Myth buster alert….not all jobs are equal.
In many companies, there are two kinds of employees - the regular folk working for the regular positions and those who have an inside track to a job that is curated.
The regular staff have...well...jobs. The high-potentials meet with key people, have private discussions about the strategy of the business, and are seen as more important to the next chapter of the company. These employees are in that position because they can directly support the biggest levers of growth - often sales, revenue, and profit.
The truth is, your marketability is largely dependent on the size of the challenges you’ve overcome. Often, you are as compelling as the size of the problems you can solve.
A team leader typically can solve team-level issues. An account manager may have multiple teams and can solve account-level challenges. A vice president may have multiple accounts and can manage at the profit/loss level of the business.
To advance, the team leader must demonstrate account growth or product expansion (insert your terminology here). An account lead who supported multiple accounts can make a great case for a VP role. You need to demonstrate the expertise and show strong indication that you are ready for a new role.
Consider Joanne, an energy expert working for a regional energy consultancy. She helps manufacturing clients lower their energy costs by developing point solutions in conjunction with utility companies, engineering and construction firms.
Aside from her deep energy background, Joanne's skills include project management, client management, and a strong business orientation which allows her to translate real world business challenges into energy-speak (and vice-versa). After seven years of moving around in her current department, she was bored and knew it was time to step up.
A few months ago, after mentoring from Teaming Worldwide, she helped out on a new account. It is a small account, somewhat ignored by her company, but she has been using the experience to insert herself into a larger role. She knew one client executive from a prior contract and used the relationship to set up several meetings, even bringing in her boss for the last one. Suddenly, the small account began to look interesting to her company!
Within two months of her new professional focus, Joanne's current company executives have taken notice and have begun inviting her into the account planning meetings. Her role is informal, but she is proving that she can break into a new account - a huge lever of growth for a professional services firm.
Joanne, like so many mid-career professionals, is proving her worth up front. She is building a case that repositions her as an account leader. She is creating the proof points that make her immediately more marketable both internally and to other companies.
Key Take Aways:
Get clear on the size and types of problems you want to solve. Use qualitative and quantitative language to describe your results. Often, the larger challenges involve sales, revenue, and profit. You want to work on those things that directly support the highest priories of the company…even if in a smaller way at first. Tease out and document the core underlying competencies - this is your special sauce and how you would translate your skills into a new role. Create a compelling narrative that tells the story. Come up with a great example of specific challenges, your approach, the results. You can use these stories in networking, meetings, etc. It is a way to tout your skills without being a braggart.
Finally, identify the activities that will propel you forward. Is it account expansion, team leadership, meeting with executives, taking on more responsibility? Find the levers of advancement and begin to attach yourself to these things!