Learning from Others

Source: Fast Company, Jun 2017

STALK PEOPLE YOU ADMIRE ONLINE

you should probably follow leaders you’ll never hope to chat with directly, just to keep tabs on what they’re thinking about and sharing. And on the other, you should follow your peers who work in similar jobs or at similar companies. It’s called “benchmarking.” Mentors are typically pretty good at letting you know where you stand relative to the competition—what’s a stretch position for you, what you’re overqualified for, which projects you should try getting assigned.

But you can gather the same sort of intel from social media: What sorts of things are people at the same level as you posting, where, and how often? Who are they following and talking to? Pay attention over time, and you’ll gradually get a sense of your own strengths and weaknesses professionally.

LOOK FOR WAYS TO TAKE ON “STRETCH” WORK

The secret to getting more responsibilities—and eventually positioning yourself for a promotion—isn’t a secret at all: You have to nail everything in your job description and then pick up a few tasks that go beyond it. After all, few mentors can actually set you up with that killer project that’s going to make you shine—usually only your boss can.

STOP GOING TO POINTLESS NETWORKING EVENTS

check out networking opportunities where you’re likely to find these kinds of people:

  • People who currently work in a job you want
  • People who work directly with the people who work in a job you want
  • People who have a unique point of view on an industry you’re trying to advance in

If you can’t make first- or second-degree connections there, or hear something really interesting about your field that might directly change your career strategy, don’t go.

INVITE FOUR PEOPLE TO COFFEE EVERY YEAR

have a strictly informational chat with somebody you admire in your field. What does “informational” mean? That you don’t have any particular endgame or “ask” in mind—you just want to hear more about what they do.

GET IN ON WHAT THE HIGHER-UPS ARE SAYING

when in doubt, keep this line on standby for your next one-on-one with your boss: “Since my day-to-day doesn’t really touch on this, how’s the company doing in general? Anything on the broader business front that I should know about?”

REALIZE ALL THE INFORMAL MENTORS YOU ALREADY HAVE

Anyone who’s ever written a job recommendation for you, championed or praised your work (social media shoutouts count), or even just given you one-off advice that you’ve really valued—for all practical purposes, they’re your mentors. All it takes is for somebody to go out of their way for you once to make it totally fine for you to reach out for their opinion again later. (They can always ignore you or decline, but most probably won’t.)

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