What are you doing that is valuable for someone else?

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When employees wonder what they can do to get a raise or a promotion, they look in the common areas: skills, education, and office politics. They might think:

“I need to learn XYZ skill before I can get a raise.”

“I need to go to business school before I can get promoted.”

“My boss doesn’t like me so I won’t get a bonus.”

While there is some truth to all of that, one factor is even more important: what are you doing that is valuable for someone else?

You have a job to do something valuable for your boss, your company, and your company’s customers. That could be writing reports, creating company financials, writing software programs, or whatever is in your job description. But if you aren’t adding value to someone else’s life, it’s unlikely that you will advance in your career.

The solution then is to identify who you are helping, what is valuable to them, and how you can add even more value to their lives. After you learn how to do something more valuable for someone else, your career path up become obvious.

How to make small talk and why it’s important for your career

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Have you ever been in a meeting where the senior people are in a pointless conversation with each other? It has nothing to do with business or anything important at all.

Acme Corp CEO: “Did you see the ballgame last night?”

Acme Corp Board Chair: “What a game! It looks like we’re going to the playoffs. Do you think we’ll win the championship?”

Acme Corp Junior Analyst thoughts while sitting quietly: Can we just start the meeting already…

But after the senior executives are done with the banter, they are noticeably more comfortable with each other and more open to talking about sensitive business topics than they were before that conversation.

Small talk is defined as when people talk about nothing important or relevant to the situation. But small talk is actually an important part of building trust and a deeper social connection. Learning to make small talk and then transitioning to a more meaningful conversation is very important for your career too.

Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, notes that people enjoy connecting with others and consistently connecting with people is a key factor in happiness.

Naturally, your coworkers and clients want to be happy when they are around you. Talking to them, whether through small talk or a deeper conversation, is a great way for them to enjoy your company.

Still, many analytical people see small talk as pointless and a time waster because you should talk about something more meaningful. But research shows small talk is actually a key component for building business relationships.

Small talk helps build the initial levels of communication and begins the formation of a social bond within the group. People don’t just go from being strangers to acquaintances. First they talk about some common topics that are going on in the world like sports or a new movie out in theaters. After a few minutes, they then start to talk about more personal topics like their career path and family. But they don’t get to that level of trust without small talk first.

Most people don’t like to jump directly to talking about themselves or listening to a stranger talk which is why small talk is important. It bridges the gap.

Camille Virginia of Master Offline Dating

My friend Camille Virginia is the Founder of Master Offline Dating and one of the best I know at small talk. After a decade of experience in health care consulting, she began to learn the secrets of building genuine connections and now helps single women get the skills and confidence to connect with men in the real world. She has been featured in international media publications such as Bustle, Elite Daily, GrowthLab, and YourTango.

Through her work experience as a consultant and running a business, she also knows a thing or two about teaching others how to transition from small talk to a deeper conversation.

One of Camille’s suggestions is to talk about a topic that you are genuinely curious about:

“Pick up on small clues about their clothes, accent, or something they said that you want to know more about. Things that actually interest you, or are natural follow-up questions that give an opportunity to learn more.”

As you build a rapport with this person, you can go into deeper conversations. Camille says, “Every person in the world has a wealth of interesting stories, facts and emotions that are changing constantly. If you think about it, we’re all pretty fascinating (even when we don’t really feel like it).”

Camille gives an example for starting with small talk and moving to a deeper topic: “Complimenting a woman on her necklace, might lead to discovering your shared love of vintage jewelry. The segue from the surface level topic (the necklace) into something more meaningful and actually helpful (the best vintage jewelry places in the city) is practically seamless.”

[For anyone who is skeptical for how this applies to business, I’ve seen a older male CEO compliment a senior executive woman from another organization about her unique colorful necklace when they met for the first time before a business meeting. That led to a conversation about how his wife loves the same type of jewelry and the executive gave the CEO a few gift recommendations for his wife. They built up trust with each other in that short 3 minute conversation. This technique can work for anyone if you are talking about things that you are genuinely curious about.]

Another suggestion for moving from small talk to a deeper conversation is to ask a follow up question on a more personal level. Camille has an example: “Maybe you’re at a networking event and someone mentions being brand new to the city. Ask if they’re enjoying their new home, and where they moved from.”

You may also want to add a story from when you were new to a city. That will help the other person learn a little bit about you too.

While you might not like small talk, it’s a necessary part of building business relationships and trust. If you want to advance in your career, you will need people skills. Learning to make small talk and transition into a deeper conversation is a key skill for climbing up the ladder.

As Camille notes, “It feels amazing to know that someone else is generally interested in you and your life. As the adage goes ‘At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.’”

5 career books to help you get promoted

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This article does not contain affiliates links. I am in no way compensated for recommending these books. They are just good reads that helped me in my own career and can help you in your career too.

From Day One: CEO Advice to Launch an Extraordinary Career by William J. White

From Day One is a great read for recent college graduates and experienced professionals alike. William J. White was the CEO of the Fortune 500 Bell & Howell Company prior to his retirement.

This book discusses how to develop your career from new hire, to first time manager, onto habits for a successful career. Take a look at this book if you want to learn how the most successful corporate professionals create extraordinary careers.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant

Wharton professor Adam Grant takes on the notion that selfish people finish first in life. In fact, he argues that people who “give” to others are more successful in life than those who “take” from others.

If you are looking to succeed in your career while keeping your morals and ethics, this is a great book to help you along the way.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

We’ve talked about Emotional Intelligence (EQ) before. As you climb up the corporate ladder, EQ becomes more and more important. EQ helps you manage your own stress, lead other people, and make better decisions. Reading Daniel Goleman’s classic book is a great first step to improving your own EQ and helping you climb the management ranks.

How to Read a Financial Report: Wringing Vital Signs Out of the Numbers by John A. Tracy and Tage Tracy

At some point in your career, you will need to read financial reports. If you don’t have an accounting background, you will need to learn how to read financial reports and possibly how to create them.

As a Director managing a department budget, you will need to read and create financial reports, and you will certainly need these skills as an executive managing a corporate budget.

This book is a great tutorial for learning how to read a financial report, especially if you don’t have an accounting background.

The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism by Olivia Fox Cabane

There is no doubt great leaders have charisma, but Olivia Fox Cabane shows that anyone can learn to be charismatic. As a corporate professional, leadership skills will help you excel in your career all the way from the first time manager to the seasoned executive.

The Charisma Myth is a great read for people who want to learn the basic of charisma and improve their leadership skills.

What limiting beliefs are, how they hurt your career, and how to overcome them

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Have you ever thought anything like this about your career?

“I need to switch companies to get a raise.”

“I can’t negotiate for more money because then my boss will think I’m not a team player.”

“I don’t have the right background to get my dream job.”

You may agree with some of these statements and you might think some of them are not true at all. Your reaction to them depends on your worldview and your limiting beliefs.

Limiting beliefs are mistaken assumptions that act as barriers to achieving what we want.

All of the statements above are examples of common limiting beliefs employee have about their careers. Limiting beliefs typically focus on how we aren’t good enough to achieve something we want. In the context of our careers, that usually means that we aren’t smart enough, aren’t hard working enough, can’t share success with our coworkers, don’t have the right background, or aren’t willing to sacrifice something to reach a goal we desire.

Some other common career limiting beliefs are:

“My boss doesn’t want to help me with my career development.”

“Asking for help is a sign that I’m not good at my job.”

“The only jobs that pay $100k+ require working 80 hours a week.”

“If my coworker succeeds and she gets a raise, then I can’t get a raise too.”

Limiting beliefs hurt your careers in many ways.

One big way is if you assume everyone else around you has the same beliefs. For example, if “my boss doesn’t want to help me with my career development” is one of your limiting beliefs and you assume that your boss has the same belief, you might never get as much guidance from your boss as she wants to give. Many managers and bosses believe that it’s part of their jobs to help their employees improve in their careers and they actually enjoy seeing their employees grow and become more successful. Sort of like a high school teacher who love to hear what her former students have accomplished at their 25 year reunion.

So while you assume that your boss doesn’t want to help you, your boss is actually feeling like you don’t care about your career because you try not to bother her about it.

Another way your limiting beliefs can hurt you is by not taking action when you should. Again, if you think your boss doesn’t want to help you, you won’t actually ask for help. That means that when you stagnate and would like to get your boss’s opinion about what to learn next, you won’t ask. As a result, you never improve as quickly as you can and your career plateaus.

Now that we know what limiting beliefs are and why they hurt our careers, how do we challenge our limiting beliefs and create healthier beliefs?

The first step is to understand what your limiting beliefs are. It’s best to sort them out one at a time as they come up in your career.

Focus on what you want to achieve and what doubts you have about why you can’t achieve that goal. For example, if you want to negotiate a raise but you get an uneasy feeling that it’s not a good idea, you might want dig deeper to see if you have limiting beliefs around negotiating. After reflecting, you realize that you feel uncomfortable asking for a raise because you think your boss won’t see you as working for the good of the company anymore and that you’re not a team player.

There is a limiting belief there: If you ask for money, then your boss will think you’re selfish.

Going through this process is easier if you have a high emotional intelligence. People with high emotional intelligence can identify their feelings better which helps them identify the emotions arising from limiting beliefs.

Previously, we talked about how to develop your emotional intelligence and why it’s an important leadership skill for climbing up the ladder. See the link here: The importance of emotional intelligence in your career and how to develop it.

As another tip for identifying your limiting beliefs, they are usually cause-effect statements: “If I do one thing, then something bad will result from it.” Try to identify that thinking to find your limiting beliefs.

Once you identify a limiting belief, there are two helpful exercises to overcome those harmful beliefs.

The first one is the what if I was perfect exercise.

Think about yourself as a perfect person. Going back to our example about negotiating a raise and then your boss thinking you’re not a team player. If you were a perfect person, how would you handle this situation?

First off, you’d do such great work that your boss would be happy to give you a raise. You’d also know how to perfectly explain to your boss why you deserve a raise, such as doing more work than you were before, senior leaders noticing your great work, and presenting salary data that shows your new responsibilities warrant higher compensation. Finally, you’ll tell your boss that you love being a part of the team and want to take on more responsibility in the future to help the team even more. You’d also imagine your boss reacting positively to that negotiation.

While that won’t remove your fears, you’ll start to believe that maybe your limiting belief isn’t 100% true.

Another method to overcome your limiting beliefs is to find counterexamples.

In today’s information age, it’s easy to find counter examples by googling for “people who negotiated a raise” and reading their stories. You’ll find a number of examples about people who negotiated a raise and their boss was glad to help.

You can do the same for whatever other limiting beliefs you have. Just look for counterexamples online. If you need other examples, you can also ask friends and mentors what happened when they tried to do what you are trying to achieve.

Even after going through these two exercises, it will likely take more time to remove your limiting belief from your worldview. You will need to find counterexamples and build confidence that the world might be different from what you think right now. That happens over time.

While it’s not easy to overcome a limiting belief, it’s an important part of climbing up the ladder. If you let your fears stop you, you may look back at your career when you retire and wish you had done more to reach your goals.

Whether it’s trying for a promotion, getting a raise, or reaching the C-Suite, identify your limiting beliefs and learn to overcome them.

The first step to becoming more productive at work

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The first step to becoming more productive at work is to know how your company (and your boss) measures productivity. Each manager has her own idiosyncrasies for how she evaluates her employees’ work.

Some common benchmarks are easily measured:

  • How early you show up to work
  • How late you stay at work
  • How many hours you work a week
  • How many meetings you attend

Other benchmarks are more difficult to measure:

  • How much profit your work generates for the company
  • How much closer the company is to reaching its mission statement because of your work
  • How much better your team functions when you are there to help
  • How much happier the company’s customers are because of your work

As you can see, the first set doesn’t help your company as directly as the second, but since they’re easy to measure, the first set of metrics is what a lot of manager rely on.  If that’s the case, the person who’s at the office the most will be the star employee.

If you are fortunate enough to have a manager who uses the second set of metrics and measures your work based on your actual value to the company’s goals, then it helps to recognize that working until 10pm every night is not the best way to excel at your job. You’ll need to help your company fulfill its mission statement. That’s more difficult for you, but at least promotions will be based on merit.

Before you can go about becoming more productive, and working toward a promotion, you need to know which of these metrics your manager values. The employee who fulfills those metrics is in the running for the next promotion.

If you want to get promoted up, you might need to get promoted across first

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Many people at the bottom of the org chart look up at the executives and VPs amazed at everything they know and their steady climb up the corporate ladder.

But if you ask, those people at the top of the organization will tell you that their climb up wasn’t steady at all, and they gained all of that knowledge slowly over time.

Research shows that CEOs often worked in 3 to 4 key functional areas before their promotions to the C-Suite. Those key areas often include finance, operations, marketing, engineering, or running a key business unit (i.e. a unit that generates a lot of revenue).

One of my mentors told me about how he couldn’t get promoted any further as a VP of Operations. Then he switched over to a marketing role, did excellent work in his new role, and got the promotion he wanted after a few more years. He ended up being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company later in his career.

As many executives will tell you, their careers were not straight promotions up the org chart. They often worked as an Analyst in Department A, then got promoted to Manager in Department A, then moved to be a Manager in Department B, then got promoted to be a Director overseeing Departments A and B, and so on.

How can this knowledge benefit your career?

Perhaps to get that next promotion, you need to move laterally at your company before you get promoted up.

As you go up the corporate ladder, your knowledge must get broader and more strategic.

The typical career path usually goes as follows: Someone enters the company as an entry level employee, say as an Analyst. She does her job well and get promoted to Senior Analyst. After two or three more years, she continues to do her job well and then get promoted to Manager who oversees the Analysts and Senior Analysts she used to work with.

This is where a lot of people will get stuck. Up until this point, the knowledge you gained within your own department was enough to help you do your job: You were either doing what you did as an Analyst or managing people doing that job.

But at some point, the next level up will require you to work with people who have done things that you never have. That next level has people working on separate functions of the business reporting to you, and the person who gets the promotion to that position will need a solid understanding of those functions.

This would be the case for you if you look at all of the people reporting to your boss and you don’t have the skills of all of those people reporting to your boss. Then you might need to move laterally into one of those other departments and gain some of that knowledge before you will get promoted up.

How do you move laterally to a new position and develop those skills? The best way is usually through your own company.

Remember all of the cross functional projects you worked on during your tenure at the company. Think about if any of the people who led those projects lead teams in another department. If so, you can reach out to them and ask about your interest in working on more projects in that department. These people are already familiar with your work, and if you did a good job, they would love to have you on their team.

Another great way to learn about internal positions is to talk to HR. Human resources focuses on helping employees stay in the company and grow professionally so it makes sense that they’d rather have a current employee move within the company instead of go to a competitor.

If you are interested in staying within the company but going to a different functional area, you should talk to an HR representative. When internal jobs open up, HR will often search to fill the job internally before going external, and if an HR representative knows about your work and which departments you want to go to, he can alert you to the internal positions.

As a final way to learn about jobs in other departments, go to company wide events such as corporate trainings. When you attend, talk to new people and learn about their work. If that interests you, keep in touch with that person and try to work on some projects with them. It doesn’t even have to be a project related to your job. It could be something like helping to plan the company holiday party with that person or joining a company sponsored activity like the company’s running club. Then show them that you do great work.

Go out to events, meet new people in the company, and demonstrate your strong work ethic. If you do so, people who lead teams in other departments would love to hire you when they have a job opening.

If you feel stuck at your current job, you might want to move to a different department in your current company so you can learn more about different functional areas. As you gain more knowledge of the company as a whole, you’ll be more likely to get that next promotion up the corporate ladder.

The importance of being coachable for your career

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Over the years, I’ve noticed one trait that helps employees become successful within a company: being coachable. That is, having the desire to learn new things from other people.

This is especially true for employees who are coming right out of school or joining a new industry. They have a skills gaps between what they used to do and what they must do in their new jobs.

Why is being coachable important?

Your manager can teach you the hard skills you need to do your job: How to use Excel, how to write reports, how people communicate across the company’s departments, etc. But your manager cannot teach you anything if you aren’t willing to learn and be coached.

An employee who actively learns from those around her can always improve her skills and learn to add more value to the company. An employee who is set in her ways won’t improve at all and will stagnate quickly.

Which employee do you think will get more promotions and achieve more in her career?

How to advance your career at any age

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We previously discussed who the best resources are to help with your career development: Your boss, your boss’s boss, your company’s HR department, and mentors in your industry. Take a look at that article to learn why they are helpful for your career and how to form a mentorship with them: The best resources for developing your career. In this follow up article, we will talk about how to get their help in your career development.

Advancing your career at age 25 is very different than at age 45, but it’s possible to reach the next level of your career using advice from the same people. At every step in your career, you should get feedback from your boss, boss’s boss, and other mentors.

They will give you different advice at each step along the way, but if you use their advice you will get promoted faster.

Let’s break down how to advance your career by learning how to get good advice from them and how to use that advice to get the best results for your career goals.

Since part of the job for your boss and boss’s boss are to mentor you, you can meet with them every six months to get their advice. After all, the better job you do, the better they look for their bosses. And they can schedule time into their work day to mentor you.

These meetings will be more formal meeting than weekly one-on-ones but less formal than your annual review. They focus less on what you are working on at the moment and more on long term development.

One of the best ways to schedule this meeting is to send a short email requesting their advice.

To: [Your boss]

Subject: Can I get your advice about my career development?

Hi [boss],

As you know, I’m working on Project ABC for our Acme Corp client. That fits well within the analytics work I usually do. [Say something you are working on. Your boss already knows this, but it helps lead into your ask in the next paragraph.]

But I was hoping to talk to you about my long term career development, particularly around other skills I should develop. I have a good grasp of analytics, but I wonder if there are other skills I need to succeed in the company and industry throughout my career. [It can be scary for your boss to talk about your career development. She may wonder if you are gunning for her job or might leave the company. Take a little pressure off by being clear about what you specifically want to learn: In this case, more skills.]

I have a few ideas, but your ideas would be helpful too. I would love to know about what skills I should learn, and also what events I can attend to learn more about the industry. I’d also love to hear about your career path up to this point. [Tell your boss that you have ideas so your boss knows you are being proactive in your own career development. Also give your boss some direction about what you’d like to learn: skills, industry events, and lesson from your boss’s career path.]

Can we set aside some time next week so I can get your feedback? [End with a yes or no question so it’s easy for your boss to reply with a yes response. By asking for next week, you give your boss enough time to clear her schedule.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

You can send this email to your boss or your boss’s boss (CC your boss if she needs to be involved in the conversation two levels up). It’s a convenient way to setup a meeting about your long term goals.

You can also send this type of email to meet with your HR mentor or industry mentor.

Ideally, you’ll meet with an HR mentor or industry mentor about once a year early in your career. Ask about general career development resources. As you get more senior in the company, you may want to meet more often since you will need to deal with more complex issues (such hiring, firing, approving performance reviews, industry trends, and other not-fun-stuff). But still try to meet to talk about your career development from time to time.

When you actually meetup with your boss or mentors, you should try to get the most out of the meeting as you can. One great way to do this is with the ARMOUR technique to feedback.

ARMOUR technique to feedback:

  1. A – Ask for advice
  2. R – Receive the feedback
  3. M – Make a plan
  4. O – Operate on the advice
  5. U – Update your adviser
  6. R – Repeat

Asking for advice is pretty simple. Schedule a meeting with your boss or mentor (using the email above), meet with her, and then have a conversation about your goals. Just remember to have a focused question that you want answered. Otherwise, the conversation will go off topic and you’ll come out of the meeting with nothing relevant to you.

Receiving the feedback is also pretty simple. Genuinely listen to your mentor’s advice and note it down. In the moment of the meeting, don’t think that some of the advice doesn’t apply to your situation. Just write it down so you can reflect on it later.

This step is where most people stop with their career development: They ask for help and listen. But if you want to make faster progress in your career, there are more steps to developing your career.

You will also need to take action. The first step for that is to make a plan. Prepare for how you will use the feedback your mentor gave you. Perhaps, your boss told you about an industry conference that happens every April. You should make a plan to attend next year and do what you can to get prepared now, such as buying a ticket. Or maybe your HR mentor told you about a manager in a different department that could help you learn about a new skill: Put a note on your to do list to get an introduction to that person from your HR mentor.

Then you will need to operate on your plan. Go to the industry conference, meet with the people your mentor thinks can help you, read any books your mentor suggested, and take any classes you hear about. This takes a lot of work and most people give up, but persistence is one of the most important skills for getting promoted throughout your career.

Once you’ve followed through on your mentor’s advice, you should update your adviser on your progress. Tell your mentor that you followed through on her advice and what the results are. Think about how refreshing that is for your mentor. Most people will ask for advice and then never do anything with that advice. You won’t make that mistake. Not only will you taking your mentor’s advice, you will also let her know about the results you got with it. You can send a simple email like this:

To: [Your boss]

Subject: Re: Can I get your advice about my career development?

Hi [boss],

Last December, you gave me some career advice to go to XYZ Conference in our industry. [Remind her about the advice she gave.]

I wanted to let you know that I went to the conference two weeks ago and it was very helpful! I learned about ABC, DEF, and GHI topics which I’m now applying at work. I’m already seeing better results on the Acme project! [Let her know how you used her feedback and why it’s helpful.]

Thanks so much for your advice last December! No need to reply. [Let her know she doesn’t have to reply because you just want to thank her.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

Now that you’ve updating your adviser about how you used her feedback, she will be more inclined to help you again later. No one wants to help someone who asks for advice but doesn’t follow through.

But everyone wants to help people who use the feedback! So the next time you need help, you can repeat the process.

Getting feedback about improving your career once is great, but this technique becomes so much more powerful over time. The advice you receive from a mentor at age 25 will be very different from the advice you get at age 45, but you can talk to them at any age about how to reach the next level of your career.

As you gain mentors over time, you can keep going back to them for advice year after year, improving your skills, and reaching the next rung of the corporate ladder over time.

Doing the whole job

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Many people can do their jobs well. They complete the task their boss asks them to do on time and to specification. They are polite, follow instructions, and do what is asked of them every time. They check all the boxes on the task list their boss gives them and call it a day.

But they aren’t doing the whole job.

A high caliber employee does all of those things and more: She completes all aspects of the job with the company’s goals and clients’ goals in mind.

She anticipates the client’s next request and has an answer ready ahead of time.

She knows Project XYZ is the CEO’s top priority so she makes it her top priority at work.

She knows her project might not get her boss the results he wants, but she has a backup plan prepared that could also help the company reach its goal.

She does the whole job by completing her work with the intent of helping her company reach its goals.

Doing the whole job is a lot more difficult than just showing up and completing your task list. But that is why it is so much more valuable to your company.

One of the best ways to become a top level employee at work is to do the whole job.

The best resources for developing your career

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Career development is a tricky topic. What you do to get promoted in our 20s is unlikely to work when you are in your 30s (or even 60s).

Careers last a long time, often more than 40 years. The days when you joined a company out of school and slowly worked your way up the corporate ladder are gone. Now there are so many options to improve your career, like going back to school, switching companies, moving departments, and side hustles. It’s easy to get lost in all the options and know which one is best for you.

But there are time tested resources that can help you reach the next step of your career no matter what life stage you’re in. These resources are the people around you: Your boss, your boss’s boss, your company’s HR department, and mentors in your industry.

Let’s breakdown why you want their help to advance your career.

Talk to your boss

The reason talking to your boss is so helpful is because he is your closest evaluator. He sees your work most often which allows him to identify which skills you need to improve and where you excel.

In addition, his job is the one where you will most likely get promoted. He knows the skills to do that job better than anyone else in the company and he can help you learn how to develop those skills.

As you improve the skills he suggests, you will be considered for other positions at your boss’s level or his job should he leave.

Talk to your boss’s boss

Your boss’s boss is a great resource for several reasons. First off, she’s the person who will select your boss’s replacement should he leave the company and she will know what skills she looks for when hiring for that position. If you know what skills she values and you demonstrate those skills, you put yourself in position to be the frontrunner when your boss’s job is vacant.

In addition, your boss’s boss has more access to company executives and knows what the company’s long-term strategy is. If the company is doing something like shifting to a digital customer experience, she may tell you to improve your digital marketing skills. By being one of the first employees to learn those skills, you set yourself up for possibly leading a new department in that strategic area.

Take a look at my previous article to learn how to work closer with your boss’s boss: The person you need to know to get promoted.

Talk to a human resources mentor

Using your company’s Human Resources department to develop your career might surprise you, but they are a great resource. HR isn’t just for tedious paperwork. They are also there to help develop your career.

HR knows about the best industry events and can get the company to cover the cost of you attending. As you go to these events, you’ll learn what skills are important in the industry and get a better sense of how your job helps your own company. You may even meet someone at another company who wants to hire you someday.

Attending your company’s HR events, such as corporate trainings or company wide events, is another great way to learn general business skills and about your company’s goals. But more importantly, it will help you meet the people who work in HR.

If you develop a mentorship with someone from HR, that person can help you work through challenges. As a manager, you might need to talk to HR from time to time to ask advice before delicate conversations with your direct reports or mediating overly dramatic situations. As a non-manager, an HR team member who knows about you and your skill set can keep you in mind for internal job openings so would be the first to know about them.

No matter what level you are in your career, knowing people in HR can help you advance your career quickly.

Talk to industry mentors

Getting advice from a mentor outside your company can be great for long term career advice. Someone from outside your company, whether it is a former boss, an old professor, or friend, can give you some added perspective on your situation.

If the person is in your industry, it can be particular helpful. That person will know about job openings at other company, industry trends, and may have been on your same career path but a level or two above you. You can get specific industry advice about how to climb up the ladder based on what that person did.

Read my previous article about finding mentors if you need help reaching out to people in your industry to form a mentorship: Networking: More Than LinkedIn.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to meet with these people enough that they remember you but not so much that you are a burden to their schedule: About once or twice a year.

How to schedule that meeting and get the most out of it for your career? That will be the topic of our article two weeks from now. Scroll up to the top of the page and sign up for the mailing list to get the article!