to rung in the organizational hierarchy. Here are some key strategies, which if pursued, will give a better control over your career and will make your rise in the organization fairly smooth
Learning to learn: This is by far the most important quality we need when we enter the professional world. We need to learn how to learn. We need to be able to absorb the essence of our task, assignment or project. Any work that we perform we need to know both what to learn and how to learn. We need to able to look above the immediate project requirements and appreciate its function in a holistic way. We need to fully understand the product, the technologies involved, what problem it solves and how it ultimately benefits the end user.
Depth over breadth and vice versa: If you are in the technical ladder make sure that your swim deep and long. Spend time learning the implications, intricacies and nuances of the technologies involved. Learn to appreciate the various tradeoffs that have to be taken in the work being done. On the contrary, if you are a project or a program manager focus on breadth rather on depth. Understand the benefits and shortcomings of the involved technology and various allied technologies. Understand industry trends and how the project fits in the organizational business plan.
Make the right moves: At every stage one has to be aware of where one is with respect to the goal. We need to monitor and make mid course corrections. It is quite likely that as you move along in your professional life you may want to switch technology domains or shift to management. These are conscious decisions that you will have to weigh and take as you go along. As you grow you have understand where you want to go and how you want to get there. This is the mark of a true leader. We will hit several crossroads during our career. Our decisions should be directed towards our long term goal. Make sure the choices you make contribute to your professional, monetary and emotional accounts.
Look from the other side of the fence: If you are technically inclined learn the basics of project & program management. Understand and appreciate the challenges of people management. Don’t pigeon-hole yourself into a technical-only slot. If on the other hand you are a project manager you must spend time becoming tech savvy. Try to get an all round view of all related technology. Technical people prefer managers who are tech savvy.
Plan for Success: This is critical for career growth. Make sure you plan for success. In the words of Yogi Berra “If you don’t know where you are going you might wind up someplace else”. Bring focus to both short and long term goals and work towards achieving them.
Understand and appreciate “Management Speak”: This is something that is very critical to your career growth. Make sure you understand the jargon that senior management tends to use “for e.g. 10,000 ft view”, “project risks”, ”quality improvement”. Do not shy away from this type of management jargon. In the early years most of tend to take management jargon lightly. Put yourself in your boss’s shoes and understand and appreciate the challenges he faces. It is good idea to understand the direction your organization is heading with respect to other peer organizations
Network: Networking is a critical to your success in the long run. Get to know your peers, subordinates, your boss and his peers. The more you network, the better are the chances of your success. It is imperative that you not only grow your professional network but also keep it well-oiled. You will learn a lot of people skills by networking. Networking will keep you abreast of all the latest trends in the industry, besides many organizations prefer referrals while recruiting.
Visibility speaks: Success in the professional world depends a lot on your visibility to the top management. Make sure that you help or lead any effort that is organization or at least department wide. It is very important that you grab opportunities to lead. This will not only increase your visibility but will also improve your organizational skills and make you understand the challenges of making things happen.
You will spend close to a quarter of a century in your professional avatar. Having a proper plan and working towards your career goal is important to both your financial and emotional well being. So ensure that you make all the right moves in your career.