American workers have to think differently
In the postwar period, American employees pursued the gold-watch model. A professional would enter a company and give it 50 good years, then retire in exchange for a golden thank you note that told time. This was an era in which long term tenancy showed commitment and seriousness. That era is not today.
A 21st-century resume needs dynamism. Today's employers take five years in one place and see a worker that no one else tried to poach. What was once "stability" has now become "stagnation." Yesterday's "job hopping" is today's "momentum."
The upshot is that workers have to take much more control of their own careers than ever before. If you work at an American company, the smart money says that your employer won't manage you up. Whether it's an internal promotion or outside transfer, employers will look for who's hungriest. For all the talk about entitled and pushy Millennials, they push because that's how to get the good jobs today.
Managers don't look for quiet competence anymore. They let the successful self-promoters come to them.
And here are three good habits to develop so that you, too, can be that person.
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Think Like Your Own Boss
"A helpful technique is to step out of your own point of view, and instead imagine yourself as your manager," said Steven Puri, chief strategy officer with Arsenic Media. "Jot down a list of: One, what is the biggest pressure you think they get from their leadership? Two, what gets them rewarded by their leadership? Three, what's their biggest worry about managing you?"
"If you've been observant, you can probably answer these questions quite succinctly," Puri added.
One of the best ways to get yourself noticed in the office is to become the person who doesn't need to be asked. Instead of waiting for a request, reach out to see what they need. Instead of raising a problem on its own, do your best to come up with a solution. Squish bugs as you find them.
Then take that a step further and try to begin anticipating what your boss will ask for.
Managing your work around what your boss needs, or what will help the organization succeed, shows that you can think bigger. It demonstrates that you're focusing not just on your day-to-day job but also how that role fits into the larger mission of the organization.
Not to mention, everyone appreciates working with someone who makes their life easier.
Whether angling for a promotion or trying to step up somewhere else, one of the first things you'll need to demonstrate is an ability to predict and manage problems. That is, after all, one of the most critical roles of a manager.
If you'd like to make that your formal role, start showing an aptitude for it today.
"Step out of your everyday activities and look broadly at the business you are in or want to be in," Puri said. "Identify the challenges that are being discussed in that space and educate yourself on them, even if they are not part of your daily job. Once you feel confident that you've got something to say in that area, start to talk to people in your organization who work in that area or at another company, and let them realize that you happen to be a perfect part of a solution to a pressing problem they have."
It's often overlooked, but every successful career has to go through a transition, one where you go from being someone who can do excellent work to someone who can request and review it. A major part of that is becoming someone who can see issues coming and understand the problems that an organization will need to solve.
There are four types of people in the workplace. First, there are those who can do the work. Then there are those who can understand the value and purpose of that assignment. Another gap separates out the people who can look at a goal or situation and figure out what work needs to be done. Finally, there are the people who can predict those problems coming.
By working to identify challenges and contribute to solutions, you'll do a lot to climb that ladder.
"While listening is how you learn," Puri said, "speaking is how you create incoming interest in yourself."
"In today's employment marketplace, there are no 'lifers' at companies," he added. "You, yourself, are a brand. A product. You need to market yourself. One easy way to create momentum in your career is start to speak."
For many people, this may be the most exhausting step of them all. In today's workplace self-promotion is increasingly essential. It's not enough to have expertise and quietly do the work, you need to showcase it in front of your colleagues, peers and supervisors. So start small.
Contribute ideas at meetings. Pitch in on an email thread, and add comments to the shared workspace. Drop by your boss's office with thoughts to discuss and, above all, don't ignore the value of asking smart, informed questions.
Speaking up doesn't mean you have to know everything. It means admitting when you don't know. It means actively seeking knowledge and helping the entire group by letting them join in the search.
And don't restrict this to your workplace. Find local organizations to join. Get together with professional groups and speak to small collections of your colleagues. Don't limit yourself just to the people you work with. After all, once people outside of the office start to see your talents, that's how to get recruiters to start calling.
It may seem like a lot of work when you already have a job, but it will pay off in the end.