We have all heard the phrase, actions speak louder than words. Deb Calvert, author of this week’s story, discusses the importance of making this your mantra when you want to get ahead in the workplace. The focus is on how to “Develop Yourself” to reach your professional goals. Deb offers our readers tips on how to make sure your actions get noticed, and help to catapult you to whatever job position you have set your sights on.
Actions Speak Louder: Develop Yourself (and Your Career!)
by Deb Calvert
You’re at that crossroads… You’d like to get ahead, to take on some new responsibilities, to stretch to the next level. But how do you go about convincing the “powers that be” that you are, indeed, ready?
One way is to simply ask. There are many ways you can simply ask, stating your desire to move up the company ladder. You can toss your hat into the ring when a job opens up. During performance reviews, you can express interest in taking on more responsibilities. Or, you can do what most people do, which is to grouse about how you are not given any opportunities.
Obviously, some of these choices will be more effective than others. But none of these choices will be as effective as demonstrating your willingness and readiness. In this case, communication hinges on remembering this key principle: actions speak louder than words.
Your actions should be driven by what you truly want to learn and how you truly need to develop. Your honest self-assessment is critical to choosing the right activities. This is true even if you are fully prepared and completely qualified for a next level job. Even then, it’s imperative that you show something more or something different from what others see in your day-to-day work.
The difference here is between expressing interest and proving capability. It’s natural for people to be boxed in or typecast by the role people are accustomed to seeing them perform.
Your actions, speaking louder than your words, will help others to see you in a new way. Then, they can fully believe and easily understand exactly how well you could adapt in a new role. What you’re doing is minimizing the risk they may feel in promoting you into an unproven role.
In order to demonstrate what more you can do, you may have to do things that you are not compensated for at this time. This is an investment you are making in yourself. It’s a communication strategy, so don’t think of it as merely doing extra work.
Here are some ways your actions speak louder and demonstrate your capabilities–
Volunteer. Many people use volunteer programs to hone their skills and to grow their expertise. Choose volunteer work that gives you a chance to use skills that would be similar to those skills needed in the next-level job you’re aspiring to. In a recent survey of Human Resource Managers at Fortune 500 companies, Deloitte found that 91% of respondents agreed that volunteering is “an effective way to develop business skills.” Note the key word in that quotation: develop. Most people volunteer by doing work that they mastered early in their career. Or they choose volunteer activities that do not stretch them. These are missed opportunities. Instead of serving as a group’s treasurer, where you already have the skills needed to perform, ask instead to be considered as a volunteer board president. In a role where you do not have the skills needed, you can spend a year being mentored by the current position-holder. There is no equivalent business experience that will accelerate your development like this will.
Within your own company, while doing your own job, you could ask for stretch assignments. These are opportunities that go above and beyond your own job, giving you a chance to do additional work. Ideally, the work will expose you cross-functionally to other departments. It will also be a stretch, meaning that you have to do something that is unlike the work you do day in and day out. The benefit for you is in the exposure to other people in other departments plus the opportunity to try out something bigger and different from your current job. The benefit to the company is that you are showing them more about your capabilities at the same time that you are helping them in some sort of initiative that requires this attention.
In some types of work you can consider an internal internship. This is a formalized program that allows you to do a job that’s different from your own for a limited period of time. For example, if you work in the marketing department but have an interest in a production area, you might be able to work for three months inside a production department. This takes some coordination and is not always feasible for a company to manage. Where it is not possible, an alternative would be to do some job shadowing. That would involve spending a little bit of time each week – perhaps your own time – to shadow someone doing the work you are interested in learning more about.
You can get creative. Use these ideas just as thought starters. Then, when you go to your boss and/or your human resources partners, offer up these ideas to show just how willing and eager you are to try something that stretches you, that enables you to make a higher level contribution to your organization.
You will also be demonstrating that you would like to grow and receive opportunities not because you’re entitled in some way, but because you are taking steps to demonstrate all that you will do in exchange for opportunities given to you. This subtle (but high impact!) differentiation between you and so many others will set you apart and cause others to want to help you.
Communicating what you want in the workplace is absolutely essential if you are to get ahead. But don’t stop with verbal or written communication. Make your actions speak louder on your behalf. Be deliberate in choosing the actions that will express all that you are able to do.
Deb Calvert, President of People First Productivity Solutions, has worked as a Corporate Director in a Fortune 500 company and as a consultant, coach and trainer to over 400 businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. Deb is a certified executive coach, one of the “65 Most Influential Women in Business,” an instructor at UC-Berkeley, and a Top 50 Sales Influencer. She is Certified Master with The Leadership Challenge®, conducting workshops and coaching to help liberate the leader in everyone. Her first book DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected has been named one of “The Top 20 Most Highly-Rated Sales Books of All Time” by HubSpot. Her second book, Stop Selling and Start Leading, is now available. You can learn more about Deb and PFPS at www.peoplefirstps.com