If you want to reach the next level in your executive career, you need to keep advancing. To do this, you have to be proactive and continuously make sure you’re moving in the direction you want. There is still time left in the year to prioritize professional growth, and the following 10 steps can help you work towards your executive goals in 2018:
- Write down your goals. A Harvard Business Study of MBA graduates found that just a decade after graduation, the three percent of graduates who had written down their objectives wound up earning 10 times more than the other 97 percent combined. The exact reason for this hasn’t been proven, but it may be that when you write down and regularly review your goals, you’re more likely to keep them top of mind and subsequently find practical ways to achieve them.
- Evaluate your skills and experience. Look at the skills and experience you have listed on your résumé, and assess whether they fully support your goals. Ask yourself whether you need to hone specific skills or acquire more experience; then determine how to do that. For example, you can practice your public speaking skills by joining Toastmasters or learn more about organizational efficiency by earning your Six Sigma certification.
- Determine your unique value proposition (UVP). To understand the value you bring to your organization — and what you could offer potential employers in the future — you need to identify your UVP. What do you excel at compared to other professionals with similar qualifications? What do you contribute to an organization that others can’t? For example, perhaps you have an extensive network of industry contacts, or maybe you have outstanding negotiation skills. Once you know your UVP, it’s critical to articulate it so that you can clearly state it on your résumé and LinkedIn profile, as well as when opportunities arise.
- Regularly ask for feedback. If you want to be a top performer, you need to keep learning from everyone around you. Yet the truth is that there are always going to be blind spots you can’t see yourself. That’s why you need to ask your supervisor, peers and team for their insights into your performance. Carefully evaluate their feedback and incorporate valid points moving forward.
- Build your personal brand. Your personal brand is what you stand for as a professional — your values and beliefs — and you need to communicate it consistently in everything you do. Spend some time thinking about your brand, for example by considering why you’re passionate about what you do, what makes your work valuable for others, what your workstyle is, who your audience is and how you present yourself. Then make sure that all of your professional materials — résumé, LinkedIn profile and any bios — accurately reflect your brand. It can also be helpful to strengthen your personal brand by writing thought leadership blog posts and articles, holding webinars and giving interviews.
- Track your accomplishments. Keep a running list of your accomplishments, both when it comes to work and, if applicable, for any other activities you do such as charity work or volunteer work. For each accomplishment, it can be helpful to add some context so you can refer to it throughout your career. Use the list to build out your résumé, as well as see how you’re progressing to your ultimate career goals.
- Make sure your résumé, LinkedIn profile and any bios are current. Whether you’re looking for a new position or want to take advantage of an opportunity in your current company, it’s crucial that your career documents are up to date with your latest information and achievements. Note also that your LinkedIn profile and online bios can open up other opportunities. For example, Kirby Partners executive recruiters might reach out to you — and even if you’re not actively searching for a new job, establishing a relationship is always good. At the same time, other professionals who see your information online might contact you for a range of reasons, from purely networking purposes to gauging your interest for a specific project.
- Grow your network. Networking is crucial for executives, as you never know who might alert you to your next professional opportunity. You can network within your company, on LinkedIn, at networking events and conferences — and basically anywhere else you meet people in a professional context. It’s advisable to keep a log of how you met people, as this will give you a point of reference for further conversation. In addition, keep in mind that if you ask someone in your network for information or an introduction, it’s always polite to reciprocate.
- Get a mentor. A mentor can advise you on career choices, help you talk through work-related situations and even support you by introducing you to people in his or her network. In fact, many great business leaders have mentors throughout their careers. Find somebody from whom you could learn a great deal, and politely ask him or her to mentor you. Explain what you’re looking for and why you approached him or her. If the person agrees, set up a way of checking in — for example by having lunch once a week — and remember to ask what you can do in return!
- Keep expanding your knowledge. Our world is moving at a fast pace, and it’s essential to keep acquiring more knowledge. You can learn formally by following courses or pursuing advanced education, but you can also learn informally by reading books, articles and blogs, as well as by listening to podcasts and watching webinars. You can also pursue a combination of the two, so long as the knowledge you’re acquiring serves to advance your career.
Moving up the executive ladder requires planning, action and consistent effort. By keeping these 10 steps in mind, you’ll make significant progress towards achieving your executive goals in 2018.