Does it sometimes seem like people all around you are getting promoted, or leaving to start their own business, while all your hard work and experience are getting you nowhere?
Maybe it's time to take a hard look at your habits and the perceptions they convey, compared to some of the other people on your team. These people can't all be related to the boss, or be just lucky.
Rather than focus on negatives, let me summarize key positive attributes that I look for in people to move ahead, from my own experience as a corporate executive, and many years mentoring entrepreneurs.
Most of these have very little to do with super-human skills, but a lot to do with your mentality and flexibility:
1. A willingness to tackle new and unknown challenges
We all know the dedicated professional who reliably does their job, but is always too busy or reluctant to accept new assignments, or take on a new challenge.
Particularly in an innovative startup, everyone has to expect problems and change. People who are problem solvers are indispensable.
2. An ability to proactively step in where needed, rather than waiting to be asked
Many times, extra help is temporarily needed due employee illness, order surges, or holiday coverage. Some people see these requirements and volunteer to help, while others keep a low profile, or wait to be asked.
Team members who help others are usually promoted first.
3. A skill at nurturing good relationships
Some employees avoid interactions with others, hoping to minimize their workload. Unfortunately, this also minimizes their opportunity to shine in any way that is positive to their career or for their company.
Working together effectively requires extra effort in managing relationships.
4. A positive attitude
It may be tempting or popular to join the crowd that loves to bash management, company direction, or internal processes.
If you really want to change things or run your own company, initiate some positive ideas on how to improve productivity or set the culture as you would like it to be.
5. A desire to drive (not block) future change
Innovative change is a given in successful organizations, run by successful people. Team members who are drivers for "the way it's always been done" are not normally considered for new positions or more responsibility.
They certainly would be unlikely to succeed in a new startup.
6. A tendency to present oneself as the boss's backup
This may require a bit of extra work and initiative on your part, but definitely gives you an edge when your boss retires or is promoted.
It requires that you maintain a proactive relationship with peer group managers, and will definitely give you a better perspective on business needs.
7. A determination to complete every task
The people who never give up and overcome difficult challenges are tagged as the best of the best. It's a skill and a mindset that will serve you well when starting your own business, as well. It's easy but wrong to come up with excuses, or blame someone else when things go bad.
8. A capacity for education at the next level
Too many employees are searching for that magic course that will make their existing job easy, rather than preparing for the next one.
These days, the best education may be online, in business journals, or in blogs that your executives recommend. Also, build mentoring relationships at the next level.
9. An ability to project an image appropriate for the next position
Perhaps this means dressing more professionally, or speaking more broadly about company direction. Every company spends money on their image and branding, and you should treat your personal brand accordingly.
Learning how to market yourself is the key to running your own company.
10. A prowess at picking battles strategically to keep from losing the war
No one wins every battle, so swallow your ego and turn potential negatives into positives, For example, if an executive uses your idea without giving credit, point out how great minds think alike. There is no extra credit for being a sore loser.
Highlight your wins rather than your losses.
Every one of these strategies are critical to the success of you as an entrepreneur if you choose to step into that lifestyle, so start practicing early, before you quit your day job.
You may decide that your current career is less risky than the alternative, and existing career satisfaction has started to meet your expectations. Either way, you win and your business wins.