Career progression – as easy as PIE
Career progression is one of the key things which motivates us at work. The ability to climb the corporate ladder, earn more money, power and status, and generally feel as though we’re not just standing still in life.
And yet it remains to many of us a mystery; an art rather than a science, and it can leave us feeling demotivated and unappreciated when it doesn’t go quite as we wanted. I once learned from a very experienced (and senior) colleague of mine that there are three key elements to progressing in your career: performance, influence and exposure (PIE). I have used this myself in my career and offer it to you now to see if you find it useful.
I’m afraid there is no getting away from it: you have to perform as well or better than you are expected to in order to progress, there is no ‘magic pill’ or secret to success. However, we often believe this to be the only criteria to career success only to be disappointed when we don’t climb the ladder as quickly as we had hoped, or to be overlooked in favour of someone else for that coveted promotion. Performance here can be defined as succeeding against the pre-determined (and agreed) criteria set out for your role over the time period in question. However basic this might sound, it is often at the ‘pre-determined’ and ‘agreed’ stages where things can start to unravel. Do you have pre-determined success criteria and have you agreed it with your line manager? Ask yourself: what would ‘good’ or ‘success’ look like? How will I, or my line manager, know if I’m performing well?
Influence is the ability to affect the decision-making, choices and actions of those around you. As a line manager or leader, influencing others will be part of your day-to-day remit and, although some managers are better at it than others, it is therefore often non-remarkable or differentiating. Where influence does stand out and get you noticed is when you can influence those more senior to you. At the most basic level, you will need to influence your seniors to promote you, but if you consider influence at a more operational,
tactical level in your day-to-day working life you will be noticed. Giving a new or different perspective on something, suggesting cost savings or sales growth opportunities, highlighting risks or concerns or simply lending your experience to a situation will generally be welcomed. Promotion candidates will be expected to make these decisions for themselves in the future, so demonstrating that you can contribute now will stand you in good stead. Be careful not to get above you station and be seen to be interfering where your opinion is not welcome – stay within your sphere of control and domain of expertise, but be an expert within it.
Finally, exposure means to have access to more senior managers who will be amongst the decision makers in your career progression. Of course, exposure is required to be able to influence, but a key difference here is exposure to senior managers outside your domain and sphere of control. By all means maximise your exposure to senior managers within your department and function, but real career progression will come from exposure to those outside your area. Consider company networking opportunities such as seminars or workshops, cross-functional working groups, social occasions and even the classic water cooler or coffee machine conversations. Every situation potentially represents an opportunity to improve your exposure. You may want to consider a 30 second ‘elevator speech’ which succinctly outlines who you are, what you do and how you contribute to the wider purpose of the business.