Increase Your Sphere of Influence
This topic appeals to the more individualistic nature of people than the collective effort I normally write about. I’m not going to tell you how to build a better product, team or company this time round, but rather give you some career advice that will help you advance in your career faster.
One of the things that trips up many people in their career is knowing how to move faster through the corporate ladder or how to more readily achieve their career goals. We are always taught or coached to get better at our craft, but not often to understand how to make more effective use of corporate bureaucracy. Now, I would love to say that corporate bureaucracy shouldn’t exist in the first place, but the truth is as companies get bigger, elements of it are needed and will always be there –and knowing how to navigate it to best advance your career is of tantamount importance.
Now, with all things, there is a caveat here where I must emphasise that this is not true for every company or every person. My experience is based mostly in medium to very large private companies, where I've seen this fight for recognition and career advancement play out. Small enterprises or government entities where a small amount of external politics may influence proceedings may likely require a different approach.
The solution to career advancement is in increasing your sphere of influence. The unfortunate truth of the corporate game is that it’s not always the best engineers, workers or managers that progress the fastest or the furthest through the corporate ladder. Rather it’s those individuals that make a wider impact to the company that will inevitably get noticed or be able to better stake their claim for promotion. Having a bigger sphere of influence doesn’t mean you are automatically going to handle extra responsibility better or even show that you are better at the job, but it does help you get recognized and like it or not, this is often the biggest factor in a person getting promoted in a big company.
Think Beyond Your Area of Responsibility
So, the best career advice I can give you is that in whatever work you are doing – find ways to make sure your efforts impact more people. If there is a company-wide initiative – get involved. If you have an idea of how to save time and money outside of your current field of responsibility, make it happen. If you are heavily involved in project work, find a way to contribute to the team effort beyond just your tasks and deadlines. It’s not going to be easy, but if you’re ambitious and want to grow, it’s necessary.
Of course, it’s not just in the thinking of big ideas or the involvement in big tasks that is all you need. You still need to deliver. And this is a part that you can’t fake. You need to prove that you can deliver to a wider audience and not just talk ideas to them. Yes, getting involved in a wider area of impact may mean that your failures will also be more widely noticed, but this should excuse you from getting involved out of fear of failure. It just means that you need to keep working on your ability to deliver if you don't get it right the first time. Remember, failure at a wider level is still more recognizable than not trying at all.
Sell Your Success
However, beyond just doing the extra work, make sure you communicate it effectively. I’m not saying be arrogant in boasting about what you have achieved, but do discuss your ideas and their implementation with colleagues and let your manager know what you’re trying. You might not be a fan of marketing or selling, I’m certainly not – but I have learnt that I do need to sell my ideas and express confidence in them to be successful. Whether the effort is successful or not, at least people would’ve seen your efforts and your influence will grow as a result.
Innovation Drives Career Growth
Another aspect in increasing your sphere of influence - but one that is incredibly difficult to achieve - is that of innovation. People remember innovative thinking and if those innovative ideas can bring new solutions to a wider problem, even better. You don't need to think of the next big thing, but even an ingeniously simple solution to a big problem goes a long way in helping you stand out from the rest.
It’s not a requirement though and I have seen many people who come up with incredibly innovative ideas not progress in their careers because they were too small minded or they were not able to deliver on them.
I don’t feel that the idea of increasing your sphere of influence needs belabouring further so I won’t. Think beyond your field of responsibility and being able to deliver and sell it. That’s the recipe for increasing your sphere of influence and growing your career. Be patient if you struggle to make an impact in your first few endeavours, but keep at it and you will find it easier to push the boundaries of your influence and put yourself on the platform for future growth.