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 PCM : Position Yourself as an Expert

05082016 Position Yourself as an Expert

Many professionals fear May because it is college commencement month. There is a slew of newly minted degreed professionals who will work for less money. Don’t view this as a bad thing. View yourself as an expert and the marketplace always pays experts more than beginners. Take May and turn this month on its ears by positioning yourself as an expert.

Conduct a skills inventory

This is a skills assessment. This is the first step of the process. Before you position yourself as an expert, you must know what you can do. Write down what you can do not what you are good at (yet). Just scribble down what you can do at work. Also include your hobbies. If you are the head of your Girl Scouts troop then write down that you possess leadership and child development skills. Make this an exhaustive list because you don’t know what you are good at. Too often we restrict our talents and skills to our job. Here list everything.

Determine what you are good at

Now whittle down that exhaustive list into three categories: low medium and high. These categories are for how well you perform each skill. If you are not very good at it, rate it as low. If you are good at it but not an expert, rate it as medium. However, if you can do it in your sleep, rate this as high. When you’re done, you’ve categorized all of the skills on your list.

Focus on the Skills on Your High List

This list contains the skills that you will use towards becoming an expert. These are the skills that separate you from everyone else. This list serves as the foundation to build your competitive advantage. Your competitive advantage is the one thing that you can do better than anyone else. This advantage is how you position yourself in the market. It is also how you overcome the dredge of new college graduates entering the market. They don’t have your skills, wisdom and experience.

Furthermore, your competitive advantage separates you from your contemporaries too. Those professionals whom have your skills, education, and years of experience don’t have the same comparative advantage. I think that many older professionals only view the new graduates as competition but the person next to you is your competitor. Yet, he probably does not have your competitive advantage because there is something that you can do better than he can do.

Communicate Your Comparative Advantage

This is the final but critical step towards becoming an expert. People must know what you can do. There are plenty of highly skilled people whom don’t promote themselves in the marketplace. No one will know if you don’t communicate this to them. You can communicate this through speaking and giving presentations. I know that more people fear public speaking than death. Let me put a spin on this : when you speak, you are communicating your proficiency. Don’t fear transmitting your expertise to people. Embrace it because someone needs and if you are really good, will pay for it. You can also write and mentor other people. These are two other communication methods. Regardless of the means that you use, get your message out there so that someone will notice. Communicating your comparative advantage sends a signal out to the marketplace that you have overcome fear of public speaking and the unknown to emerge as an expert.

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Promote your competitive advantage

12012015 Promote Your Competitive Advantage

Developing and promoting your competitive advantage are indispensable towards getting the best job out there. Before I go any further, let me define what competitive advantage is. The definition for competitive advantage is ‘a condition or circumstance that puts a company in a favorable or superior business position‘. Individuals have competitive advantages just like companies.

How to develop your competitive advantage

Doing a SWOT analysis is a way towards finding your competitive advantage SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Strengths and weaknesses are internal. Opportunities and threats are external. Now let’s conduct a SWOT analysis. Write out all of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The goal is to maximize your strengths and opportunities and to minimize your weaknesses and threats. From the SWOT analysis, you will now know what you are good at. Once you know this, the next step is promoting your competitive advantage in the marketplace.

How to promote your competitive advantage

There are three steps towards effectively promoting your competitive advantage. These steps are: research your industry, leverage your transferable skills and avoid myopia. When you research your industry, look at what your competitors are doing. What are the trends that are out there? What pieces of the current trends can you incorporate in your repertoire to increase your marketability? If can find an angle to exploit then go for it because this is your competitive advantage.

The next step is to leverage your transferable skills. You have discovered them from doing the SWOT analysis. These are your strengths. Look to see if some of your transferable skills overlap with the current industry trends. In addition, see if these skills can work in other industries which leads me to the third and final step: don’t be myopic. You can work in more than one field. You can also have more than one competitive advantage. You don’t exclusively only have to have either hard skill or soft skill competitive advantages. In this global marketplace, you will need multiple competitive advantages in order to get hired.

By following these steps, you will increase your competitive advantage marketing capability.