How do you know when your ready for the next step up the career ladder? If you think your ready because you can do your boss’s job, forget it. They’ll be looking for someone to take it to the next level, not just maintain the status quo.
If the company is preparing you for the next level, there should be a formal training program in place. How can you prepare for the next step?
1. Define the skills that are required at the next level – You should have an accurate position description of your next career move. If you don’t, you’re not ready. The template of responsibilities is your key to preparation.
2. Assess your current skills – Assess your skills against the template of the next level. Be harshly objective in your assessment. Some competencies you already have, others will be weak, and the rest of the competency skills will be missing.
3. Find someone who already is doing or has done the job you want. Ask them what it takes to be successful and what you need to do to prepare for the opportunity.
4. Develop a strategy to fill in the voids and beef up your weaknesses – Design an action plan to strengthen your weaknesses. Some can be achieved with courses and certifications while others may need “hands on” experience.
5. Put your strategies into action by talking with your supervisor, HR, or department head. One strategy is to move to a job at your same level in order to move up. Another: Assume the additional responsibility for a collateral function
6. Find supplemental funding to help you financially – Tuition reimbursement by your employer, a negotiated entry strategy with a new employer, a low cost loan for on-line courses
7. Take the first step with a reasonable time-line – Develop a time frame for each step in the strategy, then take the first step when you’re ready. The key is to begin the process.
A word about a graduate degree: Unless you feel very confident that you can reach the top of a functional area, i.e., Department Head, VP, or move into general management, it may not be worth the cost and time. Two years without an income while paying $100,000 or more over two years at a quality school will take at least 5 years to break even. On the other hand, is could put you at a senior level a few years later.
Whatever your career strategy, always remember:
1. Your only as good as your last success
2. Your competitors are also preparing themselves to move up
3. The marketplace moves quickly. Opportunities won’t wait for you.
4. Current skills have a shelf life. New skills will continually be required.
5. Look two moves out, not just one. Each job must link to another opportunity.
6. Have a back-up plan if your next dream job turns into a nightmare.
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