Aside from the obvious — work hard — here are 10 get-ahead tips:
1. Follow the money, power and controversy. Unfair though it may be, employees who work in front offices with senior executives and political appointees almost always climb the career ladder faster than comparably productive employees who work almost anonymously in back offices. Why? Because front offices usually have the power and funding to promote worthy employees. Pick projects that involve interacting with or working in front offices.
2. Be proactive. Don’t wait to be assigned ho-hum projects. Instead, design and ask to complete projects that would advance your office’s goals and offer you the experience you need to get ahead.
3. Use all channels to gain experience. If your current job does not offer you career-boosting management and supervisory experience, consider gaining it by taking leadership roles in volunteer positions with nonprofits, professional organizations, community organizations, volunteer organizations, the PTA or condo boards. Also, publish articles in professional and popular magazines.
4. Start spreading the news. Keep a running list of your achievements. Track all positive feedback drawn by your projects, such as awards; verbal and written praise from supervisors, clients, contractors and other colleagues; and positive evaluations from speaking gigs and training you give. Tell your boss about such successes when you achieve them and before annual reviews, and quote associated praise in your résumé.
5. Request promotions. Most employers don’t feel compelled to pay employees any more than they show they are willing to accept. So if you have excelled or are managing added or higher responsibilities, ask to be rewarded accordingly.
If your request is denied, ask your supervisor what you would have to do to earn a promotion. If you are averse to initiating conversations about deserved promotions, remember: A few minutes of discomfort may be worth tens of thousands of dollars, or even more, to you over the course of your career. If your boss’ words or actions indicate rewards are not forthcoming, consider moving on.
6. Consider the Senior Executive Service. The SES is open to GS-14s and -15s, but it’s never too early to start accumulating relevant credentials. Why? Because SES requirements are demanding, and require considerable time to acquire.
Start determining whether you are SES material and how to gain experience by discussing your prospects with SES members. Also, review these documents on the Office of Personnel Management website: Guide To Senior Executive Service Qualifications and Welcome to the Senior Executive Service.
7. Seek the spotlight. Demonstrate your skills for them by, for example, giving presentations, contributing to meetings and volunteering for projects that will generate interoffice collaboration.
8. Make your boss’ life easier — not harder. Make your boss’ goals for your office your goals.
9. Supervise. Supervisory experience is a prerequisite for management positions. Seize opportunities to mentor anyone you can without exceeding the limits of your position. Start doing so by, if appropriate, volunteering to supervise interns, orienting new employees, leading teams and taking supervisory acting positions.
10. Immediately pounce on opportunities. Even if you are not searching for a job, keep your résumé current so that you can quickly respond to requests for it from hiring managers. You never know when opportunity will knock.