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Scaling Up In Your Career
First step to set yourself up for success in your new job/promotion is to accept that a transition is hard
It’s that time of the year again - new jobs and promotions are in the air! Many of you will be busy scaling up your careers.
But, what happens when we actually do—after a promotion or when you switch a job to a more senior role? It hits you, that despite imagining all the scenarios and preparing for it for months or even years, it sometimes feel that maybe you made a mistake. Maybe, you aren’t prepared for it yet. While in some cases it might be true, most of the time it’s the imposter syndrome playing with your mind.
So what can you do to make this transition easier for yourself?
Long answer short. Stop expecting that it’s going to be easy!
As humans, we aren’t wired for transitions. However, change is the only constant. So transitions are a good time to gather the skills that will allow you to adapt to the changes happening around you.
It is reported that every year, a quarter of managers in a typical Fortune 500 company, change jobs. This means that managers spend an average of four years in a given position. High-potential leaders in the mid-senior ranks have a shorter average time in position. Their ‘eras’ typically last 2½ to 3 years.
Each new manager takes time to reach their break even point, and as the pace of business is rapid, there is little time available to get acclimatized and little latitude for poor early decisions. (Source: The First 90 Days by author Michael Watkins)
In fact, the book further says that the failure rate among new leaders coming from outside the organization is higher than those who get promoted from within.
So, what can you do as a new leader or as someone who is scaling up in their career? Well on a broader level, your strategy should depend on your challenges and situations. But here are few general principles that I have used in the past, whenever I have been in the challenging situation of scaling myself up as a result of a career event.
Reset and Restart Yourself
You can’t succeed in your current role by continuing to do what you did in your previous role.
Remember that time when you were rated as an outstanding performer or when you were the best performer on your team? I want you to forget about it! Your success in your previous role will not help you succeed in this new role. That success helped you to get here, but now you have to reset your expectations from yourself and start again to achieve the results.
For example, you might have been a high performer in your team as an individual contributor, but in your new role you might be required to work as a manager.
Learn to Let Go Of
Many times failure is caused not due to what you could not do, but due to what you could not let go of.
This happens not only with new managers but also with experienced leaders. We just don’t know how to let go of the past responsibilities. This could happen due to many factors including-
Lack of clarity in your new job description
No clear and clean transition
Being asked to perform old responsibilities along with the new ones
Getting a sense of fulfillment (or a high) from doing some responsibilities from the previous role
All of these can lead to a fuzzy transition as you try to unlearn what you were doing well, while you wrap your head around new responsibilities which look tougher and uncertain. Therefore, it is essential to transition mentally and figure out what are the demands of your new job and how it is different from the previous one.
Listen to your Surroundings and to Yourself
Listening, without judging, is an art. Learn it!
The first few days of your new role should focus on listening—to your team members, peers, seniors and anyone else who is willing to chat! Don’t judge or focus on action during this period. Don’t try to draw conclusions. Just listen and soak it all in. It will take you a long way.
Resist the Temptation to Change
Don’t repair something that isn’t broken.
This is, I think, one of the most common mistakes that we make as leaders. The temptation to change is really strong in the first few days. But evaluate if you really need to change something around. Most of the time this urge to change is being driven by the fact that we want to secure early wins, but I would suggest you to think more long-term before changing anything. Also calling it out explicitly to your team, that you won’t change around things just for the sake of doing it, will help to build trust early on and keep you honest about it.
Lean in to your Manager
Your relationship with your manager is the most important investment at work!
Trust your manager, spend more time with them and try to learn from their experiences. Remember that your manager was once where you are right now. It is also important for you to know the expectations they have from you. See if there are any gaps in your understanding of the role. Building a transparent and trusting relationship with your manager can go a long way.
Just two words, lean in!
Be Kind, to Yourself and to Others
Give it time and be kind.
Finally, be kind to yourself and to everyone around you. Just as you are new in the job, you are also new for the people around you. As you are trying to settle in the new environment, the ecosystem is also trying to settle you in.
Sometimes you may feel that you are smarter than others around you. Remind yourself right away that they are all there for a reason and that many of your colleagues will always know more about the company and culture than you may ever know. Such moments are a good time to tell yourself that kindness will always pay off.
These are just some of my guiding principles that have helped me manage multiple career transitions.
What are some of the strategies that have helped you?
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