Perhaps you have an eye on a leadership position in your company. Or maybe you’re looking to switch to a leadership role in a new organisation. Either way, you’re ready to take on more and hungry for your next challenge. The question then becomes, how do you land the leadership role you want?
First, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. In which areas do you excel? What are your top areas of development? Identifying these areas of growth will help you decide how you want to build up your competencies. Think about the leadership role you want, and then work backwards. What skills could you acquire that would help you excel in that position? Once you’ve chosen these skills, find ways to grow in these areas, either by getting the relevant certification or taking a course. Having the right qualifications will help your profile look attractive to hiring managers.
For instance, earlier in my career, I wanted to take on a Project Management role in Singtel. I had already interned with Singtel while I was studying, and I was able to identify a senior manager who I didn’t directly report to, but had known during my time there. Having such “warm” second-degree contacts in a company will go a long way in helping you stand out from the rest of the applicants.
Prior to reaching out to that senior manager in Singtel, I knew I had to equip myself with the skills necessary to thrive in the company. I recognised that my strengths lay in project management, so I took up a certification course and got myself Project Management Professional (PMP) certified. This certification was another way to prove to the company that I was committed to succeeding in the role.
Be sure to also get as many references as possible, not only from your bosses, but also the people that you have worked together with. These could be your clients and peers. Help others to succeed in their role and do well in their job so that when you need a reference, your contacts will be more than willing to help you out.
A common mistake I’ve observed is the way in which people respond to bosses or supervisors when they are asked to take on more responsibilities at work. “Why should I do it?” and “Are you going to increase my pay if I do it?” are knee-jerk pushback reactions.
However, you should always try to do more instead of less. Taking on more responsibilities provides you with the opportunity to learn more than your peers. It also shows your supervisor that you are someone with the right attitude and the willingness to learn. When the time for a promotion comes around, it will put you in a better position, particularly if you have demonstrated that you are a competent and well-rounded person by completing the additional tasks assigned to you.
Therefore, learn how to say, “Yes, that is a good opportunity. I would love to take it” when offered additional tasks. Remuneration and promotions will naturally come at a later date once you have proven your ability to get the job done. Even if your boss tasks you with something and refuses to promote or increase your pay, I can assure you that with your newly acquired competency, someone outside your company will come to value your skills and offer you a job. To me, every added responsibility is a way to learn on the job and beef up your profile.
But you don’t have to wait to be asked to do more. If you find yourself becoming very confident in your work, such that you now only expend perhaps 80% of your time on your work instead of the original 100% initially, use this extra time wisely. Take the chance to further your professional career. Pick up new skills. Ask your boss if there is more for you to do. Managers always appreciate when employees show initiative and drive, especially since it is common for individuals to keep their heads down to avoid being singled out for extra tasks. By seeking to take on more, it gives your manager the impression that you are a productive worker. This will put you on their radar for the next promotion.
Another area that I find useful for building leadership qualities is through a mentor. Some companies offer mentorship programmes, and if you are identified as someone to be a part of this, seize this opportunity. A mentor will be able to guide you in moving up the corporate ladder in the particular organisation. But if such a programme does not exist in your company, you could simply approach someone senior in your company to ask them politely and sincerely to be your mentor. This shows that you are a go-getter who is eager to learn, and a senior manager would usually be happy to share their wisdom and experience with you. If you struggle with feeling too shy to ask for help, use your motivation to progress up the corporate ladder to overcome it.
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Beck Tong Hong