I was recently with a number of senior executives from many different companies and industries and the discussion drifted to how one gets, and doesn’t get prepared, for the ultimate senior job. There was one consistent theme voiced by each person: they each missed an opportunity to learn how to handle life at the top during their careers because, at the time, the jobs or projects were perceived as a “backwater” assignment. Fast forward all these years later with hindsight being 20/20, they all wished they had taken time to learn what they need to know today.
For those of you gunning to be in that top job someday, consider these tips so you keep your eyes open and train yourself to always evaluate how each opportunity can contribute to your long-term career success:
- Ask Up: Seek out the most senior person you know that is in the position that you aspire to reach and ask them what jobs they wish they would have become involved with that would help them to better prepare. Also ask what skills and areas are most important to know to succeed in their job. What you hear back may be the jobs you want to look out for in the next few years.
- Lean Towards What Seems The Hard and Risky: There are certain jobs that are just harder than others, or so they might appear at first. It may not be that they are difficult, it could be that they are the job that no one wants because others haven’t succeeded or just don’t like them. Sometimes the jobs that are the hardest and most risky are the jobs that are the best for us. If we only lean to the easy, we will never build the muscle that needs to be built strong for the long haul.
- Shoot For The Gaps: Even without ‘asking up’ you already know where you need to develop to be better. Certain jobs are going to fill in those gaps and others won’t. If you know that in a more senior role you will be required to speak publicly, a gap or weakness for you today, then you have to take the risk and learn what you need to grow. Think about the jobs today that fill those gaps, not tomorrow.
There will be a day not too far off in the future that someone is going to be evaluating you for the bigger and more senior role. They will be asking the question you should be asking today of yourself, “Are you ready?”