Do you believe that the Performance Appraisal systems in your workplace actually work for you? Chances are that you don’t and you are in “good” company here. A study done by Sibson’s Consulting found that Only 30 percent of the study respondents (750 individuals, primarily senior-level human resources (HR) professionals) reported that their employees trust the performance-management system. Given that formal performance appraisals don’t seem to be working as well as they should to give employees their due, one needs to take charge of his/her career and have a self performance management system in place to ensure career growth and commensurate rewards. Just being good at your work, efficient and cooperative is not enough – it takes more than that to grow and be successful at the workplace today no matter what your job role or level is.
So how does one take charge of their own performance management and hence the rewards arising out of it? What practical steps and behaviors are needed at the work place to ensure a positive outcome at the job? Here are five career strategies drawn out from my experience and analysis with my team and peers of what works:
Career Strategy #1: Work Hard AND Smart – Yup, there is no escaping working hard if you want to be successful. People on the outer edges of the performance bell curve are usually workaholics. But you also need to be smart here – learn to say no to work or assignments that do not fit into your goals early on. Else you are sucked into the vortex of work alcoholism with no real benefit to yourself – doing work that you do not enjoy doing helps no one in the long run. If your heart is not in it, you will not be performing at your best levels. So choose wisely and then be 100 % dedicated to your work.
Career Strategy #2: Promote yourself – This was a hard-earned lesson for me. I had always believed that my work will speak for itself and rewards may be delayed but will never be denied. But then, who has time to wait? You cannot afford to be shy if you want your work to be recognized. Be aware of your worth and don’t settle for less. You have to be your own marketing manager and actively market the value that you bring in to your manager, department and organization. Make sure people know who you are and what you do. Make your achievements and contributions visible as and when they happen and not just list them at appraisal time. A good way to keeps track of your achievements is also to make your resume a work in progress document that you keep updated as when you achieve a milestone.
Career Strategy #3: Get a mentor or two or three – The advantage of having a mentor at your work (or outside) is multifold. A mentor can help you see a situation differently, identify your key skills and where you need to develop yourself and be someone in your corner when you need some additional support. Look around you to find people who you admire and are role models for where you want to be. Don’t limit yourself to one mentor. You might look to one for domain expertise, to another for industry expertise, and yet another for personal scenarios when you need practical and helpful advice or brainstorming. And if you are lucky to find a great mentor, invest in that relationship and make sure that you too provide support when your mentor needs it.
Career Strategy #4: Build a network early on – “No man/woman is an island” as they say and in the work scenario, this is amplified. Build a strong and trusted support system of peers at your work place. Draw upon each other’s strengths to get ahead and for back up when you need it. Stay close and vent, strategize and have plain and simple fun within your group. I have also found this to be a good antidote to fight against any negativity (read office politics) in the environment. As you move up in your company or switch jobs or roles, be proactive in building your contact base and staying in touch. You never know who may be of help in boosting your career (and this works both ways) and serendipity often strikes when you are prepared for it. Social media makes this easy nowadays and LinkedIn is a great place to achieve this. There is rich content on the web on maximizing your returns from LinkedIn and here is one from an expert to get you started (http://dngraham.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/five-points-to-consider-before-participating-on-linkedin/).
Career Strategy #5: Keep Learning and Stay Positive – Being a lifelong learner is essential for your career success when skills, technologies and market requirements are changing so rapidly. Not only do you need to be open to new experiences and keep learning to convert your weaknesses to strengths but also to be current and relevant in today’s job market. Set your own training goals for the year and make sure that you keeping adding new skills and knowledge to your repertoire. Limit your exposure to negative environments and people – these are energy suckers and if you are not careful, you would soon be working on fulfilling someone else’s agenda instead of your own. Remain positive and true to your own performance plan and keep moving forward on the goals that you have set for yourself – so much more productive than being distracted by negative office politics or complaint-sessions.
Maximizing your performance and potential on your job needs you to take control of your own career plan – be the CEO of YOU Inc. Be fiercely intentional about where you want to be, know your worth and be BODACIOUS (one of my favourite words – meaning a combination of Remarkable, Courageous, Audacious, Spirited) at work.
I leave you with these words from Abraham Lincoln: Always bear in mind that your own resolution to success is more important than any other one thing.
What would you add to the list above as necessary strategies to Thrive and not just Survive at work? What has worked or not worked for you? I would love to hear back and learn from you.