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Now that you’ve climbed the ladder, how do you keep moving up?

Even experienced, successful executives need to ensure that they are always looking forward to the future. Being successful in the past is no guarantee of your future success. Effective career management is still necessary even at the top of the ladder.

Over the years, I have worked with senior executives and professionals who are very capable and have so much to offer, but they are not sure how to get to where they want to be. Even someone in the top seat of a company can feel unsure about where they are headed in the future. There is no secret sauce to get you to where you want to go, but there are some things that will help you get going in the right direction.

You need to have a vision.

Career Management Top of LadderHow often (especially now in the era of GPS on your phone and in your car) do you set out to find a new location without a map or directions to get there?  Probably not often, if ever. And why would you?  It doesn’t make sense to set out blindly, especially if you want to reach your destination in any reasonable amount of time. The same holds true for creating your career management strategy.

Crafting a vision helps you align your abilities and interests with who you are, what you want, who you want to be with, and where you want to end up. It isn’t enough to say you want to be the CEO of your company, you also have to reconcile your professional aspirations with goals for your whole life—do your professional goals fit with your family’s expectations and/or needs?  Do you have to move to an undesirable location to move up with your company?  These and many other things matter and need to be thought out ahead of time to craft a path to the future you want as a person, not just as a professional.

Stop talking so much and listen.

"To listen fully means to pay close attention to what is being said beneath the words. You listen not only to the 'music,' but to the essence of the person speaking. You listen not only for what someone knows, but for what he or she is. Ears operate at the speed of sound, which is far slower than the speed of light the eyes take in. Generative listening is the art of developing deeper silences in yourself, so you can slow our mind’s hearing to your ears’ natural speed, and hear beneath the words to their meaning."

— Peter Senge

It is amazing what you can learn if you just stop talking and really listen to those around you. Too often I come across senior leaders who just do not know when to stop talking. If you are talking, you are not listening to what is going on with your employees, colleagues and customers. There is so much to find out from others that will help you craft your path and ensure that your efforts are going in the right direction to bring you success.

And listening means more than just hearing the words. Sometimes what isn’t said is just as important, or maybe even more important, than what you are told. This can be especially true the higher you climb in a company. The fewer superiors and colleagues you have, the more likely it is that you aren’t hearing what you need to hear. Too often executives’ ideas are met with ‘yes,’ when really those around them may be thinking ‘no way!’  One way to combat this is by setting the tone with your team that you really want to hear what they think—especially if they disagree with you. Cognitive conflict is the source of innovation and successful teams. We all need to be surrounded by people that bring something different to the table. Diversity of ideas is what will move you and your team ahead.

Confidence is key.
   
Confidence is the key to success and your vision will help you get there. If you believe that you can craft your future in a vision and then work toward achieving it, this in itself will build your confidence as you hit your milestones. Set achievable but difficult goals for yourself and each small win will put you one step closer to being a more confidant person. Just as important as the impact of having confidence has on your attitude and behavior, the people around you can also feel whether or not you are confident. Confidence is magnetic. If you are confident in your own abilities, others will be as well and they will want to align themselves with you.

Create your own opportunities.
   
The best opportunities come from realizing what you want and making it happen. That may sound lofty, but I challenge you to try it out and see what ensues. Don’t wait for an opportunity to present itself—put in the effort to do your research and ask for what you want.

You may just find that the person you contact will be just as enthusiastic to find you, as you are to potentially work with them. So, whether you are interested in joining a different organization, moving into a new role, or even just taking on a new project, make a proposal and ask for what you want.

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