If you want to one day become a manager or executive, it's never too early to get started. Even if you're just embarking on your career, there are steps you can take to help you reach this objective.
Start by gaining as much knowledge and experience as you can in your current role while continually building your skill set. You'll prepare yourself for future opportunities and capture the attention of those around you, including your supervisor. In addition, become an active member in professional associations. Your involvement in these organizations will help you to stay up-to-date on industry trends, learn best practices and meet valuable contacts.
Next, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, particularly as they apply to leading a team. For example, when working with a group, do you understand each person's role and how you can help them complete their tasks successfully? Are you open to feedback from others? Do you follow through on your commitments? The answers to these and similar questions can help you determine any changes you need to make.
Let your supervisor know your ambitions and work with him or her to develop a potential career path. Find out which abilities you must acquire and then look for training options to improve in these areas. Also ask your manager about mentoring opportunities, where you can work with a more experienced colleague who can impart career guidance. Then, once you've honed your skills, offer to mentor someone else who could benefit from your wisdom; this will help build your leadership experience and demonstrate your initiative.
Strengthening your communication abilities will also prove valuable as you strive to move up in your organization. You'll need to be able to build rapport with people who have different types of personalities and work styles. To increase your experience in this area, volunteer to work on cross-departmental projects. Participate in as many stages as possible to gain insight into how team members interact and to learn how to guide a group task from inception to completion.
Although your career may just be getting started, you can prepare yourself now for future leadership positions. By excelling in your current position and working with your supervisor to enhance your skill set, you'll be well on your way to reaching your goal.
© 2003 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.