Climbing the corporate ladder is an arduous task. It can consume a lot of time, energy and resources. Although most people focus outwardly on people and skills, establishing and protecting your reputation is critical towards your ascent. Reputation management is essential throughout your career. I will document how I have crafted and protected my reputation from entry-level, mid-career to senior-level.
Protecting my reputation as a junior economist was about my showcasing my tactical skills (how well and fast I process data). I was judged on how I programmed in SAS and Excel. At the entry-level, registering for continuing education courses to improve your tactical skills are a vital part of preserving your reputation. However, do not stop there. It was important that you are establish yourself as a leader because you needed to develop strategic skills. In order to move from entry-level to mid-career, you needed to show that you were more than a worker bee. As a junior economist, I discovered new estimates and data sources. These two things set me a part from other junior economists moving me up to mid-career.
As I transitioned from entry-level to mid-career, I balanced both tactical and strategic skills. Protecting my reputation at the mid-career level meant still displaying my tactical processing data skills; but I also had to manage more autonomy. Autonomy was the beginning of my developing my strategic planning skills. I was no longer an entry-level employee whose boss had to watch my every move. In addition, I applied for a leadership development program to learn more about the entire department not just my immediate agency. Strategic planning meant having a global perspective; whereas, tactical planning meant having a local perspective. As a mid-career economist, I had to know how my work fit into the bigger cog of the wheel. I was selected to participate in the leadership development program. Upon graduating from this program, I became the lead for a methodology change project due to my leadership program. Furthermore, that program let me network outside of my current workplace which was crucial because your network equaled your net worth.
Another thing setting me a part from my mid-career colleagues were being open to change. Although I led a project, I did not feel that I advanced as far as I anticipated so I started learning project management. This came about from seeing one of my leadership development participants took a temporary assignment and received a promotion. I asked her how she got promoted and her response was taking management analyst slot. This was a different job than economist. It made me realize that I had to diversify my skillset. I had to be open to getting a senior-level promotion in another position besides being an economist.
Flexibility was a key differentiator between those whom ascend to the top job. You had to become flexible with the result. When I earned project management certification, I told myself that I was okay with the reality that my next promotion may not come at the same employer. A lot of people said that they wanted change but wanted to stay in their current job. That was unrealistic which was why most mid-career professionals did not get the senior-level promotions.
At the senior-level it was 100% strategic planning. You were now responsible for drafting the overall company’s mission. Yes, knowing how to do an entry-level job might be okay but you were getting paid the big bucks to make strategic decisions. Here your reputation lied in developing your leadership, negotiation and public speaking skills. I leveraged my previous Toastmaster International speaking skills towards presenting to upper management. As a senior-level employee, you had to overcome your fear of being the leader because people were looking towards you for guidance.
Constant throughout your career
Continued education and professional development would serve you throughout your career. You were your biggest investment; and, if you did not invest in yourself don’t expect your employer to do it. Yes, many companies had leadership development program and tuition assistance for employees. I used them to receive a promotion; however, I budgeted my own check towards paying for math classes and my two certifications. When I accepted my junior economist position, I had only algebra I. During the next 3 ½ years, I completed precalculus, calculus I, calculus II, calculus III, linear algebra and advanced statistics. In addition, I paid for two project management exam prep courses, the study guide materials and online courses to sits for the CAPM and PMP. You cannot be so dependent upon the company for career advancement. Investing in yourself had an enormous benefit: your company would see you as a self-starter giving you more responsibility and opportunities.
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