Hierarchical structures are being dismantled across the corporate world. There are good reasons for this. The pace of change means that businesses of all sizes need to be more agile and responsive to changes in the competitive environment through delayering of management structures. This is needed to facilitate faster decision making and more effective channels of communication.
So the old career model of progressing up the steps of a clearly defined promotional ladder, no longer applies. This poses challenges for the ambitious ! Reduced layers of management can mean that it is more difficult to be ‘noticed’, as there will be far more people on the same level, when it comes to selecting those for promotion to the leadership ranks.
So how do you ‘stand out from the crowd’ when the ‘crowd’ is large ?
By way of introduction you need to appreciate that being ‘noticed’ by, for example, qualifying for fast tracking through membership of a high potential group, is unlikely to happen merely by excelling within your functional silo of Finance, Sales, Operations IT etc , as was the case in the past. This will only take you so far. You will need to broaden your experience, expertise and knowledge of different markets if you are to be seen as equipped to lead the multi disciplinary teams that are at the heart of corporate decision making today.
In order to achieve this end I suggest the following :
- Develop a career plan. Know what you want to achieve and how to get there. Don’t leave it to chance. I strongly recommend that you work with a coach or mentor to develop this plan. These days everybody needs to take ownership of their own career plan, even if you are planning to stay with the same employer. A well developed career plan will highlight gaps in your experience and skillset. The sooner you identify gaps the quicker you can take action to close gaps through training, further education etc
- Take a long term view of your career. A sideways move to broaden your experience may be better for you in the long term than chasing the next step up the promotional ladder. Don’t get hung up on job titles.
- Develop a deep understanding of the business corporate vision and strategic plan. You need to develop your own thinking as to what it will take to achieve the corporate vision.
- Armed with your knowledge of strategic priorities become an idea generator. This will involve research on your behalf so that you will be in a position to present well founded compelling proposals (including action plan) to the leadership group. You must be prepared to lead the development and implementation of any initiative which you propose. Showing initiative in this way is an excellent way to stand out from the crowd. Not all of your proposals will be adopted but that is ok.
Following the above template involves taking some calculated risks with your career but I would argue that ‘fortune favours the brave’ in the long term.