Last year, JobStreet in Singapore published a short piece called 7 Ways to Connect Powerfully and Build Your Influence at Work.” It suggested some steps you should take to build relationships in the organization that will help advance your career, including:
1. Schedule lunch
2. Take the initiative
3. Know your boss and your boss’ boss well
4. Align yourself with the “inner circle”
5. Seek positions in profit centers
6. Attract a mentor
7. Share your expertise
To be honest, a lot of these sound like sucking up to people and using your connections to get promoted. The author lightly suggests at one point that she is not suggesting that, that you should be actively learning from people and not just trying to advance based on who you know, rather than what you know. We are going to suggest that much more heavily than she did.
All of these ideas above are great for developing your leadership skills, but you should do them with a focus on the success of your enterprise, not just the success of yourself. You should know the people above you and know what they are focused on, so you can put your energy toward the objectives they have set for the organization. You should know what other people do in their jobs, so you know how you can help them be better and they can help you. You should have (and, where possible, be) a mentor, and you should share your expertise and experiences as a way to boost others’ performance and increase the learning among your colleagues. It is definitely good to be in a profit center rather than a cost center, but if you are in a traditional cost center, like HR, look for ways to turn it into a profit center itself and add more value, rather than just going off to work somewhere else.
History has certainly shown us that sucking up to people has the potential to help you get promoted, but it is also high-risk if you are getting promoted based on your relationships instead of your abilities, because you can find yourself in a position where you are in WAY over your head. History has also shown us that if you develop your skills in a way that helps the organization get immediate returns while setting up for long-term success, that can be a pretty good way to get promoted as well. You will have a much more enjoyable career if you are actually making a difference rather than getting ahead just to get ahead, and so while these 7 ideas are pretty useful for developing yourself and advancing your career, you should always do them with the success of your organization as your main focus.