Note: This article is updated at Getting Ahead in Your Career.
Mid-year is always a hot time at Microsoft. It’s a time to recap the impact and check the scoreboard. For some, it’s a time to shine. For others, it’s a wake up call. And for others, it’s Phoenix time.
I think between the slowing economy, the rapid pace of change, and ultra-competition, figuring out how to rise and shine in your career is tougher than ever. How do you make an impact? How do you rise above the noise? How do you get ahead?
One of the best books I read lately, just in time for the holidays, is Getting Ahead, by Joel A. Garfinkle. I wrote up a meaty review, movie-trailer style, with key highlights:
It might just be one of the most important books you read for the new year, and for your career overall. Joel Garfinkle is an effective executive coach, so he’s well-versed in helping people get over the humps in their career and taking things to the next level. His framework is simple and he focuses on three keys:
That sounds so simple, but there is an art part, in addition to the science. It’s one thing to know the perception. It’s another to proactively engineer it. Joel shares several ways to both help you understand how perception works, and how to shape it to help you make more impact out of the work you already do. Nothing is worse than wasted work or undervalued results. The reality is that great work does not always sell itself, and that you need to know how to sell yourself and your work in a way that amplifies your impact. And your perception as a team-player and collaborator can make or break you, and help you avoid getting kicked off the island.
In terms of visibility, if great work happened, but nobody was there to see it, did it happen? So many people do great things on a daily basis, but they lack the visibility to get ahead. Or, worse, they don’t even get the ROI out of the work they did. For many people, visibility is an extreme challenge, especially if you don’t like to show off your work. The key of course is not to show off, but to highlight the value in a way that resonates to those that care. After all, how will your work help if the people that need to know the impact, either aren’t aware of it, or don’t get it. Not everybody has time to read about the awesome things you did or to go and investigate the nifty thing you created that’s going to change the world. You have to make it simple and sticky so that people can quickly understand how your work adds value to their world.
And there are many tricks of the trade to do so. Garfinkle shares a bunch of ways you can immediately use, just in time for your mid-year review.
Perhaps my favorite exercise in the book is to write a list of your top ten achievements from the past year. Dig through your emails, calendar, notes, etc. and find the ten things that you are most proud of. Then write a good summary of each one in terms of the actual impact. Not only will this help for your review, but it will remind you of the great things you did over the past year, and help catalyze you for the new year. You might be amazed by how many things you forgot you did. You can also use this short-list of impact to shop yourself around and to get gain better clarity on what you want to do more of. It’s a way to get specific on your achievements, and your impact in a way that you have it at your mental finger tips.
As another sanity check, you can do a quick rating of each achievement in terms of visibility on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is highly visible. If you have a bunch that rate a 7 or below, don’t be surprised if your mid-year review does not shake out the way you want it to. Now is the right time to start giving more visibility to your achievements and to tell and sell the story in a sticky way.
It’s not too late. Remember, Scrooge changed overnight.
In terms of influence, John Maxwell said it best when he said, “Leadership is influence.” What’s the big deal? It’s how you amplify what you do. You can only do so much as a one-man band. You scale your impact by leveraging, leading, and influencing others. As Covey would put it, it’s how you build synergy.
While the framework for Getting Ahead is pretty simple, it’s full of depth. It’s backed by a bunch of research as well as Joel Garfinkles personal experience in career coaching at a variety of companies including Oracle, Amazon, Deloitte, Ritz-Carlton, Bank of America, Starbucks, and many more.
If you’re looking for a great career book, with insight and action, Getting Ahead is a great book to stuff in a stocking or to send as a gift. It’s also possibly one of the best gifts you give yourself for the road ahead.
Best wishes on your journey ahead – and may perception, visibility, and influence be on your side.