5 ways to get ahead in your career

(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
(Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Try these five ways to make a great impression and receive the recognition you deserve.

You have the ambition, but having only recently joined the working world, you don’t have a lot of experience under your belt. Also, there still aren’t very many female CEO , and women continue to hit their heads – sometimes quite hard – against that invisible glass ceiling.

While it may be tough for a high-flying sister, it is possible to skip a few rungs as you climb the career ladder. You just have to work hard and smart – and be prepared to throw away the rule book. Here’s how to do it.

1 CHOOSE THE RIGHT COMPANY

There’s no point being at the top if your company is below par. And if you rationalise taking a job like this by thinking, “I’m just using this as a stepping stone”, think again. Keep this in mind: “Weak or failing companies can have good employees, but would you rather hire them or someone from a successful company? Most often the latter candidate wins,” says Mireille Guiliano, a former CEO of Clicquot Inc and author of Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire. Your CV speaks before you do, so Guiliano suggests getting a local or global brand name in your profile during the first half of your career.

2 SELL YOURSELF SMARTLY

“Don’t be a shrinking violet,” says Kay Vittee, managing director of Adcorp Outsourcing Solutions. “You are your own brand and you need to promote yourself to your employers.” This doesn’t mean being obnoxious and drawing attention to yourself – it’s about choosing the right moments to show your boss how much others value you. And don’t just use performance reviews or formal meetings – grab those casual opportunities as well, such as taking the lift together.

“If you get an email from a client praising your outstanding service, forward it to your boss,” Vittee says. The key to selling yourself is to get over the fear of coming across as egotistical, says Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers. A trait uber-successful people share is that they back themselves to succeed, he adds.

3 ALIGN YOURSELF WITH THE RIGHT PERSON

“Hook your star to a talented, dynamic leader,” Guiliano says. “She’ll take you upward and protect and nurture you as you continue to make her look good.” She’ll also want to get something out of it, so perform in a way that makes her think, “I want to be praised for being part of her success one day.” A good place to look for this leader is in the position you’re aiming for. Don’t hide that from them – say you want their advice because you’d like to reach their level of success.

4 GET OUT OF THE OFFICE

 “Managers and handbooks give you official policies on promotion, but often unwritten requirements – like high visibility – are communicated through informal networks,” says Nancy Carter, a now retired senior advisor to the president at Catalyst, a non-profit organisation working to expand opportunities for women in business. So, instead of whining about how promotion opportunities are always discussed on the golf course, get out there. RSVP “yes” to after-work drinks – or even organise some yourself. Anything, really, as long as you’re making yourself available to colleagues outside the office. By being part of these informal networks you’ll have access to information not always conveyed by email, and you’ll get the chance to let people know your career goals in a less threatening environment.

TAKE RISKS

You’re part of these informal networks and have heard before the official announcement that the job you’ve been gunning for – which should only come your way in a few years – is opening up. Ask for an interview. Let the decision-makers know why you’re the right person for the job, and if you’ve already proven this with a stellar performance in the office and savvy networking out of it, then half the battle is won. But bear in mind that there’s getting ahead fast and then there’s being so focused on this that you ignore signs that it’s a bad time to ask for a raise or promotion.