The obvious thought is that your immediate manager/supervisor has the most influence over your success and progress within your organization. While that is often true, it is also true that there are many other people within the company or even within a smaller group within the company, who can have a significant impact on your progress.
Your Manager or Supervisor
Let us deal with the obvious one first. Your relationship with your manager or supervisor should not be either passive or one-sided. That is, you must take an active role in the relationship. Your responsibilities, in your career plan, include learning about your manager and what your manager does and why. Understanding where you fit within your manager’s group and how that affects other parts of the organization is essential. Ensuring that you have a clear and consistent communication exchange with your manager is also essential.
While it would be nice to believe that all managers are equally concerned with your progress in your job and career, the reality is that there is a wide range of interest and involvement. Rather than sit back and wait, find out early how your manager approaches the process, and then get involved.
If, for instance, your manager does not normally schedule regular progress reviews, you might request it. If your manager does not work with you to develop your job growth plan, request that they do so. Do not assume that your manager is aware of, or appreciates, each of your successes along the way. While it is not recommended that you pop into your manager’s office each time you accomplish something, it is worthwhile to keep a record of achievements and go over them with your manager now and then. Perhaps ask your manager to review your list with the idea of helping you to understand which they consider more or less important to your project, product, group, or organization. In this way, you can share your accomplishments without seeming focused on pride and recognition.
You should also make a point of creating and reviewing an education plan with your manager. Depending on your manager’s approach, as above, either ask your manager to help you create a plan, or create one yourself and ask for feedback. For most people, editing and providing feedback is easier than creating from scratch. If you are going to create your plan yourself, be sure to ask for suggestions and guidance from your manager before you begin.
All of these steps are intended to establish your credibility, develop your relationship with your manager, and maintain visibility into your achievements along the way.
The first most obvious person or group is the Human Resources (HR) group or representative. This is the person who tracks your progress, keeps your records, and should be available to counsel and guide you when needed. As a result, your HR representative is also the one whom managers should go to, to learn key information about you before hiring you. If you have sought out opportunities for education, professional growth, and organizational contribution, it is the HR representative who should know that. Make sure that you communicate clearly with this group or individual as you make choices. Seek their advice, feedback, and guidance at each key step of your progress. This will not only make sure that they are knowledgeable about your commitment to your job and organization, but will ensure that they feel a part of that progress.
Managers and Members of Interacting Groups
If, in your role, you work directly or indirectly with other groups, then the managers and members of those groups could have significant effect on your progress.
For instance, if you are in a software development group, the results of your work may have significant impact on the marketing group. If the software, documentation, or deployment is flawed, then they will perceive that their jobs are harder and will look for a source to blame. The same will be true of the sales group: if the product is perceived as flawed, by them or their prospective or existing customers, they will – consciously or unconsciously – blame the creators, developers, producers, or maintainers of the product. These are all examples of indirect interaction with other groups.
On the other hand, you might be responsible for marketing communications within your company. This would require you to talk to and work with product managers, service managers, executives, and others in order to effectively do you job. These are all examples of direct interaction with other groups.
In either case, it is your responsibility to ensure that the individuals affected by your performance view you as an asset rather than a liability. Of course, there will also be times when these people are completely unaware of you, your contribution, and your role within the organization. If you believe that they may be influential to your progress, you should seek them out and establish some relationship with them. You can do this simply by asking to sit down with them so that you can learn more about the organization and its members, or formally schedule a meeting or presentation to share information. This depends largely on your role, their roles, and the interaction of your job functions.
Executives and Senior Managers
It is easy to think that you are invisible to managers who are high up in the company, if they are not in your branch of the tree. The higher up you are, of course, the more visible you are upward, downward, and horizontally. But, it is never safe to take anything for granted.
If you are not a senior manager or higher then take the time to learn something about the senior people in other groups. You never know when a connection may be of benefit. Generally, managers will consider someone who makes the effort to learn more about the organization as unusual and noteworthy. And everyone enjoys someone who takes a personal interest in them.
Make time to get to know these senior managers and executives. Ask for a few minutes of their time, a conversation over a cup of coffee or a soda, or a lunch, depending on which is most comfortable for you and which you believe will be most welcome by each individual. Be sure to make it clear that you are doing your best to learn about the organization as a whole and their role within the organization so that you can be a more effective member of the organization. During conversations like these, or as a result of a conversation, you may learn about other opportunities that might not otherwise be visible to you.
In addition, when the time comes and you are being considered for promotion or lateral change, having people higher up in the organization know your name and something about you can only work to your advantage.
Customers / Clients
If you are in a customer-facing role – customer support/service, consulting, sales, and so on – then it is likely that “your” customers will provide feedback into your organization. It may be direct, like when you do an outstanding job and your customer writes a note to your manager. It may also be indirect, such as when you participate in a project with a customer and the customer tells their account representative how well (or poorly) the project went.
And this is an important point – whatever your role within your organization, treat all other groups within the company as your customers. Do not save your best only for the “paying customers”. If you are in marketing, you are serving sales, development and even finance through your work. They are your “customers”. If you are in product design, consider marketing, sales, and the service organization as your customers, since they will ultimately live with what you design.
Consider everyone within your organization and everyone with whom your organization does business, as influential to your career within that company. Of course you cannot have a relationship with everyone. You can treat everyone with whom you do interact as though you may need their help, feedback, or recommendation at some point.
Now that you have successfully landed the career of your dreams, send your contacts a note thanking them for all their help and to let them know that you found a stellar job with a new company. Remember to give everyone your new information.
To kick start success in your new job, we recommend the following actions:
- Meet people in the organization at all levels. Absorb information.
- Visit people in their office. They are more at ease in their environment.
- Initiate ‘easy wins’ that are visible and make a noticeable impact quickly.
- Manage and set expectations.
- Establish decision making rules and know who influences who!