When I speak with mid to senior level professionals (think 3-7 years experience), many tell me about how they would like to lead a team as their next step in their career. What most find surprising though is that even when they feel ready, it may not be the best choice or step for that them at that time.
Before you raise your hand for a promotion, or if you think you're ready but haven't gotten there yet, as yourself a few questions?
Is my performance there?
This seems really straightforward, but before moving up it's highly likely that you need a track record of mastery within your current role. At some companies, this is achieving a certain score on a performance review, while others it's less structured and contingent on leadership's decisions.
Are you not sure where you are?
Ask your manager for feedback on your performance. In my experience, especially at earlier stage companies *cough* startups *cough*, there can be so much focus on execution that the operational tasks like discussing performance and career growth are areas that are neglected.
Are you already leading?
This can feel like a chicken/egg argument. How are you supposed to lead if you aren't being promoted? One of the trends I've seen (and taken advantage of at a few companies) is that your promotion may follow the work. One place I worked we joked we were always at least one job title behind our role. But how do you begin stepping into a leadership role?
The easiest way to get started is by mentoring others on your team. When someone new joins, reach out to them and show them the ropes. Tell your manager that you would like to be a mentor for them (and bonus, this can take some of the onboarding onus off you manager which can win brownie points for freeing up their time, as well as showing initiative). If you have junior members on your team, offering proactive support, and finding innovations and teaching others can assert you as a go-to resource, and leader, on your team.
Are you ready to deal with tough situations?
Being a manager means having hard conversations, with your team and possibly with your customers and partners. Is this something you are ready to take based on your current experience? If there is a strategic customer who expresses dissatisfaction and threatens to churn, can you resolve that? Are you prepared for having conversations surrounding performance improvement, team restructures, and handling serious issues like harassment. What about taking ownership of wins and loses for your team. Leading and managing people can be incredibly rewarding, but it's not for everyone and can require a high level of professional maturity to navigate, which brings us to...
Are you professionally mature?
This is different from being a mature/immature person - I know super immature people who are exceptionally mature professionally and vice versa. Ultimately this comes down to being a good representative of the company internally and externally and reflecting the professionalism and values of your organization. This doesn't mean you wear a suit every day and never curse (I would still be in a junior role if this was true). It does mean that your conduct meets a higher expectation than your current peers.
Professional maturity can show up in small ways and big ways. It could be something like not abusing your travel and expense policy, or it can be large like maintaining professional and level conduct in the face of confrontation where you are being personally attacked.
You're a visionary or you have disproportionate ownership
Do you consistently have ideas that once shared are adopted or put into action? If you are consistently improving the operations, efficacy or efficiency of your team, you may be ready to step up to the plate in a bigger way. Similarly, if the scope or impact of your work is substantially larger than your colleagues, it may be time for an up level. For example, if you are selling deals that are $1M+ to enterprise accounts exclusively, but your colleagues with the same title are working with a range of company sizes on deals <$500k, it may be worth discussing a change in title with your manager.
You're openly discussing your desire with your manager
Having an open conversation with your manager not only demonstrates your desire clearly, but it also allows you to have a dialog with them and get their support on what is needed to advance. If you have the conversation and their opinion is “not yet” is not a “no”, ask specific feedback on what you need to do.
You are investing in your own growth
If you want to grow in your career you need to develop as a professional. There are many things you can do to continually develop and grow to prepare yourself for career advancement. You can find communities online, attend a conference or take night classes. With some heavy bias, I can share my customers find value investing in career success coaching. If you're interested, schedule a Breakthrough Call. We'll explore where you're at, where you're stuck and get you on the path to the promotion you deserve!