This Week in PCM : Reputation Management as You Climb the Corporate Ladder

Reputation Management

 

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.

Entry-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.

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.

Senior-Level

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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This Week in Positive Change Management : Getting out of the Middle

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This is the time of your when people start looking at how they can have a better New year than last year. Oftentimes, receiving a promotion is at the top of the list. Well, there are certain things that are holding you back. I have four tips that you will get out of the middle and ascend up the corporate ladder.

Focus on your brand and not just a job

Unbeknownst to me, I focused on my brand early and I professionally benefitted from this. When you define your personal career brand, I looked at how my transferrable skills fit in with other positions. It is an egregious error to only identify yourself as your job. This is dangerous because you become confided to that box. Had I been so narrow to only economic jobs, I would still be a GS-11 economist. Once a layoff hits, then you are through. Identifying your transferable skills repositions yourself as a brand because you can work in other areas.  Your career brand transcends your job.

Obtain certification

Certification distinguishes you from the rest. Take my field, project management for example. Earning your PMP certification separates you from everyone else. PMP requires a certain amount of work experience. You don’t see many young or middle-tier professionals with PMP certifications. Furthermore, obtaining certification means that you are a self-starter. This gets you noticed internally and externally.

Expand your network vertically

The one reason why you’re stuck is because all of your networking friends are at the same level. You know everyone you’ve started with me but nobody one or two levels above you. That’s horizontal networking and that’s problematic when you truly want to advance. Find a professional organization and attend the formal functions (Christmas party, annual charity ball, etc.). These events have the board members and senior officials. Once they know your name, they can become your mentors and sponsors guiding your career upward.

Get out of career inertia

I broke out of career inertia by leaving my first fed agency. I saw career inertia upfront. I left my economist position to grow. Although disgruntled, many coworkers stayed because they were comfortable. Now this year, my formal agency is moving out of state. Those same coworkers are going right along with the agency even though they hate leaving DC. Career inertia sneaks up on you. You start getting comfortable then make excuses for your fear. Getting out of the middle means putting yourself in motion.

These four tips will help you lay the groundwork towards realizing this year’s career ambitions.

Use Fed’s Rate Hike as Fuel to Positively Ask for More

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Many people think that the Federal Reserve’s increasing interest rates for the first time since 2006 is a bad thing because it would induce inflation. I, however, think that this is a prime time to be proactive instead of reactive. I think that this is good time to position yourself for a raise. The interest rate hike is eating your paycheck and you will need more money to stay afloat. In addition, this rate increase has come at a wonderful time: the end of the year because you can take everything in your annual review, highlight the good parts and repositioning yourself to ask for a raise next year. There is positive in almost everything. Use this Federal Reserve rate increase to demand more out of yourself and your paycheck.

NPR: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/12/16/459989461/federal-reserve-announces-hike-in-short-term-interest-rates?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=politics&utm_medium=social&utm_term=nprnews

Declare then Do!

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How do you do something different when you don’t know how to get started?

I know that when you see the title declare then do and you think it is the latest psychobabble. Well, it is not. I never serve psychobabble or popular psychology. My sole aim is to write about positive change leadership and management. I have been stuck before. This article is my lesson in how to get unstuck.

A colleague and I were selected for the headquarters’ leadership development program. Upon graduating, I returned to our agency and she served a detail at the headquarters. She detailed there for 3 months and then was offered a promotion at a different agency. I was frustrated because I was processing 70% of my section’s estimates making the same amount of money, whereas, she was promoted doing new and exciting work (for higher pay!). I asked her how she received her promotion. She went into detail telling me that she took a Management Analyst assignment instead of an Economist one while at the headquarters. That was seen as a high-profile assignment. Someone at her new agency inquired about her. That inquiry led to an interview which she aced receiving her promotion. Immediately I looked up the Management Analyst position and saw that project management was closely related. Although I had all of this information, I was stuck. I heard project management as a buzzword, but I knew absolutely nothing about this discipline.

How I Got Unstuck

Always start with the end in mind. You know what you want. Right now you just don’t know how to go about accomplishing what you want. Just writing down the end eliminates paralysis of analysis.

Work backwards from the end

Go step by step backwards all the way until you arrive at the beginning where you are. The middle tends to get murky. Use the end as a definitive point guiding you through the process.

Working in the public sector, there were job descriptions for everything. I researched the Management Analyst job description and saw that I needed 12 credit hours of management. Having an MBA qualified me for this position but I didn’t want to be minimally qualified. I surfed the Internet for cheap project management courses finding a great alternative. Then, I had my employer pay for it.

See which transferable skills can give you the competitive advantage

Don’t just meet the minimum exceed it! This is how you stand out from the rest. Remember, there probably already people who were doing your job. Your future employer doesn’t need a duplicate because that’s a waste of time and money. You must stand out and discovering where you can apply your transferable skills to your new ones.

In my case, I chose to obtain my CAPM (Certified Associate in Project Management) certification. I already had the transferable skill with my MBA so my CAPM would be my competitive advantage. I took my first project management course in April 2010 earning my CAPM certification in August 2011.

Now it wasn’t a straight and narrow path. I failed my exam the first time. I was stuck again! Immediately I performed an autopsy examining my study habits. I devoted 2 extra hours of study creating my own practice exams shoring up my weak areas. I passed the CAPM exactly 2 weeks later. There was good news: I received my promotion 8 months to the day I passed the CAPM certification exam.

I accomplished all of this because I declared to get unstuck persevering against all odds and you can too!

This Week in Positive Change Management: Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

10102015 Life Begins At the End of Your Comfort Zone Photo

Last Tuesday I had my first radio interview promoting my http://positivitychange.com/ site. I admitted that I was scared because I had neither been an entrepreneur nor on the radio; yet I overcame my fear of the unknown. You can too move beyond your comfort zone by following these tips:

It Requires Courage

We are all creatures of habit and love routine. As humans we are scared of change because it is unfamiliar. Trying new things forces us to grow. With promoting PositivityChange, in general, and myself, in particular, I am going to have to speak up and give interviews. I cannot hide behind an Excel spreadsheet. Change takes courage to move beyond your comfort zone but it is necessary to get to the next level.

Face Your Fears

Although I had a Toastmaster competent communicator certificate, I was way more analytical letting the data speak for me. Now I had to speak for 20 whole minutes on a radio show. I did it and survived confidently. Facing my fears was essential towards communicating my brand and I live after the interview.

Know that worst thing that can happen when you try something new is that you might fail

I was the second of two interviewers. This order took some of the anxiety off of me, however, hearing the person preceding me made me nervous. This was not her first interview but it was mine. If I did not do well, I would had chalked it up to experience. Okay so what if I bombed my first interview? It happened to a whole bunch of newbies. Furthermore, at least the radio host was interested in me. However, I did not and managed to keep calm.

Make a Plan

Having some kind of organization calmed my fears. I wrote down my site and summarized a few articles. These things massaged my nerves enough to go on air and promote myself without any glitches.  I was able to confidently answer all of the questions.

Realize that the unknown will always be there

You can’t plan for everything so just set out with good intentions and do your best. I didn’t know that the interviewer would ask me about the future of the site. (I just started it in August so it was a curveball.). I survived that question by telling her about my dreams of expanding the site and possibly doing some cross-promotions. Also when she mentioned that my MBA/economics background was rare, that surprised me too. I had these degrees for over 13 years. Their rarities didn’t register with me because these degrees were second nature. I mentioned that just put one foot in front of the other and accepted no excuses. I didn’t know what questions I would be asked but by following these tips, I made it through successfully. Hey, if I survived the unknown and my first radio interview by moving out of my comfort zone so can you!

You can listen to my Tuesday, October 6, 2015 Sharvette Mitchell interview here on Soundcloud (http://bit.ly/1FYdyo5). Also check out http://positivitychange.com/ for more positive change tips.